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5 Secrets To Becoming a Communication Expert

5 Secrets To Becoming a Communication Expert

Do you want to be a better communicator? Who doesn’t?

Not all of us are blessed with an innate ability to express ourselves through words. In fact, public speaking consistently ranks as the number one fear humans have. We fear public speaking even more than death!

It’s no surprise, then, that many of us have trouble communicating well on a day-to-day basis. If you’re one of these people who really has to work hard to communicate effectively, then you know how much of a struggle it can be. Poor communication only leads to conflict and far too much drama.

So if you want to change your life and communicate more effectively without ending every conversation with an argument, then check out these ways you can become a communication expert in your own life.

1. Stop Talking About Yourself

It’s easy to forget about your audience, especially when you’re talking about yourself. The truth is, however, that talking about yourself creates a barrier between you and your audience. After a few minutes, your audience isn’t going to care anymore.

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The National Criminal Justice Reference Service talks about how effective communication involves tailoring your message to your audience:

“Tailoring communication activities means understanding and identifying appropriate cultural codes reflected through the use of symbols, metaphors, and visuals, including the types of actors, spokespeople, and music with which your audience most identifies.”

Tailoring your message also involves the way in which you order your words to change an audience’s reaction to what you’re saying. Even when you’re telling a story about your own experiences, there’s no need to talk about yourself. I know; it sounds like a complete bogus piece of advice, right?

Instead, focus on your audience. What problems do they have, and how will your experiences benefit them? Frame your story in a way that focuses on your audience first, and be sure you do enough research to know who your audience is and how they will react. That includes in everyday conversations, not just in public speaking.

2. Ask Unique Questions

Mind Body Green says that not asking unique, personal questions is one of the worst mistakes you can make and can easily kill a relationship. Instead of asking, “How was your day?” ask something like, “What did you do during your free time today?”

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A simple question like, “How was your day?” is so common that it becomes insincere over time. Plus, it’s too easy to reply with, “Eh, it was okay,” without any room to elaborate.

Asking more specific questions gets people to open up more. Be sure you switch up your questions each time you encounter the same person; this will prevent you from sounding insincere.

3. Limit Your Words

Do you tend to over explain yourself and fill your conversation or emails with nothing but fluff? You’re not the only one, but now is the perfect time to break this habit. One of the best ways to improve your communication skills is to be brief but specific.

Whenever you’re typing out an email or wondering what to say in a phone message, make an effort to limit your words. It will save you time and effort, and people will love you for it.

Then, choose only the most important information to share. If you think you have to explain yourself on something, you probably don’t.

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Be sure there’s room to include a call-to-action or closing statement. In an email, something like, “I look forward to hearing back from you,” is a good option.

4. Don’t Talk Bull

Susan Adams says on Forbes.com that if you want to communicate effectively in the workplace, then there’s no place for bull.

“If you have bad news to deliver, lay it out plainly. . . It is far better to be straight with them than not to communicate at all, even if you can’t give them the answers they’d like.”

When you try to beat around the bush, it only wastes time and annoys people. You can be straightforward without compromising your emotions or hurting other people’s feelings, so don’t be afraid to face difficult conversations head-on.

Definitely don’t avoid the situation. That will only prevent communication on all levels.

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5. Shut Up for a Minute

Listening effectively is one of the key components to great communication. As Wright State University reports:

“Research has found that by listening effectively, you will get more information from the people you manage, you will increase others’ trust in you, you will reduce conflict, you will better understand how to motivate others, and you will inspire a higher level of commitment in the people you manage.”

Even if you think you’re an effective communicator, chance are you only listen at 25 percent efficiency, reports Wright State University. So just sit back and start listening for a moment before you interject with your opinion.

But shutting up does more than just making you a better listener. It also:

  • Keeps you from interrupting.
  • Prevents you from finishing other people’s sentences.
  • Gives you a chance to evaluate your body language so that it’s fit for the situation.
  • Allows you to think about what the other person is feeling.
  • Gives you a chance to really understand your own argument and adjust your thoughts before you start speaking.

Do you think that you’re an effective communicator? If not, how will you apply the above-mentioned tips?

Featured photo credit: Sebastiaan ter Burg via farm6.staticflickr.com

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Last Updated on August 6, 2020

6 Reasons Why You Should Think Before You Speak

6 Reasons Why You Should Think Before You Speak

We’ve all done it. That moment when a series of words slithers from your mouth and the instant regret manifests through blushing and profuse apologies. If you could just think before you speak! It doesn’t have to be like this, and with a bit of practice, it’s actually quite easy to prevent.

