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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 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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