When it comes to ways to communicate, there are several, from verbal to non-verbal. Sometimes we are quick to jump the gun which can come across as bad communication. Learning how to read body language and other forms of ‘talk’ is a pretty hard thing to do! Below we look at some of the ways we can help you to improve your communication skills.
Think Before You Speak
First impressions are everything and that goes for the way someone communicates too, if you say something wrong, that thing can never be unspoken. Thinking before you speak is sometimes hard especially in the heat of an argument or disagreement, but always count to 3 before spurting anything out that may be offensive or harmful to someone else. Use these tips before speaking:
- Will it emotionally hurt someone?
- Is it really necessary?
- Am I trying to score points?
- Have I listened to the other person first?
Chances are, if you ask yourself these questions, you will change the way you respond. Since words have such power, it is very important how we communicate.
Slow to Speak and Quick to Listen
As mentioned above, being too quick to speak can have lifelong consequences, flipping the coin on this one, always be very quick to listen. The number one reason someone will try to communicate with you is to be listened to, whether it is a crisis they are going through or a request they may have. Some people are ‘out loud’ thinkers so just being present while they out pour their thoughts is appreciated.
Even if it is small talk, being a listener is a vital part of the communication, it could be just replying with a ‘hi’ or it could be something that brings value to the conversation and gets them to open up more. Either way, listening is just as important as speaking. Just remember, being a great listener can and will bring self-worth to the speaker.
This can sometimes come across as passive aggressive so you need to learn to be able to do this one without sounding patronizing. Nobody likes to not know what they are doing, or what they have done wrong. So, when you communicate with someone for any reason be sure to be as straightforward as you can.
Speaking candidly does not mean speaking harshly, rudely or in a way that can harm. Learning to speak the truth with tact will give you freedom in your ability to work with others a lot more easily. Some of the people we look up to the most including world leaders have to speak openly and honestly but are never rude. Men or women considered to have charisma, or are given high respect are those who can speak with candour.
Non-verbal and the Three V's
As we said right at the beginning, communication isn’t always about talking, it is about learning to read body language and knowing what to do next. Some examples of non-verbal communication are:
- Body Language and Posture. Are they avoiding eye contact? Are they keeping a distance between you and them? Are they smiling? Do they look comfortable?
- Facial Expressions. Are they frowning? Do they look sad? Do they appear stressed?
- Dress and Clothing. Have they made an effort with their clothes? Are they in ‘important’ office wear?
- Behaviour. Are they acting strange or sporadic? Are they singing? Is there a stride in their step?
All of these questions will have an answer which tells you how to proceed, if they are in office wear but not usually it could mean they have an important meeting coming up and are probably stressed, if they have a stride in their step it probably means they have had a good day and are willing to chat, go with the answers and you will know how to approach them.
The three V’s we look at are:
- Verbal. This is obviously the most common and mistake for the only important way of communicating, speaking.
- Vocal. The tone, projection and resonance.
- Visual. The non-verbal that we spoke about before.
All of these points are as important as the other, so always be sure to take each one into account separately to ensure you are communicating your best.
One thing a lot of people don’t remember is that questions are always a good thing, if you don’t understand something – ask! This is all part of communicating. Using good questions will get to the heart of the issue and help engage people in the process of dialog. Ask until there is clarification by using the “who-what-when-where-how” and sometimes “why” questions. Remember that if there isn’t clarity there are never too many questions, people will always rather you ask and get it right than assume and get it wrong. The person who asks the questions is often the person in control of the conversation.
So, there we have it, 5 ways of improving your communication skills! Be sure to always listen, ask questions and give yourself time to process what has been said before responding!