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Need to communicate effectively? Don’t talk like a politician

Need to communicate effectively? Don’t talk like a politician

In this age of social media and virtual networking, communication is more vital than ever. Not just to clients and partners, but with your own co-workers.

Whether there’s a particularly important single message to get across or a tricky sales pitch to make, clear communication is vital, lest you confuse your audience so much that they don’t know what to do next.

When it comes to Australia’s best communicators, various industries come to mind – journalism, media, PR, advertising and (obviously) communications. However, how many of us would consider our elected representatives to be in that group?

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Politicians are voted in to work hard for their electorates and effectively push their party’s messaging, unless they’re an independent of course.

Save for the occasional maverick MP or senator, such as Jacqui Lambie or Bob Katter, most of these politicians aren’t very enlightening communicators.

Sure, policy discussions are seldom entertaining, but the ultra-formal manner of speaking that has captivated those in Parliament House has alienated the voters who elect them.

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Every major party member who pops up on Insiders, 7.30 and Sky News sounds like a broken record:

“That’s a great question, Leigh.”

“I’ll leave that for others to judge.”

“Discussions are ongoing.”

Never mind the repetitive soundbites, it’s often a challenge for our most powerful ministers to answer a simple question.

It’s mind-boggling that we’ve come to this point. The people paid by us to govern effectively can barely hold a normal conversation when a microphone is turned on. If they’re not resorting to three-word slogans, they drown the viewer or listener in so much obfuscation that it’s impossible for most of us to keep up.

Politicians can be some of the greatest speakers of their time – Abraham Lincoln and Winston Churchill, for example.

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But we remember some of their most famous words because they’re easy to understand. They emphasised clarity and persuasion above excessive detail.

It’s a lesson our politicians would do well to learn, as would we.

If you need to communicate effectively, consider whether you’re using too many words, going on tangents or talking too much and not listening enough.

We can’t get frustrated every time the Prime Minister fails to answer a question properly on TV and then do exactly that in our own workplace.

If we’re to become the perfect communicator we aspire to be, learn from the pros. Find someone who always leaves you hanging on every word and take note of what they do to retain your engagement.

If you want to see how not to do it, watch Question Time.