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How To Be Likeable By Improving Your Communication Skills

How To Be Likeable By Improving Your Communication Skills

If the thought of conducting a conversation with someone conjures up feelings of anxiety then you’re not alone. Some people seem to have a natural ability to spark up interesting and engaging topics of discussion while you feel you struggle to think of anything or even the right thing to say. Perhaps you’ve started a new job and you find it hard to start or carry on conversations with your new colleagues, maybe you want to strike up casual conversation with people but you find the conversation doesn’t really develop.

The biggest misconception when it comes to good conversation is the idea that we need to keep the conversation going by any means possible. However, it’s all about the quality of the conversation rather than the amount you say.

Awkward conversations happen to all of us but there are ways to improve your communication skills that give you a head start on developing easy interactions with people. Much like any other skill, communication needs to be practised in order to build it up, so with some guidance you can start to strike up those conversations with confidence and show your true likability.

How To Improve Communication Skills

1. Ask The Right Type Of Questions

You’ve probably heard that talking too much and not asking questions is a sure-fire way to deaden a conversation. However, it’s all about asking the right type of questions.

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Questions that require a certain knowledge background, or are too broad or too difficult to answer in short simplified sentences, can leave the other person feeling uncomfortable and unable to answer. This, in turn, can create that conversational ‘dead air’ and can make it hard for the other person to continue the conversation.

Instead, to communicate in a positive way that allows the conversation to develop and grow, the questions should be simple, relatable and applicable. For example, you could ask something simple like “Are you watching any good TV shows these days?” and then explore more topics from the answers they give.

2. Avoid Negative Talk

One way we feel we can bond with others, either individually or in a group, is to speak negatively. For example, your boss is doing something your department doesn’t like so you take the opportunity to voice your negative opinions.

People who are equally fed up with the boss will join in but be aware that not all people will want to speak in such a negative way – it may not be in their nature or they just don’t want to create a negative environment therefore making it hard for them to respond. It may even hamper how some people perceive you.

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While speaking negatively can get things off your chest, make sure you strike a good balance between negative talk and positive. If you’re going to bad-mouth your boss for a decision she’s made, you can go on to say despite this she’s a great boss and you’re sure it’ll work out fine. This will allow you to be more likeable to people because, at the end of the day, no one likes a constant negative talker – it looks bad and doesn’t show your good side.

3. Use Interesting Language

By this I don’t mean you need to know fancy words! However, using plain and somewhat boring words can sometimes be a conversation killer. When describing anything – perhaps somewhere you’ve been or something you’ve done – make sure you don’t use too plain words.

For example, if someone asks about your holiday in Italy, don’t reply with “yes, it was really good!”. As much as it was ‘good’ using more descriptive words like ‘amazing’ or ‘marvellous’ evokes more excitement in the other person and allows them to want to probe further. It indicates that there is more to this story – the person now wants to know why it’s so amazing. ‘Good’ indicates it’s alright and nothing special – and who wants to know more about something that doesn’t sound all that exciting?!

Using more vivid and descriptive words can actually have an added benefit because you are forced to give more descriptions to match the expectations you’ve set up. Practising this will actually help your story-telling abilities in the long term so keep in mind lots of great descriptive words when speaking to people.

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4. Don’t Try To Control The Conversation

The need to control a conversation can be the downfall of many. The workplace can create many discussions – a meeting to talk about new ideas or maybe you’re having a debate with someone who has differing opinions to you.

The problem with trying to control a conversation is that we can get very emotionally invested and it often blinds us to the fact that we’re supposed to be having a two-way conversation. If you’re talking about something you’re passionate about, then don’t get personal with the other person – it’s not a competition or a win-lose situation. Don’t focus too much on the differences but instead find commonalities in both arguments.

Create segways not dead ends. Don’t respond with “I disagree” or “that’s ridiculous” because this shuts down your ability to see their point of view even of you really don’t agree. Instead, say “Well, what about this…” and give alternatives that open up airways for them to start talking.

Respect the other person and don’t make them feel bad about their belief. Doing this makes you come across as much more likeable in the long-run and doesn’t compromise your thoughts and beliefs. We all agree none of us like to feel under-minded especially about something we believe in and by using this tactic the person is more likely to reciprocate the respect.

