Have you ever met someone who appears to be in control of their thoughts and emotions at all times? Not only are they able to effectively communicate with others, but they can also effectively read thoughts, physical behaviors, and sense what people are feeling. These people can take the lead in groups and tend to advance faster and further in their careers than others. So, how do they do this?
Be an Active Listener
If you look back on some of the conversations you’ve had in the past, you can probably recall a few that weren’t as comfortable as you would’ve liked. Perhaps you felt as though the other person wasn’t interested in what you were saying, or completely dismissed you altogether. It’s not a good feeling, and it turns you off to future interactions with that particular individual.
Active listening involves more than just eye contact and hearing what’s being said. It’s also responding appropriately and with the correct timing. There are short pauses in a conversation where you can nod or say something like, “I completely understand.” This way you’re not cutting the other person off mid-sentence, but they know that you aren’t just hearing, you’re listening.
Miscommunication is often the reason for unpleasant disputes and an inability to effectively resolve disagreements. Every single one of us, even those with incredible communication skills, have misread or misinterpreted someone else’s words or actions at some point on another. An easy way to avoid unnecessary confusion would be to clarify what the other person is saying to you.
Start with “so you’re saying…” and then rephrase the message they gave you. They might show confirmation or agreement, or they’ll just let you know that what you heard wasn’t precisely what they meant.
Remember, everyone has different communication styles, and some are better than others. Try to be patient with others and with yourself.
Speak Clearly and Confidently
When you look downward and mumble your words in a soft tone, people obviously can’t hear you, for starters. Secondly, it makes things a little awkward for the other party because your body language and volume suggests that talking to them makes you uncomfortable. Stand up straight, relax your shoulders, unfold your arms, and speak up!
If you’re not used to doing this, it definitely feels weird at first, and you may stumble in your words a bit. Slow down; you don’t have to spit out your entire sentence in less than three seconds. You can practice by recording yourself talk on your phone and playing it back. Observe your habits, the tone, and volume of your voice, and your diction.
Unless you’re in some super serious situation where smiling and chuckles aren’t allowed, brighten up your demeanor! When you smile, your eyebrows go up as well; other human beings perceive this as a genuine greeting, which is exactly what you want. You don’t have to be over the top about it; sincerity is what we’re going for here. Others should feel like they can let their guard down a little and speak freely.
Being friendly also allows people to be more honest with you; they have less fear of you becoming offended. Keep your expressions natural and topic appropriate, and don’t be nervous! Even if the person you’re talking to seems to have all the confidence in the world, they might be uncomfortable on the inside as well. Everything’s going to be okay, so relax and enjoy the discussion.
Reflection Before Response
No rule says you have to immediately respond to what someone says or have an answer prepared. Doing so is actually the opposite of effective communication, while you’re planning a response in your head, you’re missing crucial details about what the other person is saying. You can say something along the lines of “hmm, I’ve never thought it if that way” or a similar phrase. This gives you a few seconds to absorb the information you just received and consider what was actually communicated.
Afterward, you can formulate your own thoughts and provide a reply that is both relevant and pertains to the points that were made. This is probably one of the more challenging elements of positive communication because it’s sometimes tough to gauge how your words will affect someone else. Even if you plan your sentences meticulously and thoughtfully, there’s still a chance that someone may not take it the way you meant it. This is going to happen, and it’s not something that you need to beat yourself up over. Try not to hyperfocus on areas where you feel like you “screwed up.” Just remind yourself that you are doing your very best, and to improve your communication skills, you have to make mistakes, too.