Communication is key in every aspect of our lives – our careers, our education, and our relationships. Pretty much anyone can communicate in some way shape or form, but not everyone is capable of doing so effectively. While some are naturally gifted with great communication; many are not and that is OKAY!Communication is a skill that can be learned, practiced, and improved over time.
In this post, I have compiled my top 3 strategies to help in achieving these effective communication skills in your own life. As always, the audio version can be found on iTunes, Google Play, or SoundCloud.
1. Force Yourself to Listen
First of all, take note that listening is not the same as waiting your turn to talk. Sometimes we are so focused on the next point we want to say that we don’t actually listen to the other person. You can’t concentrate on what someone’s saying if you’re busy forming what you’re going to say next. Often, the speaker can read your facial expressions and know that your mind’s elsewhere.
Be present in conversation, slow down and listen to what the speaker is saying so that you can genuinely respond based on the information they provide. We all get so afraid that our opinions are going to get lost in the discussion that we tend to disregard what the other person has to say.
So, next time you find yourself in a heated discussion with someone you genuinely care about, slow down and actually listen. What are they saying? Why do they feel that way? Perhaps paying attention will change your own perspective.
2. Pay Attention to Non-Verbal Cues
This one may sound simple (i.e. if a person is facing away from you they probably aren’t interested in the conversation). However, have you ever tried paying attention to your own cues? Are you:
- Looking up and down from your phone while in a conversation in person with someone?
- Distracted by other visuals in the room?
- Crossing your arms?
- Yelling or speaking in an aggressive tone?
These could all be indicators (some more aggressive and obvious than others) that will reflect negatively on you in the perception of the other person. Focus on your tone (which will be different for different audiences), eye contact, and on appearing engaged and interested.
So much is interpreted – or misinterpreted – through body language, it is equally important that we are representing the message we want physically as much as we are verbally.
3. Keep Stress In Check
How many times have you said something in an argument that you later regretted? Learning how to quickly relieve stress and return to a calm state in an efficient and time effective manner is a necessary skill when it comes to effective communication. It is only in a more relaxed state that you can actually practice the other two tips I have mentioned.
But how? How do we remain calm when our emotions are starting to spin out of control? Whether it’s a job interview that has you jittered, or a heated conversation with a colleague or partner remember the following:
- Recognize that you are stressed (muscle tightness, shortness of breath, heart pounding, temperature rising).
- Breathe. Simple but easily forgotten. Remember that breathing is what will help you maintain that calm, cool, attitude even if you are internally losing your mind.
- Be open to compromise, and accept the circumstances. Some things are simply out of your control. If you can both bend a little perhaps you can find middle ground painlessly.
Maintaining your stress levels, will allow you to think rationally, be able to understand the other party’s point of view, and respond in a calm and meaningful way.
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Even if you are not a gifted speaker, you can still become highly effective in the art of communication. Of course, it takes time and effort to develop this skill, BUT the more effort and practice you put in, the more instinctive and effective your communication skills will become.