Communication is at the core of our interaction with other people. There are many books and articles out there that talk about effective communication and there is so much we can learn from them. I think the best way to improve oneself as a communicator is to keep working on it.
One of the most important things about communication is knowing that it’s not so much about what you say; the majority is about what the other person hears. I’ve been trying to improve my communication skills for many years and though I can see some progress, there’s still much to learn. Here are the 5 things I think you can try to improve your communication. You don’t have to do them all. You can just pick one that you like the most and give it a go.
Listening is the most important aspect of communication. Many people listen to reply, not to understand and that’s why miscommunication happens so often. Being a good listener means being interested in what the other person has to say; being interested in the other person’s interests. I know that this is really hard because as humans, we just really like to talk and share our own opinion and ideas. However, in order to communicate successfully, you’ll need to set all that aside and just soak in the other person’s words. You’d be surprised by how much you can learn and how effective communication can be if you’re genuinely interested in what you are hearing rather than coming up with your reply to whatever someone is saying at the moment.
We live in such a busy world. There’s always something else to do and somewhere else to be. Add to it the ultimate interconnectedness and constant availability due to our smart devices and our attention is just non-existent.
There is no reason to learn how to show you’re paying attention if you are in fact paying attention.Celeste Headlee: 10 ways to have a better conversation
Be present. Not only physically, but mentally as well. Forget your thoughts, forget the next thing you have to do when you get home. Just be present. We’ve been talking a lot about multitasking, but guess what? If you want to have a quality conversation, you can’t multitask because if you do, you’re not listening, not really listening. So, set aside everything else and be there, be in the conversation.
BE TO THE POINT
While I was at the university, one of my teachers said “if you can’t define a word in a sentence without using that word, it means you don’t really know it“. That really got me thinking about all the words I knew, or at least thought I did.
Just like we try not to use the unnecessary details when defining a word, we should try communicating without making too many digressions. Being clear and to the point makes listening easier for the other person and makes what you are saying easier to understand. I know this can be hard because we get distracted by other thoughts that pop up into our head, but try to stick to the course. Just think about all those time you dozed off when someone went on and on about something s/he could have said in just a few words. Don’t do the same thing to your interlocutor. Being brief and to the point is effective and it enriches communication.
KNOW YOUR AUDIENCE
Make sure you know who you are talking with. Whether you are presenting or just participating in the conversation, it’s good to know your audience. If you are not sure how to do it, observe first. If you are working on a presentation for work, visit your coworkers’ presentations, learn from them. If you’re in a networking event, just observe the people around you. We’ve all had our firsts, but the more prepared you are, the easier it’ll be.
You can study all the books our there and read every single case study, but until you try it, you won’t know what you’re good at and what you need to improve. Practice makes perfect and that goes for communication as well. Make sure you put yourself in different situations and contexts that require a variety of communication styles or forms. That will give you an idea of what you may encounter in your life and it’ll also enable you to find your way around any situation. The more you do it, the easier it’ll be. You just have to keep an open mind and be willing to learn and improve.
So, these are some of the tips I’ve been trying to implement in my life. I am getting pretty good at some of them, but some of them still require a lot of work.
What communication strategies are you using? Have you tried something that ended up not working for you?
Keep learning and growing.
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