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5 Simple And Obvious Tips For Better Communication

5 Simple And Obvious Tips For Better Communication

    Some things we just know. Some things we learn by reading books (or fine blogs like Stepcase Lifehack) and yet another set of things we learn the hard way: by doing them. Or, to be more precise, by trial and error. Or, to be even more precise, by a lot of trial and a lot of errors.

    For me, one of these things was interpersonal communication. I always had a very easy way with words. Seemed that I can find them without too much effort. Also, I have the ability to learn new languages pretty easy (I’m not a native English speaker, by the way). And that made me believe for a long time that I was a good communicator.

    Of course, I was so totally wrong. As paradoxical as it may seem, interpersonal communication has very little to do with words. It doesn’t really matter how fast or accurate you may find them. The very core of interpersonal communication is not in words, it’s in interaction. It’s true that sometimes words may greatly enhance this interaction, but the core is always about dancing, not about posing.

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    So here are 5 simple rules that will help you get more value from your conversations. They’re not learned from any books, but from my own experience in countless of interpersonal communication processes.

    1. Never Start A Sentence If You Don’t Know How It Ends

    That was one of my biggest struggles when I started to consciously improve my interpersonal skills. There is this thrill of talking out of nothing, just to have your voice heard. I may say a stupid thing, but what the heck, at least I will make myself heard. What a dumb (and actually easy to avoid) mistake.

    The thin interest that you may generate will soon turn into laughter or just plain ignorance. Mean what you say and know exactly how it will turn out before putting it into words. While it looks like it may add some salt and pepper to the conversation by introducing some sort of randomness, speaking without really knowing what you say will only ruin the other part expectations. They’re talking to you because they’re searching for meaning, not for randomness.

    Now, every little thing I say is atomically processed in my head before it reaches my lips. It creates some sort of a mental space in which I can follow the main ideas or the further developments of the main conversation thread. If doing this sounds like too much of a hassle, don’t worry, it’s way much easier than you think. Just start practicing and it will come along naturally.

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    2. “Uh”, “Oh” and “Sheesh” Are Vague

    So expect to get back vague responses too. Interjections are not meant to generate an answer, but merely to acknowledge your surprise or satisfaction. If you use an “Oh” as a way to get an answer from somebody else, not only you will gradually puzzle your interlocutors, but, eventually, you will annoy the heck out of them.

    Being exact in your responses is fundamental in interpersonal communication. Imagine that you’re playing squash. You hit the ball and expect the wall to send it back exactly in the direction you calculate. Now imagine the wall is actually soft, or deformed, like being made from some sort of plastic. Your ball will fly around in unpredictable circles.

    That’s exactly what these types of interjections, which we all use because they’re holding some degree of “coolness”, are doing. They’re distorting the feedback we’re sending back to our interlocutor. In the end, he’ll walk out with a foggy conclusion about your interaction. If he’ll be able to extract a conclusion at all. Huh? ;)

    3. There’s No Right Or Wrong

    Noticed how often we continue a conversation just to prove that we’re right? I call that type of conversation a “loose end”. If somebody approaches me with something like “well, let me tell you how things really are in that matter”, I usually don’t. Don’t let that person tell me anything, that is.

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    Being right or wrong is a mental construct. We’re moving through life continuously, our own personalities may change over time and we’re constantly changing contexts and situations. What’s right here today may change tomorrow and what’s acceptable as true in your culture may be completely forbidden in another one.

    Hijacking an entire conversation just to prove yourself right is an incredible waste of time. Human interaction is much more valuable than we’re ready to accept and much more rewarding, if carefully practiced. For instance, the benefits of proving yourself right will last as long as that conversation, while the benefits of a true interaction will widely go over that 10 minutes span, maybe for years.

    4. Listening Is Always More Valuable Than Talking

    If you spend more than 50% percent of a conversation just talking, you’re losing big time. Ideally, a conversation will have at least half of the time dedicated to listening. Because that’s where the real value lies, in finding out new things. One can really know just as much as he knows. Value is created incrementally, by incorporating other messages in your knowledge base.

    That’s why I developed my own listening technique. Every time I witness my interlocutor’s eyes slipping slightly over my head, I know it’s time to use that technique. By the way, listening doesn’t mean you shut up. On the contrary, you support conversation, you show you’re engaged and willing to learn more.

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    Ask small questions, acknowledge that you’re processing the information, give small incentives to the other part so he’ll keep on talking. The art of listening is even more difficult than the art of talking, but, in my experience, its benefits are in direct proportion with the difficulty. Way bigger, that is.

    5. Login. Logout.

    Practice your openings and closings very carefully. When I enter a conversation, I usually do a mental “login”. Like I actually login on a remote server via some sort of a console (I’m a bit of a geek, I know, I can’t help it). Once I’m there, my activities are bound to that window. I almost never get out of that space until I finish what I was supposed to do there.

    This trick proved to be so valuable that I even used it in real life events like workshops or team buildings. The initial “ice breaking” sheet of paper is called “Login” and the feedback form I give them at the end  is called “Logout”. It helps everybody identify and respect the boundaries of that specific event.

