To improve, watch what, how you say

| Tuesday, Dec. 25, 2012, 8:56 p.m.

So much in our world needs mending.

But as writer Aldous Huxley said, “There is only one corner of the universe you can be certain of improving, and that's your own self.”

With a fresh year before you, why not start down a path of self-improvement? Start with something you have total control over, and I guarantee can do wonders for your career: Examine and improve the way you declare out loud the thoughts that are inside you.

This covers a lot of ground. It includes how you assert your opinions in pubic and private forums, how you remark about others, how you vocalize your disappointment, how you express yourself to one or an audience of 100.

Lack of candor, ducking the truth, polarizing comments, smug smiles and jargon can do you in.

To begin, look at two things: how others communicate so well and how others mess up royally. Decker Communications' annual Top 10 Best and Worst Communicators list helps us do that.

No. 1 on the 2012 best communicators list is first lady Michelle Obama, who consistently communicates to influence, capturing her audience “by being articulate, down to earth, informal and humble,” they say.

She tells personal stories that hook listeners and expose vulnerability while relating to her audience. Her energy, emotion and eye communication stay high throughout her speeches, and she stays clear, composed, “exhibiting ultimate command of both presence and message.”

Second best is Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., who in both behavior and message “is confident, authentic — and impressive.” He also conveys sincerity and likability.

Mayor Cory Booker of Newark, N.J., uses humor, emotion and crisp stories to relate to people, which makes him likable. That got the Democrat named fifth-best on the list.

No. 8 is a duo, Comedy Central TV show hosts Steven Colbert and Jon Stewart. These two humor geniuses “simplify the extremely convoluted details” of politics and other topics and are “naturally energetic, quick of tongue and wit” and produce “concrete, clear, engaging sketches.”

No. 1 on Decker's 10 Worst Communicators is Francesco Schettino. He was the captain of the cruise ship Costa Concordia that under his command hit a rock tearing a gash in the hull. Thirty-two people died. In the midst of the catastrophe, this leader “went silent.”

No. 2 on the worst list are Republicans Todd Aiken and Richard Mourdock, “prime examples of putting their feet in their mouths.”

Both men, who were running for U.S. Senate in Missouri and Indiana, respectively, made comments polarizing and powerful enough to completely derail their messages, and “tried to recant, but slowly, defensively and with qualifications.”

While some on the worst communicator list were downright sad and stupid or arrogant and aloof, others killed their credibility, lacked humility or went over the top. But the worst seem to have three things in common: being unlikable, unreachable and “unrelatable.”

Almost everyone on this year's best communicator list had these three traits: being likable, concrete and clear. So care about your audience, and they will care about you — and they'll listen.


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