It never ceases to amaze me the lack of communication skills some people possess. There is an art to communicating, and it’s not hard to learn.

(Article by P. Tranter appeared recently in national publication).

‘All right me old mate, how ya doin?’

You introduce yourself as you barge into the office and smile. You grin because you read somewhere that it’s the right thing to do and it shows you are confident. You missed the bit that said to stop smiling once you have warmly shaken the outstretched hand.

‘I’ll sit here if that’s OK with you’ (as you put your feet up on the bank manager’s desk, beaming intensely from ear to ear). Time for the pitch … ‘Right I’ve got this absolutely incredible idea which is guaranteed to make a million in the first six months … Yes – guaranteed! I’ve talked it through with a couple of me mates and they all think it’s a great idea too. I’ve even spoke to me uncle Bob who says it’s a good idea and he’ll spend some money with me as soon as I get the thing off the ground. Only problem is, see, I need some start up money’ – pick your nose – ‘what can you do for me?’

Is it any wonder that the only thing Mr Bank Manager was prepared to do for you was to show you the door?

An extreme case?

I can promise you that almost every bank manager in the country gets approached in this manner, to varying degrees, at least once a month. It never ceases to amaze me, the lack of communication skills some people possess. They honestly think that they can go into a meeting with no preparation; no idea of what they are going to say, no hint of a script and close a deal. They genuinely cannot understand why they never seem to get that break – why nothing ever seems to go their way.

There is an art to communicating, and it’s not hard to learn. I would say that easily the single most important asset anyone can possess is the ability to prepare. I watched a programme a while ago about the late great Eric Morecambe, of Morecambe and Wise fame (a great British duo). He had this amazing ability to ad lib, to retort with an off-the-cuff knock-em-dead remark on the spur of the moment. Or so we thought! Eric used to practice for hours so that his rehearsed speech would appear totally flippant and natural. The fact was that not a single world was spoken on stage unless it had been practiced over and over and over to perfection. The result? One of the greatest comics in the world, may he rest in peace.

Roosevelt’s famous speech to the nation, the one that goes ‘Ask not what this country can do for you’ …. you know the one! Well, it was widely reported that a speech become an integral part of American culture was written on the back of an envelope, on the train, on the way to the meeting. What wasn’t so widely reported was that the President had spent up to six months preparing what he wanted to say. The scribbles on that paper had taken an enormous amount of sweat and tears to formulate.

When you next have a conversation of any description that is likely to have a bearing on your life, be a boy scout or girl guide:be prepared!

Have you ever wondered why it is that some people never seem to do well in the art of communicating, why they never seem to quite get their point across? The Russians first identified why it was that some people just keep doing the wrong things over and over, why the office idiot is the butt of all jokes. Why it is that some people keep blundering on when it’s blatantly obvious they are getting nowhere?

The problem was shown to be an inability to read body language. An inability to spot when someone is getting upset, or are disinterested or beginning to get angry. Some people keep on making the same mistakes, causing the same problems, dropping the same clangers because they are totally blind to the negative body language their victim is exhibiting.

Now before you sit back in that comfy chair of yours and giggle to yourself as you recall someone you know who possibly has this problem, think about this – it could be you!!!! You may well be that person who keeps making a hash of situations because of your inability to read another person’s body language correctly, and you know what the funniest part is …. you’d never know!

I wouldn’t worry too much because we all suffer from this blindness to some extent. We all need practice in the art of reading body language and can all improve the presentation of our own signals. Body language is a basic and fundamental part of effective communication.

It is extremely important that what you are saying is the same as what your body language is saying. In other words, if you say ‘yes’ ensure that you nod your head. If you say you are interested in what someone is saying, don’t sit back in your chair and fold your arms. On the other hand if you are making a presentation and the bank manager sits back in his chair and folds his arms, STOP. He has gone off the boil and you need to change tack. Read the body language and do not go blundering on.

Another excellent method for gaining the upper hand in a conversation is to mimic the other person … I know I laughed out loud when I first heard it too! ‘What! Stand there and copy the other person’s movements? Don’t be daft!’


The theory behind mimicking is that we all like to talk to like-minded people. We are subconsciously looking for people with whom we have something in common. Try it next time you are talking to someone.

Try not to be too obvious! If they talk quickly pick up the pace of your own conversation. If they are slow and laid back, mimic that relaxed state. If they lean forward across the table. You move forward. Try to reach a balance in your mimicking where you copy the recipient but don’t get spotted!

There are many excellent books on body language and I urge you to go out and read them. Spend hours preparing so that when you communicate, your presentation is seamless.

I read a lovely quote the other day by a man called Seth Godin, marketing director of Yahoo! (seventy million customers). He was talking about the success of the company. What he said was:

‘what many people don’t know is that it took us ten years to become an overnight success!’