Effective communication means more than just the exchange of information. It’s about intent and action, and really ensuring your audience thoroughly understands your point of view in the most efficient way. This means using a combination of skills, including engaged listening, nonverbal communication, stress management and assertiveness. The best part about these four concepts is that they are learned behaviours that you can practise to perfect. The more you work at it, the more they become second nature, and before long you will not even realise you’re nailing them.
Being an effective communicator is something that people often underestimate the importance of. It’s something that one simply assumes one is, without putting in the research to find out what it actually means, and finding ways in which you can improve your communication. Whether you’re looking to improve relationships with family members or friends, or ensure your voice is heard in the workplace, follow our tips and tricks to hone your communication skills and find the best way in which to get your message across.
There are many things that can get in the way of being able to communicate effectively. These things include, but are not limited to, stress, lack of focus and negative or inconsistent body language. When one is stressed or emotional, it’s harder to control your body language and you’re more likely to react adversely to situations. If you lack focus, you can’t communicate effectively, as any sort of distraction will keep you from clearly conveying your message. Inconsistent or negative body language can lead to cues that you don’t mean to give off, confusing the point. This article will explain in short how to perfect your communication skills and avoid these problems.
Firstly, you must become an engaged listener. It’s a common misconception that effective communication is about how you verbalise yourself and your message. As a matter of fact, being an effective communicator is primarily about listening to what is being communicated to you and more importantly how that information is being communicated to you. Being able to identify the tone someone is using as they relay information is paramount in formulating what your response should be.
Engaged listening is less about hearing someone and more about understanding what someone is saying. A key part of building relationships is to make the other person feel heard and understood. Not only will this help you in understanding where they’re coming from, but it will show them that you are engaged with them and are giving them the respect they deserve as a human being. By being an engaged listener, you will find that you develop deeper connections with that people, which goes a long way to building and strengthening relationships.
If this doesn’t come so naturally to you, you can try to focus wholly on the speaker without being distracted; use your right ear, as your left side of the brain is home to processing centres for both speech and emotion; avoid interrupting the person speaking; show interest in what the other person is saying by nodding encouragingly; try not be judgemental, and offer feedback.
These tips will ensure you know how to communicate effectively with friends, family and co-workers alike
The next part that is critically important to being an effective communicator is making sure that you’re paying attention to your non-verbal signals. Body language plays a huge part in how you make someone feel about you. If you’re coming across as standoffish or bullish in your approach, it will show through your movements and posture.
Try using open body language as much as possible. This includes keeping your arms unfolded, standing in an open position or sitting close to the edge of your seat and ensuring you’re making eye contact with whoever you are speaking with. Be sure to use non-verbal signals that match what you’re saying. People will be able to understand your point a lot better if you make a conscious effort not to give mixed signals.
Perfecting your non-verbal communication can only be done if you understand your audience. Cultural differences, age differences, gender and emotions all come into play when it comes to non-verbal signals, and they can vary depending on any one of those things, and others. If you’re unsure, read the room and understand the non-verbal signals from the group as a whole, instead of focussing on one particular individual.
The next skill required to be an effective communicator is stress management. Acting irrationally in the moment, or saying something you regret, are both signs that you have let your emotions get the better of you. To counteract this you need to identify that you are feeling stressed and try as quickly as possible to return to a calm state. This will help to diffuse the situation.
That may sound to be easier said than done; however there are real coping mechanisms you can try to help with this. You can use stalling tactics to give yourself time to think; perhaps ask the person you are talking with to repeat what they just said, or to provide clarification. Collect your thoughts during this time and take a deep breath.
Make your points one at a time and try not to waffle: this will help the conversation to stay on course and prevent distraction and help to prevent you becoming overwhelmed and more stressed. After you have made your point, invite the other person to speak and use your engaged listening skills to ensure they feel heard.
The final skill you need to perfect to practise effective communication is to be able to assert yourself. Ensuring that your communication is efficient and clear is very important in encouraging the other person to take you seriously. You need to ensure you have sufficient self-esteem to be able to express your thoughts, feelings and needs in an open and honest way and to be able to stand up for yourself. This needs to be done in a way that is respectful to the other person, whilst ensuring it does not come across as aggressive.
Be sure to value yourself and know that your views are just as important as anyone else’s. Know what you want and need from the conversation and be sure to articulate those wants and needs. Try to express any negativity in a positive and respectful way, whilst having the strength to say no if necessary.
If you’re looking to develop your effective communication skills to a more professional level, or if this is a service you think would be beneficial to your employees, be sure to take a look around our website to better understand how we can help you to achieve this.