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How to Make Sure that Your Conversations Communicate Successfully

How to Make Sure that Your Conversations Communicate Successfully

People sure love to talk, but what they don’t love so much is to converse; to dialog; to actually communicate. Folks are mesmerized by the sound of their own voices, and they like to interrupt and talk over each other. If they are polite, they may merely wait for their turn to talk, but talking becomes the only objective.

What about you? Are your dialogues merely parallel monologues?

Granted, it takes two to tango: if your fellow conversationalist is solely interested in telling things to you or saying things at you, you may have your work cut out for you to have an actual conversation. How can you make it happen?

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communicate successfully

    The Power of Questions

    Questions are powerful because they can be used to guide a conversation. When you ask someone a question, it initiates two beneficial things: first, it signals to them that you want to hear what they have to say, and second, it reminds you that you have to actually listen. After all, you’re the one who asked.

    For questions to create true dialog, you have to have your intent in the right place. If you really don’t care what their answer is, the question will be neutered: if you are busy thinking about what you will say next (even if it is to formulate another question) instead of caring about their response, the power is sapped away. It’s when you honestly have the objective of understanding their viewpoint and position that you open the door to actual interaction.

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    I Tried Listening Once, but It Was Hard

    Listening without preconditions is a habit that is not instinctual—It must be formed. If you are only listening so as to refute their statements or to redirect the flow, you miss out on a powerful part of conversation.

    Like many worthwhile habits, listening might be hard at the beginning. You will likely have to exercise some self-control, and you might have to remind yourself of your objective to interact. Like anything else, however, if you just commit to some consistency in listening, it will become easier and easier until it is natural for you.

    Hey, I’m the Only One Listening Around Here!

    Having honed your listening skills, you have passed the first hurdle of successful communication and people will no doubt enjoy talking to you more. Everyone loves to be heard, but you are still seeking that elusive two-way conversation where you not only hear but are heard as well. How do you get the other party to listen? People are quite enamored with their self-interest, so if you want someone to do something, make it in their best interest to do it. In this instance, you want them to reciprocate and listen to you, so how do you make it worth their while?

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    Let’s start by considering what doesn’t work. It doesn’t work to try to tell them what their interests are or, worse yet, should be. Back when you were asking questions and listening to their answers (remember that part?), you had the opportunity to uncover what they considered to be valuable. This is no time to make judgments about their choices—just hear what is shared, and build on that. Think about it: don’t you want to hear about things that interest you, support your beliefs, or offer potential benefits? We humans are all the same in this regard—acknowledge their desires, and they will follow you where you lead.

    Start by building on that which is familiar and desirable to them. Next, introduce something new and interesting; something that takes them to a new and better place, but keep in mind that “better” has to be better in their eyes, not just yours.

    Bit by Bit, Bite by Bite

    The process of listening and being heard cycles over and over again in successful conversations; it layers and builds. Don’t try to take on too much in one cycle or demand too much of the other person when you want your “turn”, as an ongoing exchange is the easiest path. You’ll soon find yourself engaged in listening, and enticing them to listen. Information is being exchanged and viewpoints are being expanded: you’re communicating!

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    Once you start having actual conversations you will wonder why you ever settled for just talking at people rather than with them. You will find that others are moved and so are you; the richness of life deepens and a broader world expands before us. I’m glad we had this little chat. Aren’t you?

    Where have your conversations resulted in true communication? Tell us by commenting below.

    Featured photo credit:  Grooming Green Wing Macaw and Blue Gold Macaw Close Up via Shutterstock

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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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