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11 Secrets People Good At Communication Never Told You

11 Secrets People Good At Communication Never Told You

Communication skills are the ‘secret sauce’ you need to get ahead at work and become a successful leader. Whether you are making a presentation for your co-workers, building a relationship or making a sale, robust communication skills are well worth the effort to develop.

1. They practice important communication before delivery.

Skilled communicators understand that a top notch delivery does not happen by accident. For example, the late Steve Jobs held rehearsals for his legendary Apple product launches.

When all the eyes of the public (or your boss!) are on you, take the time to practice. Visit the presentation location (e.g. the conference room, meeting room or other location) in advance so that you are familiar with the layout and equipment in the room.

2. They practice theatre for important communications.

The speed, tempo and style of your communication plays an important role. For example, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates releases mosquitoes when he gave a TED Talk on public health.

That move caught the attention of the group and helped them to focus on his presentation. Using visual aids, repeating key points and changing your volume to emphasize certain points are ways to use theatre to improve your communication.

3. They know when to use active listening skills.

Great communications understand that communication involves the speaker and the listener. That’s why they practice active listening skills, especially in conversation.

These skills involve maintaining eye contact and asking good questions about the person. For example, former U.S. President Bill Clinton is known as a great communication because he focuses on one person at a time.

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Tip: There are several ways you can improve your listening skills, start here: 7 Things Truly Amazing Listeners Do Differently.

4. They study great communicators.

The best communicators are lifelong learners. This includes watching speeches and presentations given at conferences such as TED and at political campaigns.

Many public speakers have studied Lincoln’s 19th century speeches (e.g. The Gettysburg Address) as an examples of brief and powerful communication. To begin this study yourself, consider reading books such as Talk Like TED: The 9 Public-Speaking Secrets of the World’s Top Minds by Carmine Gallo or Public Speaking for Success by Dale Carnegie.

Further Reading: 20 Most Inspiring TED Talks of All Time That You Should Not Miss.

5. They take courses to improve their communication skills.

Did you know that Warren Buffet, the legendary billionaire investor, considers communication skills highly valuable? He took the Dale Carnegie Course in his 20s and considers it one of his best investments.

In the ancient world, lawyers and statesman studied the art of public speaking for years in order to become successful. Take a page from their experience and invest time and money in order to reach this skill.

You can start by reading books, but the best way to improve is to practice and get feedback.

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6. They communicate using body language.

The words used by great communicators are important, yet they are only part of the communication picture. For example, resting your head on your hand while listening to someone else speak generally signals a lack of interest.

Psychology Today reports that pointing your finger to emphasize certain topics can be effective. Your hands, your smile and other aspects of your body can help you become a more effective communicator.

Tip: Read Better Body Language in 18 Steps to improve your skills in non-verbal communication.

7. They know when to use humor in communication.

Great communications are skilled at getting a laugh out of an audience. For example, noted African-American author and leader Booker T. Washington (1856-1915) used humor in his speaking.

This approach helped him work through the tension involved in public speaking. Likewise, Nellie McClung (1873-1951) used humor in her advocacy for women’s rights in Canada in the 20th century.

If you are seeking to make a challenging point, take time to learn how to use humor effectively.

Resource: Get started by studying the article, Top 10 Ways to Lead More Effectively with Humor.

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8. They know how to work with different audiences.

Every audience is different and top notch communicators understand how to customize their communication accordingly. If you are speaking to an audience of scientists and engineers, it makes sense to use a lot of technical examples and emphasize proof.

In contrast, communicating with young children requires a different approach. For the best results, take the time to study your audience before you communicate with them.

TED Talks by scientists are a great example of how complex topics can be communicated to the general public effectively.

9. They understand the importance of good timing.

Good communicators understand timing deeply. For example, a good sports coach knows when to deliver a rousing, inspirational speech to lift the spirits of the team.

The best communicators also know the value of responding quickly to a crisis. James Burke of Johnson & Johnson took charge of communicating the corporate response to the Tylenol crisis in the early 1980s. Sometimes, a swift response is the best response.

10. They know how to use their personality profile

Knowing yourself matters in effective leadership and communication. If you are a person who connects well with people, then it makes sense to focus on that strength.

However, if you are weak in managing details, consider following President Reagan’s examples and working with a strong team of researchers and speechwriters. In fact, Reagan may never have achieved praise as “The Great Communicator” without partnering with writer Peggy Noonan.

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Top communicators need not always write their own speeches if they bring other strengths to the table.