    The same happens in conversations. That’s why I seldom respond to an interruption stimulus if I’m engaged with somebody else. If I start 3 login sessions at once, I will never remember what command I issued, in what window. They will just stay there, on my screen, but without real use. Or, in other words, interpersonal clutter.

    ***

    Have your own conversation tips? Would love to hear about them in the comments. Let’s start a little bit of an interpersonal interaction, folks. :)

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    Last Updated on February 20, 2019

    How to Master Effective Communication Skills at Work and Home

    How to Master Effective Communication Skills at Work and Home

    Possessing effective communication skills is a powerful tool to have. Effective communication skills are essential to success in many aspects and areas of your life. There are a lot of jobs that require you to be a good communicator.

    Strong communication skills help you enjoy better relationships with friends and family. Being an effective communicator will give you advantages in more ways than you can imagine.

    Conversely, being poor at communicating will negatively impact your life.

    Let’s take a look at how to master effective communication skills at work and home.

    What is Effective Communication?

    Probably a good place to start is to paint a picture of what clear communication is.

    Effective communication is defined as verbal speech or other communication methods to get your point across. Sounds pretty simple, right? It does but there’s more to it than that.

    It’s really about how all of us interact and communicate in every aspect of our lives. It’s the ability to say something at the right time; to be able to get multiple people on the same page in a group decision. It’s how that one friend of yours who plans most of the activities is able to get everyone to the same place at the same time.

    Non-verbal communication is key to being effective as well. It’s the ability to have your body language say the right thing so the person you’re speaking to knows your listening.

    Effective communicators don’t react to situations with high emotion. It means not having to say something all the time in every situation. You are even being an effective communicator when you show up to pick your daughter up from the mall when you say you will. You are communicating to her that she can rely on you.

    Are You a Poor Communicator?

    Before we get too deep into how to be a master communicator, let’s take a look at your communication skills.

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    If you find yourself agreeing with a lot of these, you might want to sharpen your communication skills.

    • You’re constantly interrupting – Hey, I know, we all want to be listened to. We all want to get our point across. Most importantly, we want to be understood. If you find yourself interrupting all the time you aren’t listening enough.
    • Doing too much – Many of us are master multi-taskers. It’s not good if you are communicating with someone. When you try to do too much while speaking with someone, you aren’t paying attention to what they are saying. Lack of focus is bad.
    • Rambling – I know of several people I work with who do this constantly. I honestly dread having to speak to them. The worst part is even though a lot of words are coming out of their mouths, they really aren’t saying anything. I’m more confused after they answer my question.
    • Not being direct – Nothing wrong with emails or reports. However, if you can convey the same information quickly and directly to someone, it is much more effective. Why write a 2 paragraph email when you can pick up the phone and say the same information in 2 sentences?
    • Always talking about yourself – Everybody likes to relate things to their own experiences. It draws us together and helps us create a feeling of sharing and community. If you are always coloring someone else’s conversation with a similar situation in your life, people will think you are making everything about you. Don’t be that person!
    • Using a lot of qualifiers – Qualifiers are fine for the most part. When you use them as a crutch most of the time when you speak, it’s not helping your communication. Sometimes, we do this to makes things seem “softer”. Saying things like “I don’t want you to take this the wrong way but…” or “I know what you’re thinking but…” over and over doesn’t help you communicate.
    • Your ears don’t work – If you don’t listen well, you can’t answer someone correctly. In order to be an effective communicator, you have to understand what someone else is saying to you. If you don’t listen with purpose you will only have part of the picture.
    • Bad body language – The importance of body language is well documented. If you don’t look at someone when they are speaking, it appears that you don’t really care what’s being said. This makes people feel like you don’t care what they are saying and it’s not important to you. Other bad body language examples include always crossing your arms and not looking someone in the eyes.

    What Effective Communication Can Do For You

    Let’s take a look at how being able to effectively communicate can help you at work and in your personal relationships.

    Work

    • Better client relationships – You certainly want a great communicator to be handling your client relationships. Strong communicators represent both the client and your company is the best manner.
    • Higher employee engagement – Pretty critical if you are a leader or a manager of people. An engaging and interactive communicator in a leadership position is wonderful for employees.
    • Getting better buy in from others – This is great whether you are a manager or individual contributor. Strong communicators tend to get people moving and working towards a common goal.
    • Helps mitigate conflict – Good communicators are able to help resolve conflicts quicker and easier. This helps smooth things over and keeps projects and initiatives moving forward.
    • Builds trust – You want to be able to trust who you work for and with. Effective communicators are good at establishing and building trust between people and groups.
    • Solves problems – Problems are solved by people with the ability to communicate clearly between groups and people. Those without good communication skills many times add to the confusion of a problem because they are unable to articulate their thoughts and ideas.

