Remember for a moment, the last conversation you enjoyed having with someone. What stood out for you in your communication? Was it their voice, their use of facial expressions and gestures or just how hilarious they were? More likely than not, it was how they made us feel when having that conversation with us. We all want to express ourselves, to be listened to and also to listen to others.
Human beings are social creatures and have an inborn need for communication, so how can we be better communicators; at work and beyond? How can we work on our communication skills so that we can be more effective communicators?
Here are our picks for 7 ways we can be more effective communicators; at our workplaces, at home and anywhere else.
1. Listen, listen, listen
Being an engaged listener is the basis of good communication. Picture talking to someone and they are looking at a video on their phone or looking through you with glazed-over eyes. You know immediately that they are not listening to you.
So how can you be a better listener?; try your best to avoid distractions of any kind, try your best to look curious in the conversation, be sincere and open-minded and most importantly listen to learn, not just to be polite.
I noticed an interesting sticker in a PSV once that said, ‘Listening is one the loudest forms of kindness.’
Focus on who is speaking and show genuine interest in the message. It needs some practice but with time, you will be a better listener.
2. Pay attention to body language
Imagine having a conversation with someone and they started yawning or were constantly moving their eyes from side to side; What message would that pass to you?. In essence, they have talked to you without even uttering a single word.
Our body language is a very powerful communication tool; it can tell if we are interested in the conversation, if we are bored, if we are angry, if we are happy and even if we are nervous. Paying attention to our listeners or our audience’s body language can tell us a lot about our message; if they are eating it up or we are just wasting our time.
Working on our own body language is also very important; we cannot be talking about a topic that’s meant to generate enthusiasm yet our body language expresses nervousness or boredom. No one will take us seriously.
If we learn to read others’ body language and pay close to our own; we will definitely be better communicators.
3. Be prepared
What do you do beforehand when you have been assigned to offer an important presentation at work? Of course, you make sure you are well prepared, right?
This will put you at ease and make it easier for you to pass your ideas to others.
If you are about to talk before an audience or about to pass any important information to people, proper preparation is important if your message is to have an impact. If you fumble over words or have horrible pronunciation your audience will notice your lack of preparation and your presentation will be lost to the wind.
So, to be a better communicator; make sure you know your stuff!
4. Strike a Pause!
Always know when to keep quiet during conversations. Try and avoid interrupting other people’s streams of thought.
Ever been on a phone call and you all started talking at the same time and interrupted each other? Do not be afraid of silence in a conversation once in a while.
Pausing can also be a powerful tool when used during a presentation. Instead of using filler words such as ‘uhm’ and ‘ahhh’, try using a pause instead. It allows your brain to process and choose appropriate words while making you seem like a confident communicator. Pausing can be used to emphasize points, give your audience a chance to synthesise what you have just mentioned or invite them to pay attention to what you’re about to say next.
I remember a piece of advice from a certain movie character which said, before you say anything; pause, think about it first and then say it.
5. Ask Questions
Asking questions during a conversation doesn’t just mean that we want clarification on something, it also shows that we are attentive.
The more thoughtful the question we ask, the more brilliant we come across and the more likely the person we are asking will be enthusiastic about engaging with us. Questions don’t have to be complicated ‘rocket-science, any question that indicates a genuine interest in the other person, or in the topic being discussed is a good question.
But asking questions could backfire if it shows that we haven’t been listening to what is being said. It is okay if it shows a lack of understanding, but not a lack of listening.
By asking questions, you gain answers, more understanding, and generate a connection with the speaker that makes you a great conversationalist.
6. Be brief but sufficient
Most times when it comes to communication, less is more. Aim to present less but sufficient information to your audience.
Research shows that human beings have a shorter attention span than goldfish. Within 8 seconds, you have either gained active listeners or completely lost them.
Bombarding people with too much information is like pouring a whole bucket of water on a seedling; you would be doing more harm than good.
Always keep it short and sweet! Make sure that you are brief and straight to the point.
To do this effectively, it helps to understand who your audience is and what they are looking to get out of your conversation. Are they looking for friendly small-talk or are they conducting mental due diligence and would appreciate a lot more information? Being the kind of person who can filter out what is the most relevant info to share at whatever stage and with whomever, is what sets you apart as a boring oversharer, a clueless person or a great leader.
One of the most effective strategies is to relax. Make sure that you are calm and composed before engaging in any form of communication; in-person or virtual.
When you have an appearance of calmness, you look more professional and confident; the kind of person that people enjoy speaking with.
Even in stressful conversations, being calm and collected will be important to how we either pass a not-so-popular message or how we take it.
So, relax! It will help a lot.
Whether you’re preparing for a job interview, a work presentation, or hobnobbing with new people in a networking event, showing up in a way that exudes confidence, presence and engagement will have us turning into the person everyone enjoys having a conversation with.