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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, 2021

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

7 Ways To Have More Confident Body Language

The popular idiomatic saying that “actions speak louder than words” has been around for centuries, but even to this day, most people struggle with at least one area of nonverbal communication. Consequently, many of us aspire to have more confident body language but don’t have the knowledge and tools necessary to change what are largely unconscious behaviors.

Given that others’ perceptions of our competence and confidence are predominantly influenced by what we do with our faces and bodies, it’s important to develop greater self-awareness and consciously practice better posture, stance, eye contact, facial expressions, hand movements, and other aspects of body language.

Posture

First things first: how is your posture? Let’s start with a quick self-assessment of your body.

  • Are your shoulders slumped over or rolled back in an upright posture?
  • When you stand up, do you evenly distribute your weight or lean excessively to one side?
  • Does your natural stance place your feet relatively shoulder-width apart or are your feet and legs close together in a closed-off position?
  • When you sit, does your lower back protrude out in a slumped position or maintain a straight, spine-friendly posture in your seat?

All of these are important considerations to make when evaluating and improving your posture and stance, which will lead to more confident body language over time. If you routinely struggle with maintaining good posture, consider buying a posture trainer/corrector, consulting a chiropractor or physical therapist, stretching daily, and strengthening both your core and back muscles.

Facial Expressions

Are you prone to any of the following in personal or professional settings?

  • Bruxism (tight, clenched jaw or grinding teeth)
  • Frowning and/or furrowing brows
  • Avoiding direct eye contact and/or staring at the ground

If you answered “yes” to any of these, then let’s start by examining various ways in which you can project confident body language through your facial expressions.

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1. Understand How Others Perceive Your Facial Expressions

A December 2020 study by UC Berkeley and Google researchers utilized a deep neural network to analyze facial expressions in six million YouTube clips representing people from over 140 countries. The study found that, despite socio-cultural differences, people around the world tended to use about 70% of the same facial expressions in response to different emotional stimuli and situations.[1]

The study’s researchers also published a fascinating interactive map to demonstrate how their machine learning technology assessed various facial expressions and determined subtle differences in emotional responses.

This study highlights the social importance of facial expressions because whether or not we’re consciously aware of them—by gazing into a mirror or your screen on a video conferencing platform—how we present our faces to others can have tremendous impacts on their perceptions of us, our confidence, and our emotional states. This awareness is the essential first step towards

2. Relax Your Face

New research on bruxism and facial tension found the stresses and anxieties of Covid-19 lockdowns led to considerable increases in orofacial pain, jaw-clenching, and teeth grinding, particularly among women.[2]

The National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research estimates that more than 10 million Americans alone have temporomandibular joint dysfunction (TMJ syndrome), and facial tension can lead to other complications such as insomnia, wrinkles, dry skin, and dark, puffy bags under your eyes.[3])

To avoid these unpleasant outcomes, start practicing progressive muscle relaxation techniques and taking breaks more frequently throughout the day to moderate facial tension.[4] You should also try out some biofeedback techniques to enhance your awareness of involuntary bodily processes like facial tension and achieve more confident body language as a result.[5]

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3. Improve Your Eye Contact

Did you know there’s an entire subfield of kinesic communication research dedicated to eye movements and behaviors called oculesics?[6] It refers to various communication behaviors including direct eye contact, averting one’s gaze, pupil dilation/constriction, and even frequency of blinking. All of these qualities can shape how other people perceive you, which means that eye contact is yet another area of nonverbal body language that we should be more mindful of in social interactions.

The ideal type (direct/indirect) and duration of eye contact depends on a variety of factors, such as cultural setting, differences in power/authority/age between the parties involved, and communication context. Research has shown that differences in the effects of eye contact are particularly prominent when comparing East Asian and Western European/North American cultures.[7]

To improve your eye contact with others, strive to maintain consistent contact for at least 3 to 4 seconds at a time, consciously consider where you’re looking while listening to someone else, and practice eye contact as much as possible (as strange as this may seem in the beginning, it’s the best way to improve).

3. Smile More

There are many benefits to smiling and laughing, and when it comes to working on more confident body language, this is an area that should be fun, low-stakes, and relatively stress-free.

Smiling is associated with the “happiness chemical” dopamine and the mood-stabilizing hormone, serotonin. Many empirical studies have shown that smiling generally leads to positive outcomes for the person smiling, and further research has shown that smiling can influence listeners’ perceptions of our confidence and trustworthiness as well.

4. Hand Gestures

Similar to facial expressions and posture, what you do with your hands while speaking or listening in a conversation can significantly influence others’ perceptions of you in positive or negative ways.

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It’s undoubtedly challenging to consciously account for all of your nonverbal signals while simultaneously trying to stay engaged with the verbal part of the discussion, but putting in the effort to develop more bodily awareness now will make it much easier to unconsciously project more confident body language later on.

5. Enhance Your Handshake

In the article, “An Anthropology of the Handshake,” University of Copenhagen social anthropology professor Bjarke Oxlund assessed the future of handshaking in wake of the Covid-19 pandemic:[8]

“Handshakes not only vary in function and meaning but do so according to social context, situation and scale. . . a public discussion should ensue on the advantages and disadvantages of holding on to the tradition of shaking hands as the conventional gesture of greeting and leave-taking in a variety of circumstances.”

It’s too early to determine some of the ways in which Covid-19 has permanently changed our social norms and professional etiquette standards, but it’s reasonable to assume that handshaking may retain its importance in American society even after this pandemic. To practice more confident body language in the meantime, the video on the science of the perfect handshake below explains what you need to know.

6. Complement Your Verbals With Hand Gestures

As you know by now, confident communication involves so much more than simply smiling more or sounding like you know what you’re talking about. What you do with your hands can be particularly influential in how others perceive you, whether you’re fidgeting with an object, clenching your fists, hiding your hands in your pockets, or calmly gesturing to emphasize important points you’re discussing.

Social psychology researchers have found that “iconic gestures”—hand movements that appear to be meaningfully related to the speaker’s verbal content—can have profound impacts on listeners’ information retention. In other words, people are more likely to engage with you and remember more of what you said when you speak with complementary hand gestures instead of just your voice.[9]

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Further research on hand gestures has shown that even your choice of the left or right hand for gesturing can influence your ability to clearly convey information to listeners, which supports the notion that more confident body language is readily achievable through greater self-awareness and deliberate nonverbal actions.[10]

Final Takeaways

Developing better posture, enhancing your facial expressiveness, and practicing hand gestures can vastly improve your communication with other people. At first, it will be challenging to consciously practice nonverbal behaviors that many of us are accustomed to performing daily without thinking about them.

If you ever feel discouraged, however, remember that there’s no downside to consistently putting in just a little more time and effort to increase your bodily awareness. With the tips and strategies above, you’ll be well on your way to embracing more confident body language and amplifying others’ perceptions of you in no time.

More Tips on How to Develop a Confident Body Language

Featured photo credit: Maria Lupan via unsplash.com

Reference

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