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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 March 14, 2019

    7 Questions to Ask in a Job Interview That Will Impress the Interviewer

    7 Questions to Ask in a Job Interview That Will Impress the Interviewer

    Recruiters might hold thousands of interviews in their careers and a lot of them are reporting the same thing—that most candidates play it safe with the questions they ask, or have no questions to ask in a job interview at all.

    For job applicants, this approach is crazy! This is a job that you’re going to dedicate a lot of hours to and that might have a huge impact on your future career. Don’t throw away the chance to figure out if the position is perfect for you.

    Here are 7 killer questions to ask in a job interview that will both impress your counterpart and give you some really useful insights into whether this job will be a dream … or a nightmare.

    1. What are some challenges I might come up against this role?

    A lesser candidate might ask, “what does a typical day look like in this role?” While this is a perfectly reasonable question to ask in an interview, focusing on potential challenges takes you much further because it indicates that you already are visualizing yourself in the role.

    It’s impressive because it shows that you are not afraid of challenges, and you are prepared to strategize a game plan upfront to make sure you succeed if you get the job.

    It can also open up a conversation about how you’ve solved problems in the past which can be a reassuring exercise for both you and the hiring manager.

    How it helps you:

    If you ask the interviewer to describe a typical day, you may get a vibrant picture of all the lovely things you’ll get to do in this job and all the lovely people you’ll get to do them with.

    Asking about potential roadblocks means you hear the other side of the story—dysfunctional teams, internal politics, difficult clients, bootstrap budgets and so on. This can help you decide if you’re up for the challenge or whether, for the sake of your sanity, you should respectfully decline the job offer.

    2. What are the qualities of really successful people in this role?

    Employers don’t want to hire someone who goes through the motions; they want to hire someone who will excel.

    Asking this question shows that you care about success, too. How could they not hire you with a dragon-slayer attitude like that?

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    How it helps you:

    Interviewers hire people who are great people to work with, but the definition of “great people” differs from person to person.

    Does this company hire and promote people with a specific attitude, approach, worth ethic or communication style? Are the most successful people in this role strong extroverts who love to talk and socialize when you are studious and reserved? Does the company reward those who work insane hours when you’re happiest in a more relaxed environment?

    If so, then this may not be the right match for you.

    Whatever the answer is, you can decide whether you have what it takes for the manager to be happy with your performance in this role. And if the interviewer has no idea what success looks like for this position, this is a sign to proceed with extreme caution.

    3. From the research I did on your company, I noticed the culture really supports XYZ. Can you tell me more about that element of the culture and how it impacts this job role?

    Of course, you could just ask “what is the culture like here? ” but then you would miss a great opportunity to show that you’ve done your research!

    Interviewers give BIG bonus point to those who read up and pay attention, and you’ve just pointed out that (a) you’re diligent in your research (b) you care about the company culture and (c) you’re committed to finding a great cultural fit.

    How it helps you:

    This question is so useful because it lets you pick an element of the culture that you really care about and that will have the most impact on whether you are happy with the organization.

    For example, if training and development is important to you, then you need to know what’s on offer so you don’t end up in a dead-end job with no learning opportunities.

    Companies often talk a good talk, and their press releases may be full of shiny CSR initiatives and all the headline-grabbing diversity programs they’re putting in place. This is your opportunity to look under the hood and see if the company lives its values on the ground.

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    A company that says it is committed to doing the right thing by customers should not judge success by the number of up-sells an employee makes, for instance. Look for consistency, so you aren’t in for a culture shock after you start.

    4. What is the promotion path for this role, and how would my performance on that path be measured?

    To be clear, you are not asking when you will get promoted. Don’t go there—it’s presumptuous, and it indicates that you think you are better than the role you have applied for.

    A career-minded candidate, on the other hand, usually has a plan that she’s working towards. This question shows you have a great drive toward growth and advancement and an intention to stick with the company beyond your current state.

    How it helps you:

    One word: hierarchy.

    All organizations have levels of work and authority—executives, upper managers, line managers, the workforce, and so on. Understanding the hierarchical structure gives you power, because you can decide if you can work within it and are capable of climbing through its ranks, or whether it will be endlessly frustrating to you.