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5. Demonstrate Empathy

It’s important to think about how we come across to others when we speak. Being sincere, for example, can sometimes come across as being impolite or offensive to someone. Be aware of the way in which others can interpret what you’re saying and by this I mean demonstrate a level of empathy.

Try to be understanding of others’ situations or experiences and take this into account when speaking to someone. People are far more likely to feel a connection to you and form longer and in depth conversations which will go towards developing your communication skills further.

Don’t make the conversation all about you either. It’s very easy to hop on the bandwagon when a particular topic comes up because you’re so excited that you have a topic to talk about. For example, if someone mentions they visited China, don’t immediately rush into a huge story about the time you went to China two years ago.

By doing this, you’ve now dominated their own conversation starter and taken away their chance to talk about what they wanted to say in the first place! Think about the other person when you talk – most of the time the person you talk to will follow suit and this can be the start of a beautiful conversation!

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Featured photo credit: unsplash.com via pexels.com

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Jenny Marchal

A passionate writer who loves sharing about positive psychology.

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Published on May 18, 2021

How To Improve Listening Skills For Effective Workplace Communication

How To Improve Listening Skills For Effective Workplace Communication

We have two ears and one mouth for a reason—effective communication is dependent on using them in proportion, and this involves having good listening skills.

The workplace of the 21st century may not look the same as it did before COVID-19 spread throughout the world like wildfire, but that doesn’t mean you can relax your standards at work. If anything, Zoom meetings, conference calls, and the continuous time spent behind a screen have created a higher level of expectations for meeting etiquette and communication. And this goes further than simply muting your microphone during a meeting.

Effective workplace communication has been a topic of discussion for decades, yet, it is rarely addressed or implemented due to a lack of awareness and personal ownership by all parties.

Effective communication isn’t just about speaking clearly or finding the appropriate choice of words. It starts with intentional listening and being present. Here’s how to improve your listening skills for effective workplace communication.

Listen to Understand, Not to Speak

There are stark differences between listening and hearing. Listening involves intention, focused effort, and concentration, whereas hearing simply involves low-level awareness that someone else is speaking. Listening is a voluntary activity that allows one to be present and in the moment while hearing is passive and effortless.[1]

Which one would you prefer your colleagues to implement during your company-wide presentation? It’s a no-brainer.

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Listening can be one of the most powerful tools in your communication arsenal because one must listen to understand the message being told to them. As a result of this deeper understanding, communication can be streamlined because there is a higher level of comprehension that will facilitate practical follow-up questions, conversations, and problem-solving. And just because you heard something doesn’t mean you actually understood it.

We take this for granted daily, but that doesn’t mean we can use that as an excuse.

Your brain is constantly scanning your environment for threats, opportunities, and situations to advance your ability to promote your survival. And yet, while we are long past the days of worrying about being eaten by wildlife, the neurocircuitry responsible for these mechanisms is still hard-wired into our psychology and neural processing.

A classic example of this is the formation of memories. Case in point: where were you on June 3rd, 2014? For most of you reading this article, your mind will go completely blank, which isn’t necessarily bad.

The brain is far too efficient to retain every detail about every event that happens in your life, mainly because many events that occur aren’t always that important. The brain doesn’t—and shouldn’t—care what you ate for lunch three weeks ago or what color shirt you wore golfing last month. But for those of you who remember where you were on June 3rd, 2014, this date probably holds some sort of significance to you. Maybe it was a birthday or an anniversary. Perhaps it was the day your child was born. It could have even been a day where you lost someone special in your life.

Regardless of the circumstance, the brain is highly stimulated through emotion and engagement, which is why memories are usually stored in these situations. When the brain’s emotional centers become activated, the brain is far more likely to remember an event.[2] And this is also true when intention and focus are applied to listening to a conversation.

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Utilizing these hard-wired primitive pathways of survival to optimize your communication in the workplace is a no-brainer—literally and figuratively.

Intentional focus and concentrated efforts will pay off in the long run because you will retain more information and have an easier time recalling it down the road, making you look like a superstar in front of your colleagues and co-workers. Time to kiss those note-taking days away!

