Being a brilliant communicator is more about the way we think than articulating our messages fluently and interestingly. No matter how carefully you choose your words, you can never fully control how your message will be received. What you do can influence the content, tone, and intensity of your message.
When you apply these 6 ways to improve your communication, your words will become more powerful. You’ll increase your chances that people actually hear what you’re saying.
1. Prepare yourself before the conversation.
Take some time before sharing your ideas. This will make you more confident when talking to people. As a result, your message will be more powerful and easier to understand.
Before opening your mouth, ask yourself what is your real aim in this conversation? What message do you want your listeners to remember? Whether you’re talking with your partner or your colleagues, stress and frustration can cause you to speak less clearly. Clarifying your emotions before a conversation can help you to avoid beating around the bush and going into tangents on minor points. It’s important to stick to the main subject – the one you feel most passionate about.
Keep in mind that this conversation won’t necessarily go the way you’ve planned it. Anticipate negative replies in advance so you don’t have to wing it.
2. Keep it simple.
Use as few words as possible to communicate your message. Keeping it concise offers less room for misunderstandings and boredom. Even though you may think what you’re saying is the most interesting thing on earth, your listeners may not share this feeling. If you speak for too long, they will stop paying attention and may not understand your message.
Also, the simpler and more concrete your message is, the more you can focus on your body language — which is 55% of all communication! Stand with your body open and inclusive. Plant your feet firmly on the floor, distribute your weight evenly, and look people in the eye.
3. Use positive language.
Our subconscious mind doesn’t hear negatives. Your message will be more efficient if you speak positively. Instead of telling people what not to do, let them know what you actually want them to do.
For example: “You hang out with your friends too much and you never have time for me!” is not likely to be well-received. Instead, use a precise request: “I miss hanging out with you. Let’s spend Saturday evening together”.
4. Think from the listener’s perspective.
Flip around your thinking and try to imagine how your listeners will take your message. Use this method to develop a balanced and clear approach. In this era of texting (and other types of impersonal messages) our communications can be easily misunderstood.
Dr. Rosenberg (a communication expert) says, “The more we empathize with the other party, the safer we feel ourselves.” By connecting to your listeners’ humanity, they are more likely to realize the value of your ideas and find common ground with you.
Take into consideration the influencing emotions which can play in the perception of a message. Don’t demand, but gently and precisely indicate what you want from another person.
For example: “I’d like you to wash the dishes after dinner.” might come across the wrong way. Try a softer approach: ”Would you be willing to wash the dishes after dinner?”
5. Avoid judgments.
People usually feel bad when you judge their behaviour. Judgment creates a power dynamic of superiority and inferiority which makes people defensive. This can derail a conversation and prevent healthy dialogue.
Differentiating observation from evaluation is a key step in improving your communication skills. As the Indian philosopher J. Krhnamurti says, “Observation without evaluation is the highest form of human intelligence.”
Even if you disagree with someone’s behaviour, remember this is nothing more than your own subjective opinion. Train yourself to stay mindful and to notice judgmental thoughts — these can lead you to unconsciously choose judgmental language in your conversations.
For example: “You’re so naive.” is a judgment which would likely provoke a defensive reaction, whereas this second sentence explains a fact: “When I see you accepting Rob’s explanations, even though we know he’s lied to us before, I think you’re being naive.”
6. Stick to the facts.
Approach people with logic and an objective mind. A conversation supported by facts is less likely provoke hostility because no one can argue with the facts.
Especially when describing a tricky point, be as precise as you can and rely on simple facts. Avoid generalizations and words such as “always” and “never”.
For example: “You never accomplish your tasks on time.” is an opinion which will likely provoke a negative reaction. State a simple fact: “On our last three projects, we met our goals late because you delivered your work after your deadline.”
Communication is a skill which we have an opportunity to practise every day. As it is one the most useful skills we can acquire in life, mastering it is a good idea. Strive to not only be a good communicator, but to be an excellent one!
Featured photo credit: Stokpic via stokpic.com