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How You Can be a Better Communicator

How You Can be a Better Communicator

    Communication is an integral part of any work or life situation. Learning to be an effective communicator is a valuable productivity tool, one that is unfortunately commonly overlooked. The consequences of poor communication can be disastrous; wasted time, hurt feelings, misunderstandings, unproductive meetings, ineffective teamwork, and lack of progress towards goals. In order to be successful communicators we need to keep in mind some basic guidelines that are applicable in most instances of work, social or home environments.

    Thank you first

    Before you delve into the substance of your intended communication, express your appreciation for the other person’s (or people’s) time. Time is a very valuable commodity, and it is important to be respectful of that. In addition, offer thanks for the contribution the person is making or the work they are already doing. A little praise goes a long way toward building a good rapport.

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    Build a connection

    Develop a personal connection. Find some common ground where interests intersect if possible, weather, sports, news, hobbies, etc. One word of caution, avoid controversial topics, such as politics or religion. Show interest in family, projects or organizations and causes that are an important part of the other person’s life. A sense of connection leads to a more receptive listener.

    Maintain a positive attitude

    Be constructive in your comments and questions whenever possible. Offer encouraging praise. Look for something positive that you can emphasize. You want to prevent your listener from taking a defensive posture if possible. This can circumvent the conversation from spiraling downward and the inevitable breakdown of productive communication that follows.

    Watch the tone

    While you need to be assertive in making your thoughts heard and getting your point across, be careful not to be aggressive. You want to be confident and direct without intimation. Try to remain calm and strive for a cooperative attitude.

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    Determine the desired outcome

    What result are you looking for? This is important. Know what the objective is that you are seeking. Are you intending to impart knowledge or advice, looking for a compromise of some sort, attempting to obtain agreement or searching for a solution? The desired outcome helps to influence the flow of the conversation.

    Actively listen

    Be sure to make eye contact. Be respectful and don’t interrupt. None of us likes to be interrupted and we need to extend that courtesy to others. Seek to understand the person’s viewpoint. Keep an open mind. Learning to appreciate differing perspectives is an invaluable communication tool.

    Observe non-verbal cues

    Carefully pay attention to body language, both your and theirs. Crossed arms or a closed stance can signal defensiveness or disagreement. Wandering eyes, fidgeting or shuffling can indicate restlessness or impatience. Yawns or sighs suggest either mental or physical weariness. These are all important signs that the communication is not going to be a successful one.

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    Ask for feedback

    First, make sure the other party clearly understands what you are trying to say. Often, we think we have agreement only to discover that we have misunderstanding instead. Invite input, thoughts, and opinions.Not only will this information help you, but it also serves to give the other people a sense that their opinions are valued.

    Establish follow-up

    Clarify any actions that will be taken. Confirm deadlines, responsibility, and accountability. If applicable, record any agreements in written form. Verbal agreements tend to be vague, written contracts are clear and concrete.

    Finally, always try to end on a positive note and offer another sincere thank you.

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    (Photo credit: Young man talking via Shutterstock)

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      Last Updated on August 16, 2018

      10 Ways To Step Out Of Your Comfort Zone And Enjoy Taking Risks

      10 Ways To Step Out Of Your Comfort Zone And Enjoy Taking Risks

      The ability to take risks by stepping outside your comfort zone is the primary way by which we grow. But we are often afraid to take that first step.

      In truth, comfort zones are not really about comfort, they are about fear. Break the chains of fear to get outside. Once you do, you will learn to enjoy the process of taking risks and growing in the process.

      Here are 10 ways to help you step out of your comfort zone and get closer to success:

      1. Become aware of what’s outside of your comfort zone

      What are the things that you believe are worth doing but are afraid of doing yourself because of the potential for disappointment or failure?

      Draw a circle and write those things down outside the circle. This process will not only allow you to clearly identify your discomforts, but your comforts. Write identified comforts inside the circle.

      2. Become clear about what you are aiming to overcome

      Take the list of discomforts and go deeper. Remember, the primary emotion you are trying to overcome is fear.

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      How does this fear apply uniquely to each situation? Be very specific.

      Are you afraid of walking up to people and introducing yourself in social situations? Why? Is it because you are insecure about the sound of your voice? Are you insecure about your looks?

      Or, are you afraid of being ignored?

      3. Get comfortable with discomfort

      One way to get outside of your comfort zone is to literally expand it. Make it a goal to avoid running away from discomfort.

      Let’s stay with the theme of meeting people in social settings. If you start feeling a little panicked when talking to someone you’ve just met, try to stay with it a little longer than you normally would before retreating to comfort. If you stay long enough and practice often enough, it will start to become less uncomfortable.

      4. See failure as a teacher

      Many of us are so afraid of failure that we would rather do nothing than take a shot at our dreams.

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      Begin to treat failure as a teacher. What did you learn from the experience? How can you take that lesson to your next adventure to increase your chance of success?

      Many highly successful people failed plenty of times before they succeeded. Here’re some examples:

      10 Famous Failures to Success Stories That Will Inspire You to Carry On

      5. Take baby steps

      Don’t try to jump outside your comfort zone, you will likely become overwhelmed and jump right back in.

      Take small steps toward the fear you are trying to overcome. If you want to do public speaking, start by taking every opportunity to speak to small groups of people. You can even practice with family and friends.

      Take a look at this article on how you can start taking baby steps:

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      The Number One Secret to Life Success: Baby Steps

      6. Hang out with risk takers

      There is no substitute for this step. If you want to become better at something, you must start hanging out with the people who are doing what you want to do and start emulating them. (Here’re 8 Reasons Why Risk Takers Are More Likely To Be Successful).

      Almost inevitably, their influence will start have an effect on your behavior.

      7. Be honest with yourself when you are trying to make excuses

      Don’t say “Oh, I just don’t have the time for this right now.” Instead, be honest and say “I am afraid to do this.”

      Don’t make excuses, just be honest. You will be in a better place to confront what is truly bothering you and increase your chance of moving forward.

      8. Identify how stepping out will benefit you

      What will the ability to engage in public speaking do for your personal and professional growth? Keep these potential benefits in mind as motivations to push through fear.

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      9. Don’t take yourself too seriously

      Learn to laugh at yourself when you make mistakes. Risk taking will inevitably involve failure and setbacks that will sometimes make you look foolish to others. Be happy to roll with the punches when others poke fun.

      If you aren’t convinced yet, check out these 6 Reasons Not to Take Life So Seriously.

      10. Focus on the fun

      Enjoy the process of stepping outside your safe boundaries. Enjoy the fun of discovering things about yourself that you may not have been aware of previously.

      Featured photo credit: Unsplash via unsplash.com

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