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How to become a communications maestro

Engaging the science of human behavior to master the art of communication

Does the thought of striking up a conversation with strangers have you on the edge of a panic attack? Or perhaps you feel like you are socially inept, unable to convince people to take you seriously. Both scenarios are sad. This is because the world today rises and falls on effective communication. In fact, if you can communicate correctly, the world is your oyster!

The good news is, regardless of how terrible your communication skills are, you can work on them. It is possible to modify your behavior such that you become the life of every room you step into. Sounds far fetched? This article shows you how.

With the help of the bestseller, Captivate: The Science of Succeeding by Vanessa Van Edwards, we have distilled powerful, foolproof principles. These tips will turn you from a klutz to a communications maestro in no time.

Sadly, the mentioned book may be bulky for a light read. Thankfully, the Headway app already has summaries of the book available. You can cut short your reading time by powering through the summary within minutes.

Excited to begin the journey? Read on to know more!

Revamping your communication skills

Vanessa Van Edwards divides Captivate: The Science of Succeeding into three crucial segments.

The first five minutes

Part one deals with the first five minutes of meeting someone or a group. The first five minutes of meeting anyone are the most awkward and potentially the most important. Imagine finding yourself at a business dinner. You look around, and every high powered executive, some of which you’ve heard of only by name, are milling around, drink in hand. How do you walk up to them to make an introduction? Would you go with a wisecrack or make a joke? Essentially, how do you make an unforgettable impression without falling flat on your face? These are some of the issues this first segment handles.

The first five hours

Perhaps you were successful and impressed your mentor a great deal; how do you sustain the relationship afterwards? Van Edwards focuses on the power of the first five hours. As the relationship deepens, landmines and faux pas show up. Even after getting off to a great start, the wrong question can topple everything. Away from our corporate setting scenario, the situation could be you getting romantically intimate with a significant other. The first five hours (of dates) are crucial in this scenario too. The author dishes out principles to navigate the complexities in each case.

The first five days

The last part deals with consolidating the friendship you’ve created. This then goes beyond maintaining the relationship and enters the realm of leadership and mentorship. The idea here is to positively impact people such that the relationship survives beyond the immediate.

For each of these stages, the author provides suggestions that you can apply. We will collapse them in the next section. There, you will find the tips to make a killer impression, start and sustain impactful relationships.

1. Play your position

Even with a rudimentary knowledge of sports, you should realize that an athlete only plays a particular position. This is the case even when the said athlete is insanely talented and can fare well wherever they are placed. Coaches over the ages have come to understand that putting a player in their position of strength is the best move for the team. They get to do their best. Van Edwards imports this analogy into social interactions.

The author encourages you to find your “it” spots. These are the spaces where you do not need to fake it to be happy. Only inhabit spaces where you can leverage your social strengths. As she says, “you can get along with everybody, but you don’t have to get along with everybody.” Deliberating choosing the spaces you inhabit will make this easier.

2. Work the room

The people who make the best impressions enter the room with a strategy. “Room” here could mean anywhere as long as you are looking to have interactions there. Van Edwards splits this imaginary room into different sections, outlining the danger zones for striking up conversations. For instance, you may want to avoid the start zone and side zone. At these points, individuals are either getting acquainted with their surroundings or taking a break, such as a pee break. Disregard what you may have heard, ‘ambushing’ someone in the restroom is less than appealing, downright tacky in some cases.

“Succeeding with people is about engineering what works for you.”

Vanessa Van Edwards

3. Make a killer first impression

We may not admit it, but in many cases, our minds are made up about people in the first few minutes of meeting them. Such is the power of a first impression. When you see someone, that brief moment between the first handshake and a hello, you decide whether you want that person in your life or not. This happens to everyone without exception.

Thus, you can imagine that if you could improve the first impressions you give, you may affect how effective your relationship will be. Van Edwards agrees with this. In  Captivate, she gives certain tips on how to ace the first impressions test. The tips include employing hand gestures to buttress your points, having a killer smile at the ready, and exuding confidence when interacting with others.

4. Decode emotions

Emotional Intelligence is one of the best skills you can possess. It helps you to anticipate situations, assess them when they occur, and prepare your reactions. When speaking to people, you could miss the subtle signs on their faces and bodies. Since people have mastered the art of “faking” it, what they project might be entirely different from what they truly intend. How then do you guess whether your colleague who seems genuinely happy to see you is merely faking their happiness? Van Edwards gives keys to decoding emotions.

The first is congruence. Does the person’s speech match the micro-expressions they give off? For instance, when your spouse says they are fine, do they mean it, or are they angry all the same? The next is the connection. Whether they are speaking or listening, people keep making facial expressions borne out of their emotions. The author encourages you to spot the different emotions people may give off and to give the appropriate response in each case.

5. Appreciate people

There are scarcely more fail-proof ways of eliciting a smile from someone than appreciating them. When you are at the stage where you are getting to know someone, appreciating them is essential. As Vanessa Van Edwards teaches in Captivate, there are several ways of doing that. However, the most important thing to note is to be genuine with appreciation. Just like a fake smile, people can sense when the preference is insincere.

6. Share stories

Everyone loves a good story—even those who swear they don’t. This crucial strategy is employed in business, telemarketing, education, etc. This is because stories create a bond between the narrator and the listener. Van Edwards teaches that telling stories is one way of sustaining any relationship.

“The shortest distance between a human being and truth is a story.”

Anthony de Mello

Be generous with stories. They don’t have to be quirky or fun; just make them relatable. Do not get hung up on teaching moral lessons that your stories become perfunctory. Of course, there is such a thing as being a great storyteller. But that shouldn’t worry you too much. As long as you are genuine, the chances are that the other party will recognize this and connect with you. Always utilize the power of stories.

You, too, can become a maestro at communicating. Implement the tips above and gauge your progress over time for the best results. Also, familiarize yourself with the Headway App and read Captivate‘s summary as many times as possible. There are other excellent materials on the subject on the platform. Constantly improve!

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