Effective Communication Isn’t Always Through Words

While we typically associate communication with words and verbal affirmations, communication can come in all shapes and forms. In the Zoom meeting era we live in, it has become far more challenging to utilize and understand these other forms of language. And this is because they are typically easier to see when we are sitting face to face with the person we speak to.[3]

Body language can play a significant role in how our words and communication are interpreted, especially when there is a disconnection involved.[4] When someone tells you one thing, yet their body language screams something completely different, it’s challenging to let that go. Our brain immediately starts to search for more information and inevitably prompts us to follow up with questions that will provide greater clarity to the situation at hand. And in all reality, not saying something might be just as important as actually saying something.

These commonly overlooked non-verbal communication choices can provide a plethora of information about the intentions, emotions, and motivations. We do this unconsciously, and it happens with every confrontation, conversation, and interaction we engage in. The magic lies in the utilization and active interpretation of these signals to improve your listening skills and your communication skills.

Our brains were designed for interpreting our world, which is why we are so good at recognizing subtle nuances and underlying disconnect within our casual encounters. So, when we begin to notice conflicting messages between verbal and non-verbal communication, our brain takes us down a path of troubleshooting.

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Which messages are consistent with this theme over time? Which statements aren’t aligning with what they’re really trying to tell me? How should I interpret their words and body language?

Suppose we want to break things down even further. In that case, one must understand that body language is usually a subconscious event, meaning that we rarely think about our body language. This happens because our brain’s primary focus is to string together words and phrases for verbal communication, which usually requires a higher level of processing. This doesn’t mean that body language will always tell the truth, but it does provide clues to help us weigh information, which can be pretty beneficial in the long run.

Actively interpreting body language can provide you with an edge in your communication skills. It can also be used as a tool to connect with the individual you are speaking to. This process is deeply ingrained into our human fabric and utilizes similar methods babies use while learning new skills from their parents’ traits during the early years of development.

Mirroring a person’s posture or stance can create a subtle bond, facilitating a sense of feeling like one another. This process is triggered via the activation of specific brain regions through the stimulation of specialized neurons called mirror neurons.[5] These particular neurons become activated while watching an individual engage in an activity or task, facilitating learning, queuing, and understanding. They also allow the person watching an action to become more efficient at physically executing the action, creating changes in the brain, and altering the overall structure of the brain to enhance output for that chosen activity.

Listening with intention can make you understand your colleague, and when paired together with mirroring body language, you can make your colleague feel like you two are alike. This simple trick can facilitate a greater bond of understanding and communication within all aspects of the conversation.

Eliminate All Distractions, Once and for All

As Jim Rohn says, “What is easy to do is also easy not to do.” And this is an underlying principle that will carry through in all aspects of communication. Distractions are a surefire way to ensure a lack of understanding or interpretation of a conversation, which in turn, will create inefficiencies and a poor foundation for communication.

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This should come as no surprise, especially in this day in age where people are constantly distracted by social media, text messaging, and endlessly checking their emails. We’re stuck in a cultural norm that has hijacked our love for the addictive dopamine rush and altered our ability to truly focus our efforts on the task at hand. And these distractions aren’t just distractions for the time they’re being used. They use up coveted brainpower and central processes that secondarily delay our ability to get back on track.

Gloria Mark, a researcher at UC Irvine, discovered that it takes an average of 23 minutes and 15 seconds for our brains to reach their peak state of focus after an interruption.[6] Yes, you read that correctly—distractions are costly, error-prone, and yield little to no benefit outside of a bump to the ego when receiving a new like on your social media profile.

Meetings should implement a no-phone policy, video conference calls should be set on their own browser with no other tabs open, and all updates, notifications, and email prompt should be immediately turned off, if possible, to eliminate all distractions during a meeting.

These are just a few examples of how we can optimize our environment to facilitate the highest levels of communication within the workplace.

Actions Speak Louder Than Words

Effective communication in the workplace doesn’t have to be challenging, but it does have to be intentional. Knowledge can only take us so far, but once again, knowing something is very different than putting it into action.

Just like riding a bike, the more often you do it, the easier it becomes. Master communicators are phenomenal listeners, which allows them to be effective communicators in the workplace and in life. If you genuinely want to own your communication, you must implement this information today and learn how to improve your listening skills.

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Choose your words carefully, listen intently, and most of all, be present in the moment—because that’s what master communicators do, and you can do it, too!

More Tips Improving Listening Skills

Featured photo credit: Mailchimp via unsplash.com

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