    Personal relationships

    • Creates closeness – A good communicator is able to help foster a feeling of closeness with his or her partner.
    • Makes conflict okay – It’s actually better to fight with your partner from time to time instead of never fighting. We all have differences of opinion and points of view. When we don’t express these and bury it inside by not communicating, it just comes out later in a more negative form.
    • Provides support – It’s nice to know that someone cares about you and supports you. A strong communicator will ask how you’re doing and be a good sounding board for what you’re going through.
    • Expressing feelings – People who are not effective communicators tend to be not very good at expressing how they feel. This makes it tough to share your feelings with you partner.
    • Get the loving you want – In order to get the physical, mental, and emotional love you want and need, you have to be able to communicate clearly and appropriately with your spouse or partner. This is done through effective communication.
    • Eliminate mistrust, doubt, faithlessness, and insecurities – Many times these seeds are sown due to a lack of communication. If your partner rarely tells you where he or she is going, you will tend to start coming up with your own ideas. Often these aren’t true but how would you know if you aren’t told?

    Can You Improve Your Communication Skills?

    The short answer is yes, of course you can improve your communication skills.

    Improving or changing anything in your life takes some work and effort but it can be done. You have to keep in mind your starting point and your goal.

    If you are not a very good communicator now and you want to be able to give a motivating speech to a large graduating class, you’d better get working.

    On the other hand, if you get along fairly well in general but want to be able to improve your relationship with your boss or spouse by being able to master effective communication, you may just need some guidance and practice.

    Either way, if you want to master effective communication skills at both work and home, it will take a little work and effort. Doing so will benefit you in many ways.

    How to Master Effective Communication Skills

    In general mastering effective communication skills will help you at both work and home. Let’s look at how to improve verbal, written, and body language communication skills. These will help you create better relationships everywhere you go!

    1. Learn how to listen

    Speaking is only half of the communication equation. Sharpen your listening skills so you are able to process what the other person is saying. You can then respond it a well-informed manner.

    Check out these active listening guidelines to be a better listener.

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    2. Make eye contact

    Having regular eye contact with someone while you are having a conversation shows you care what they are saying. When you are looking at the floor or out the window it gives the impression that you aren’t paying attention.

    Take a look at this advice on how to make engaging eye contact.

    3. Ask questions

    When you ask someone questions, you are able to clarify what they are saying to ensure you get the whole picture. If you don’t understand it fully, ask questions.

    Do you know that it takes some skills to ask questions too? Here’s how to be good at asking questions.

    4. Watch body language

    Watch both yours and the other persons.

    We all know if you have a conversation with your arms crossed the entire time, it gives off a bad vibe. Have open, engaging body language when speaking with someone.

    On the flip side, if you see someone’s eyes glazing over while speaking to you, it’s probably a good idea to wrap it up.

    Take a look at these top 20 body language indicators to learn more.

    5. Speak confidently

    Sometimes this is easier said than done. If you communicate in an open, direct, and clear manner, it subtly shows people that you are confident in what you are saying.

    It doesn’t mean you always have to be right but delivering your thoughts with confidence helps your case.

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    These tips will help you speak more confidently.

    6. Keep it simple

    You don’t always have to be succinct in your communication. There is a lot of value in being able to tell a great story.

    That being said, there are many instances where keeping it simple is very helpful. This is especially true at work in both verbal conversations as well as written like emails.

    7. Know your audience

    You should have a certain style when communicating with your boss. Another style of communication is better with your spouse and probably others with your kids or friends.

    Know your audience to help you communicate the most effectively.

    8. Be empathetic and understanding

    There is a massive amount of power in being empathetic. And I mean that in a very positive way.

    Showing that you are empathetic and understanding to another person goes a long way to creating a great bond with that person. We all want to be understood. It’s that simple.

    Think it’s a challenge for you? These 5 tips for empathetic listening will help you.

    9. Pause before reacting

    There have been a number of times when I’ve read an email that just came in and had an instant reaction to reading it. And I don’t mean a positive reaction. My less effective ways of dealing and communicating has been to send a scathing email back.

    When I’ve communicated more appropriately, I’ve waited a while before I responded. This is true in verbal situations as well.

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    10. Over communicate

    You’d think if you tell someone something that should be the end of it, right? Done deal. Not so fast.

    I’m not recommending you tell someone the same thing 10 times in a row. With as many distractions as we all have these days, it’s generally a good idea to follow up on something you’ve communicated a few times if it’s important.

    Conclusion

    Having effective communication skills at both work and home will help you immensely.

    At work, it helps you in your career in many ways.

    Communicating well with your boss leads to a solid, symbiotic working relationship. You’re able to clearly articulate what you need to do your job well. You can share your vision and strategy with your boss and others. Good communicators are needed in management roles and leading others. Fostering an environment of effective communication leads to a great work environment.

    At home, having effective communication skills will help you achieve the type of relationship you want with your spouse.

    You are able to speak freely and openly about your feelings. You can share your wants and needs in a manner that your spouse understands. Your spouse will feel understood and supported by you which is a wonderful feeling to have. And being able to have a disagreement and work through it due to strong communication skills is amazing.

    Look at how you can master effective communication skills at work and home to help create more satisfying relationships in all phases of your life.

    More Resources About Work Communication

    Featured photo credit: NeONBRAND via unsplash.com

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