11. They know how to use different communication methods

Knowing the difference between a live speech, a TV interview and a written report are some of the distinctions that great communicators have mastered. For example, some communicators have specialized in the art of copywriting – selling ideas and products through words.

Copywriting expert Neville Medhora explains how to write an effective “cold email” and get in touch with potential customers and other important people.

Tip: Keep growing your communication skills in business by reading: 12 Tips for Better Business Writing.

Featured photo credit: Microphone / Goranmx via pixabay.com

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Bruce Harpham

Bruce Harpham is a Project Management Professional and Founder and CEO of Project Management Hacks.

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Last Updated on January 15, 2019

How to Talk to Strangers Without Feeling Awkward

How to Talk to Strangers Without Feeling Awkward

Many of us feel awkward talking to strangers. I’m a very outgoing person, even though I sometimes feel uncomfortable walking up to someone and asking a question or starting a conversation. I consider myself pretty high up on the extrovert meter. So what is it that makes us pause and become worried or anxious about talking to people we don’t know?

In this article, we will discuss why we feel this way as well as some tips on how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward.

Step right up, don’t be shy!

Why We Feel Awkward Talking to Strangers

The next time you feel uncomfortable talking to a stranger, tell yourself that’s completely normal. There are numerous reasons why it’s actually natural to feel awkward talking to strangers:

Our Stress Levels Rise Around Strangers

Numerous studies have show that our levels of cortisol go up when we are around strangers.[1] Cortisol is the hormone inside of us which produces stress responses.[2]
So there you go, right off the bat you can see part of your standard response to strangers is due to a chemical reaction!

A very interesting by product of increased cortisol is that it makes us less empathetic. More than likely this can be traced to our evolution. The increase in the cortisol and the corresponding decrease in empathy makes us want to stay away from strangers. We are biologically wired to feel concern around strangers.

Evolution Taught Us to Be Wary

Evolution has also taught us to be wary of strangers in general. Humans as a whole have spent a large chunk of their history banded together in small protective groups. We did this in order to help protect each other and maximize resources.

When you think about it in this context, outsiders to our small groups or strangers are considered potential threats. Fear of strangers is common across almost all human cultures.

Culturally Conditioned

We can also thank our society for helping us feel uncomfortable and sometimes afraid of strangers. The term “stranger danger” is something most of us can relate to either growing up or raising kids. Or both.

I remember hearing this from my parents, mostly about not getting in someone’s car I didn’t know. And as the father of 2 teenage girls, you can be sure I’ve talked to them about this very concept more times that they want to hear.

The thought that strangers can be dangerous is built into us as it is. Toss in the amplification of the media on strangers doing things such as kidnapping kids and it takes it to an even higher level.

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Now that we’ve reviewed some of the reasons why we are nervous, let’s look at why you should talk to strangers more.

Benefits of Getting over the Awkwardness

Let’s take a quick look at some of the advantages of how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward. These are some high level benefits of talking to strangers.

1. Broadens Your Network

After you talk to someone, you didn’t know previously they become someone you know at least a little bit. This alone helps broaden your network of people you know. This is helpful in many ways whether it is work related or socially related.

2. Improves Your Communication Skills

I am a huge proponent of the value of solid communication skills and have written about it often. The more you talk to people, especially people you don’t know, the better your communication skills become.

Interacting with a wider variety of people will bring the added benefit of improving your communication skills.

3. Continually Learning

So many of us don’t actively seek to learn new things. This is one of the primary keys to staying engaged in life and our own personal self fulfillment.

Almost every time I speak to someone I didn’t know previously, I’ve learned something new. When we speak to strangers, it pushes us out of our comfort zones and we tend to learn new things.

4. Increases Self Confidence

Every time we learn to do something we were previously anxious about, we feel better about ourselves.

Forcing ourselves to talk to strangers will lead to increased self confidence. As we get more and more comfortable doing something that previously made us feel awkward, our self confidence will go up and up.

So, how to talk to strangers to reap these benefits?

How to Talk to Strangers

Here are some tips to on how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward.

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1. Say Hello

Putting “say hello” first may seem a bit obvious but let’s take a deeper look. Much of the social awkwardness when speaking to strangers is simply breaking the ice. The first words that will engage someone.

Most people will respond when someone says hello or hi to them. And those that don’t, you probably don’t want to talk to anyway.

Practice being the person that opens the door to a conversation. Say hello.

2. Ask About Them

Something that I have noticed over the years is that people love to talk about themselves. Even fairly private people tend to open up when asked about events in their lives.

