Communication is one of the most important life skills that a person can have. Whether you want to have better conversations in your personal and social life, or get your ideas across better at work, there are some key things you can do to help improve your communication skills.
#1. Show Respect & Appreciation
Appreciation and respect can go a long way… People will be more open to communicating with you if you convey respect for them and their ideas. Even simple actions like using a person’s name will make them feel appreciated. It’s also important to be respectful and considerate of other peoples’ time.
#2. Listen Actively
People want to know that they are being heard. Instead of just focusing on formulating a response, really listen to what the other person is saying. The person speaking to you should be the most important thing, at that moment. Also, when you’re talking to someone on the phone, do not respond to an email, or send a text at the same time. The person will know that they don’t have your undivided attention.
#3. Ask Questions And Paraphrase
Asking questions will not only help you understand what the other person is saying, but it also indicates that you’re actually interested in what they’re saying. This opens up the conversation, and signals that you want to see them, hear them and understand them. And if you want to show that you really understand, then paraphrasing is a great tool. All you need to do is repeat back to someone what they just said before you comment yourself.
#4. Make Eye Contact
It’s important that you connect with the person you are talking to, and eye contact is essential when having a meaningful conversation. Looking at the floor or out the window signifies you don’t care, are bored, or aren’t really listening to them. By looking at the other person in the eye, you are proving that you’re interested in what they’re saying. This also keeps you focused and less distracted.
#5. Pay Attention To Body Language
Your non-verbal and non-written cues often reveal more than you think. Remember that you’re constantly communicating, even when you’re not saying a word. So make sure that you have open body language when interacting with others. Face your conversational partner, pay close attention to your gestures, and don’t cross your arms.
#6. Get Rid of Conversation Fillers
‘Um’ and ‘ah’ do little to improve your speech or conversations. Cut them out to be more persuasive, and to feel and appear more confident. One way is to start keeping track of when you say words like “um” or “like.” You could also try simply relaxing and pausing before you speak. Trust me, those silences seem more awkward to you than they do to others.
#7. Be Brief, But Specific
For written and verbal communication, practice being brief, yet specific enough, that you provide enough information for the other person to understand what you are trying to say. And if you’re responding to an email, make sure that you read the entire email before crafting your response. With enough practice, you will learn not to ramble, or give away too much information. Having said that, you should take the time to edit your messages! If you send a sloppy, confusing email, the recipient will think you don’t care enough to think through your communication with them.
#8 Put Away Devices
Somehow, most people just don’t get this one… But it’s quite rude to have your head buried in your phone while someone’s talking to you. So, put down your devices and look at the person who is speaking to you. Don’t answer calls, check texts or notice vibrations. Let it all pass. Stay focused on what the other person is telling you. Your body language, words, and emotional tone will let them know that you’re really taking in what they’re sharing.
#9 Validate Others’ Thoughts and Feelings
When someone feels a certain way, they feel that way for a reason; and even if you wouldn’t react the same way, it’s important to acknowledge the emotions they’re experiencing. You don’t have to agree with the other person to validate them. You can make them feel important by simply letting them know that you hear what they’re saying, and accept their perspective.
#10 Never Talk Over People
By talking over someone, what you’re basically saying is “I don’t care what you’re saying – what I have to say is more important.” And this demonstrates a real lack of respect! On the same note, refrain from finishing people’s sentences for them. By doing this, you are dis-empowering the other person, because you’re taking control of the conversation. So bite your tongue!
#11 Watch Your Tone
While it’s sometimes necessary to be assertive in order to make your point, don’t be aggressive. There’s a fine line between the two. Try not to cross it. A combative tone is not in any way productive. Be confident and direct, while maintaining a calm, cooperative tone.
#12 Smile And Have A Positive Attitude
When you smile often and exude a positive attitude, people will respond positively to you. Even when you’re talking on the phone, smile, because your positive attitude will shine through, and the other person will know it. You see, the more you pay attention to how you express yourself to others, the better you’ll get at communicating effectively. So give it a try! Apply these tips in your day-to-day interactions, and you will improve your communication skills instantly.