Possessing effective communication skills is fundamental to success in many aspects of life. Most jobs require strong communication skills between managers, coworkers, and the like. Similarly, interpersonal relationships with friends and family also require effective communication skills. In any situation, effective communication is key to building trust and respect, feeling heard and understood, deepening connections to others, and improving teamwork, decision-making, and problem-solving. It is important to keep in mind that communication is a two-way street, so improving communication involves improving both how we send and receive messages with others. Here are some tips to help you learn how to communicate more clearly and effectively.
1. Manage your stress and emotions. In order to really communicate effectively, you must be aware of and in control of your emotions. Staying in tune with your own emotions may help you to better understand the emotions of others. When you’re feeling stressed out and extra emotional, it is easy to misread people, and in turn, give them the wrong idea about your feelings by being rude, off-putting, or confusing. In addition, it is common for people to say things they later regret during a heated, stressful disagreement or confrontation. Therefore, it is important to wait until you’re in a calm and relaxed state to communicate with somebody. In order to do this, consider these tips: recognize when you’re becoming stressed, take a moment to calm down, use your senses to bring yourself back to a calm state, look for humor in any and all situations, be willing to compromise, and agree to disagree.
2. Be present and focused. Know your goals, both short-term and long-term. What exactly is it that you want to get across, both now and in the future? Knowing this right from the beginning will help you to stay on track, minimizing any unnecessary arguments or issues. In addition, try to cut back on the um’s, ah’s, and like’s as much as possible, in order to sound, appear, and be more persuasive and confident. Simply relaxing and staying calm is one way to do this, as those filler words are often used most when we are nervous or unprepared.
Staying focused on what the other person is saying is just as important as staying focused on what you are saying. Great communicators are present for the people they are interacting with, and are just as focused on what the others are saying. In order do this, try asking questions and repeating the other person’s last few words to show that you are listening and interested in what they are saying, and to keep you on your toes and focused as well.
3. Be assertive, yet empathetic. Direct, assertive communication makes things much clearer for everybody involved, which is especially important in terms of decision-making and problem-solving. Expressing your thoughts, feelings, and needs in an open and honest manner shows that you value yourself and your own opinions and that you know what you want and need. Be sure to express these things in an assertive way, and not in a hostile, aggressive, or demanding way, as this would most likely end up poorly for everybody.
While it is important to speak your mind and get your points across, it is also important to remember that communication is a two-way street. Consider the emotional effect of what you are saying and try to have some empathy. In other words, try to see things from the other person’s point of view, without being judgemental or biased. Sometimes, stopping to take the opposing viewpoint for a change can greatly reduce the stress and anxiety that may arise when trying to communicate with others. Overall, possessing empathy helps you to better understand both the spoken and unspoken parts of communication with others, and therefore, helps you to respond more effectively.
4. Pay attention to nonverbal signs. Keep in mind that most of the messages you send to other people are nonverbal. Whether it be how you sit or stand, your facial expressions, your eye contact, or even how you’re dressed, your nonverbal cues often reveal much more than you think they do. For example, when you tell somebody that you’re open to discussion, yet your arms are crossed in front of you; or when you tell somebody that you’re listening to them, but you haven’t looked up from your phone for the last five minutes of the conversation… All of these things are additional ways of communicating that we typically don’t even consider. So don’t forget: you’re constantly communicating with others, even when you’re not even saying a word.
5. Be a good listener. Remember, since effective communication is a two-way street, listening is half the effort in communicating effectively. This includes things such as being present in the conversation with no distractions, asking follow-up questions to clarify, not interrupting, not making assumptions about the other person’s points, and much more. By actively listening to the other person, you show that you truly respect them and hear their point of view. The other person will most likely reciprocate, and you will both be able to articulate your points in an effective and meaningful way.
For more tips on being an effective listener, stay tuned for our next blog “5 Ways to Be an Effective Listener.”