You can ask leading questions that get people to talk about themselves and recent events. Things like recent movies watched or the summer vacation are great to get someone talking.

As a father, I also know that people love to talk about their kids. Asking about kids is a fairly easy topic to bring up and in general, most people will expound upon all the great things their kids do or are involved with.

3. Just Do It

One of the biggest reasons we don’t do things we want to or know we should is because we overthink it. Quit thinking about it so much and just do it.

When you give yourself the time to analyze every little angle about a situation, you also give plenty of time to talk yourself out of it. You’ll wind up thinking what if this happens or what if that happens.

Try to force yourself to jump right in without thinking about it too much. Whenever I have done this, I always feel great about it afterwards, no matter how it turned out.

4. Don’t Take It Personal

One of the greatest lessons in life I ever learned was don’t take anything personally. We all go through life with our own sets of experiences and see things through our own lens. The way people react to different situations has almost nothing to do with us. It has to do with previous experiences and the way people feel about things other than us.

When someone’s reaction isn’t what you’d hoped or expected, chances are it has nothing to do with you. Remember that and keep it in context.

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5. Get a Chuckle If Possible

I used the word chuckle purposely because it makes me laugh. In my opinion, it’s one of those funny words. We all like to laugh because it makes us feel good. And when someone makes us laugh, we typically remember those people in a positive light.

One of the best ways to make a conversation easy and free flowing is to get some laughter going. It doesn’t mean you have to be the master joke teller or anything. See if you can work in a way to make the person you are talking to get a smile or some laughter in. In fact, laughing at yourself maybe a nice try.

6. Detach

A great feeling is when you don’t mind which way something turns out, that you will be fine no matter what happens. Kind of like when I watch my two favorite football teams play against each other. I don’t really care who wins, I just want a fun game.

Treat talking to strangers the same way. You don’t really care how the conversation goes because you are detaching from the outcome. Make it a fun time with yourself and if the conversation goes well, awesome! If not then no big deal, move on.

7. Share Your Stories

Well, all like to feel connected to other people. And many times we wind up hanging out with people that we have things in common with. No surprise here.

To help with how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward, tell stories that have commonalities with the person you are talking to. Kids are an easy one. I have a daughter who was a competitive cheerleader and now plays club volleyball. I have instant connection and stories with strangers I speak with who have kids that play sports. It’s easy to relate to.

So when you are speaking to a stranger and you have a story or mutual connection point, bring it up.

8. Give a Compliment

Almost everyone likes hearing a compliment, whether they admit to it or not. As a general rule, we don’t give out enough compliments. It’s amazing how one small remark someone tosses your way about how good you look can literally make your entire day.

When you are speaking with someone you don’t know, see if you can work a compliment in. Nothing creepy here. Not a good idea to tell someone you just met that they are the prettiest or handsomest person you ever met. However, if you can share how you like their tattoo or shoes or something like that, it will help put the conversation into an easy going, smiling place.

9. Relax Your Body Language

If you go into a situation all worried and nervous, it shows on your body. Your shoulders are tensed up, there’s a look of consternation on your face, things like that.

When you engage a stranger in conversation, make it a point to relax your body language. Take a deep breath before you engage the person, let your body relax, and put a smile on your face. This will help relax you and it has the added benefit of putting the other person more at ease.

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If they see that you are relaxed, it helps them relax. Plus having open, engaging body language is very conducive to inviting someone to open up into a conversation with you.

10. Practice, Practice, Practice

Like everything else in life, talking to strangers gets easier with practice. The more you do it, the easier it becomes.

Make it a point to talk to several strangers each week and it will definitely help you relax as you do it more and more.

After a while, it will become something you don’t even think about, you just do it. And that takes all of the awkwardness out of being in these type situations.

The Bottom Line

As we have seen, it is perfectly natural to feel awkward talking to strangers. We are biologically built that way and we have our own society constantly warning us how dangerous it is. It’s no wonder we feel awkward talking to strangers!

There are numerous benefits to learning to be more comfortable talking to strangers. See if you can employ some of the techniques mentioned to learn how to talk to strangers without feeling awkward.

Once you start practicing speaking with strangers more often and utilizing some of the tips, you will become more comfortable doing so. This in turn will lead to a learned new skill and increased self confidence.

Remember, everyone you know was a stranger at one time. Now get out there and make some new friends.

More Resources About Strengthening Communication Skills

Featured photo credit: Priscilla Du Preez via unsplash.com

Reference

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