“Think twice before you speak, because your words and influence will plant the seed of either success or failure in the mind of another.” – Napolean Hill

Are we speaking the same language?

My mum recently left me a note thanking me for looking after her dog. She’d signed it with “LOL.” In my world, this means “laugh out loud,” and in her world it means “lots of love.” My kids tell me things are “sick” when they’re good, and ”manck” when they’re bad (when I say “bad,” I don’t mean good!). It’s amazing that we manage to communicate at all.

When speaking, we tend to color our language with words and phrases that have become personal to us, things we’ve picked up from our friends, families and even memes from the internet. These colloquialisms become normal, and we expect the listener (or reader) to understand “what we mean.” If you really want the listener to understand your meaning, try to use words and phrases that they might use.

Am I being lazy?

When you’ve been in a relationship for a while, a strange metamorphosis takes place. People tend to become lazier in the way that they communicate with each other, with less thought for the feelings of their partner. There’s no malice intended; we just reach a “comfort zone” and know that our partners “know what we mean.”

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Here’s an exchange from Psychology Today to demonstrate what I mean:

Early in the relationship:

“Honey, I don’t want you to take this wrong, but I’m noticing that your hair is getting a little thin on top. I know guys are sensitive about losing their hair, but I don’t want someone else to embarrass you without your expecting it.”

When the relationship is established:

“Did you know that you’re losing a lot of hair on the back of your head? You’re combing it funny and it doesn’t help. Wear a baseball cap or something if you feel weird about it. Lots of guys get thin on top. It’s no big deal.”

It’s pretty clear which of these statements is more empathetic and more likely to be received well. Recognizing when we do this can be tricky, but with a little practice it becomes easy.

Have I actually got anything to say?

When I was a kid, my gran used to say to me that if I didn’t have anything good to say, I shouldn’t say anything at all. My gran couldn’t stand gossip, so this makes total sense, but you can take this statement a little further and modify it: “If you don’t have anything to say, then don’t say anything at all.”

A lot of the time, people speak to fill “uncomfortable silences,” or because they believe that saying something, anything, is better than staying quiet. It can even be a cause of anxiety for some people.

When somebody else is speaking, listen. Don’t wait to speak. Listen. Actually hear what that person is saying, think about it, and respond if necessary.

Am I painting an accurate picture?

One of the most common forms of miscommunication is the lack of a “referential index,” a type of generalization that fails to refer to specific nouns. As an example, look at these two simple phrases: “Can you pass me that?” and “Pass me that thing over there!”. How often have you said something similar?

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How is the listener supposed to know what you mean? The person that you’re talking to will start to fill in the gaps with something that may very well be completely different to what you mean. You’re thinking “pass me the salt,” but you get passed the pepper. This can be infuriating for the listener, and more importantly, can create a lack of understanding and ultimately produce conflict.

Before you speak, try to label people, places and objects in a way that it is easy for any listeners to understand.

What words am I using?

It’s well known that our use of nouns and verbs (or lack of them) gives an insight into where we grew up, our education, our thoughts and our feelings.

Less well known is that the use of pronouns offers a critical insight into how we emotionally code our sentences. James Pennebaker’s research in the 1990’s concluded that function words are important keys to someone’s psychological state and reveal much more than content words do.

Starting a sentence with “I think…” demonstrates self-focus rather than empathy with the speaker, whereas asking the speaker to elaborate or quantify what they’re saying clearly shows that you’re listening and have respect even if you disagree.

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Is the map really the territory?

Before speaking, we sometimes construct a scenario that makes us act in a way that isn’t necessarily reflective of the actual situation.

A while ago, John promised to help me out in a big way with a project that I was working on. After an initial meeting and some big promises, we put together a plan and set off on its execution. A week or so went by, and I tried to get a hold of John to see how things were going. After voice mails and emails with no reply and general silence, I tried again a week later and still got no response.

I was frustrated and started to get more than a bit vexed. The project obviously meant more to me than it did to him, and I started to construct all manner of crazy scenarios. I finally got through to John and immediately started a mild rant about making promises you can’t keep. He stopped me in my tracks with the news that his brother had died. If I’d have just thought before I spoke…

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