    In a traditional pyramid hierarchy, for example, the people at the bottom tend to have very little autonomy to make decisions. This gets better as you rise up through the pyramid, but even middle managers have little power to create policy; they are more concerned with enforcing the rules the top leaders make.

    If having a high degree of autonomy and accountability is important to you, you may do better in a flat hierarchy where work teams can design their own way of achieving the corporate goals.

    5. What’s the most important thing the successful candidate could accomplish in their first 3 months/6 months/year?

    Of all the questions to ask in a job interview, this one is impressive because it shows that you identify with and want to be a successful performer, and not just an average one.

    Here, you’re drilling down into what the company needs, and needs quite urgently, proving that you’re all about adding value to the organization and not just about what’s in it for you.

    How it helps you:

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    Most job descriptions come with 8, 10 or 12 different job responsibilities and a lot of them with be boilerplate or responsibilities that someone in HR thinks are associated with this role. This question gives you a better sense of which responsibilities are the most important—and they may not be what initially attracted you to the role.

    If you like the idea of training juniors, for example, but success is judged purely on your sales figures, then is this really the job you thought you were applying for?

    This question will also give you an idea of what kind of learning curve you’re expected to have and whether you’ll get any ramp-up time before getting down to business. If you’re the type of person who likes to jump right in and get things done, for instance, you may not be thrilled to hear that you’re going to spend the first three months shadowing a peer.

    6. What do you like about working here?

    This simple question is all about building rapport with the interviewer. People like to talk about themselves, and the interviewer will be flattered that you’re interested in her opinions.

    Hopefully, you’ll find some great connection points that the two of you share. What similar things drive you head into the office each day? How will you fit into the culture?

    How it helps you:

    You can learn a lot from this question. Someone who genuinely enjoys his job will be able to list several things they like, and their answers will sound passionate and sincere. If not….well, you might consider that a red flag.

    Since you potentially can learn a lot about the company culture from this question, it’s a good idea to figure out upfront what’s important to you. Maybe you’re looking for a hands-off boss who values independent thought and creativity? Maybe you work better in environments that move at a rapid, exciting pace?

    Whatever’s important to you, listen carefully and see if you can find any common ground.

    7. Based on this interview, do you have any questions or concerns about my qualifications for the role?

    What a great closing question to ask in a job interview! It shows that you’re not afraid of feedback—in fact, you are inviting it. Not being able to take criticism is a red flag for employers, who need to know that you’ll act on any “coaching moments” with a good heart.

    As a bonus, asking this question shows that you are really interested in the position and wish to clear up anything that may be holding the company back from hiring you.

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    How it helps you:

    What a devious beast this question is! On the surface, it looks straightforward, but it’s actually giving you four key pieces of information.

    First, is the manager capable of giving you feedback when put on the spot like this? Some managers are scared of giving feedback, or don’t think it’s important enough to bother outside of a formal performance appraisal. Do you want to work for a boss like that? How will you improve if no one is telling you what you did wrong?

    Second, can the manager give feedback in a constructive way without being too pillowy or too confrontational? It’s unfair to expect the interviewer to have figured out your preferred way of receiving feedback in the space of an interview, but if she come back with a machine-gun fire of shortcomings or one of those corporate feedback “sandwiches” (the doozy slipped between two slices of compliment), then you need to ask yourself, can you work with someone who gives feedback like that?

    Third, you get to learn the things the hiring manager is concerned about before you leave the interview. This gives you the chance to make a final, tailored sales pitch so you can convince the interviewer that she should not be worried about those things.

    Fourth, you get to learn the things the hiring manager is concerned about period. If turnover is keeping him up at night, then your frequent job hopping might get a lot of additional scrutiny. If he’s facing some issues with conflict or communication, then he might raise concerns regarding your performance in this area.

    Listen carefully: the concerns that are being raised about you might actually be a proxy for problems in the wider organization.

    Making Your Interview Work for You

    Interviews are a two-way street. While it is important to differentiate yourself from every other candidate, understand that convincing the interviewer you’re the right person for the role goes hand-in-hand with figuring out if the job is the right fit for you.

    Would you feel happy in a work environment where the people, priorities, culture and management style were completely at odds with the way you work? Didn’t think so!

    More Resources About Job Interviews

    Featured photo credit: Amy Hirschi via unsplash.com

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