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The Most Important Communication Skill

Garry Zancanaro

For anyone serious about success and self improvement the ability to communicate effectively is one of the most essential skills to develop.

What is communication? One dictionary describes communication as "the imparting or exchange of information, ideas, or feelings".

Some people envy those who have the 'gift of the gab' and always seem to be the centre of attention. However, this does not mean that good talkers are good communicators; in fact they are often just the opposite.

Good communication is much more than having the ability to talk eloquently. It's also much more than being able to convince people to your point of view. These are certainly useful qualities, particularly if you work in sales, and most of us have to sell in one way or another, whether we realise it or not, even if it's only selling ourselves.

But there's a lot more to it to it than that. One essential part of communication is the ability to make yourself understood. But if there is one single thing that that will make you a better communicator, it's to make more of an effort to really listen and understand others first, rather than to make yourself heard and understood.

Despite what many people may think, good communication is not all about concentrating on getting across our own points of view and opinions. It has been said that we were given two ears and one mouth for good reason and that we should spend at least twice as much time listening as talking when communicating.

When engaged in conversation, it is very easy to pay little attention to what the other person is actually saying. We can become easily distracted by countless other thoughts and things happening around us, or thinking about what we are going to say next. Our brains are able to process information much more quickly than the speed of even the fastest talker, so it's easy for other things to fill the spaces and detract from what the other person is saying.

The most basic - and important - of all communication skills is the ability to listen impartially, to try to absorb the essence of what the other person is saying, and to really understand their point of view. We must be non-judgemental and really work at appreciating what the other person is feeling and thinking. This can also be different to what they are actually saying, often unintentionally. Spoken words can make up less than 20% of what anyone is really expressing, so paying attention to overall body language and working on forming a full picture is vital to good communication.

If you're unsure exactly what the other person means, ask for clarification. Don't be afraid to repeat what has been said. This is almost a prerequisite in business meetings and negotiations, but it can also work in many different situations. This also shows that we have been listening and want to understand.

One of the greatest compliments we can give anyone is to really listen and make the effort to understand and appreciate their viewpoint and feelings.

If you think about the people that you have most enjoyed spending time with in your life, it's likely that they will have been people who you felt you could easily be yourself and relax with. They were almost certainly good listeners. You may not even remember a great deal about your conversations, but you will remember how they made you feel.

Like most skills, we can learn to communicate and listen better if we really want to. Just being aware of the importance of effective listening, and how easy it is to be a poor listener is a start. There are also many communication specialists who can offer much more detailed guidance and help.

Most people aren't good listeners, and working on more effective listening and communication can make a great difference to our lives. These are the skills that will help immeasurably in our professional lives, make us better friends and partners, and enhance our overall success, growth and happiness.

Quote of the Day:

"The most basic of all human needs is the need to understand and be understood. The best way to understand people is to listen to them." - Ralph Nichols

Garry Zancanaro is founder of - visit to claim a FREE Think and Grow Rich, and creator of - a collection of the Best Success Resources.

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