We don’t tend to put a lot of effort into communicating effectively, yet it’s one life skill which can be improved upon quickly and easily.
Whether your goal is more effective conversations at work, at home, or in your social life, here are some essential tips on effective communication.
1. Pay attention to your body language.
If you say you’re open to discussion with your arms firmly crossed, or that you’re listening while your eyes are still on your phone, you’ve not been paying attention to your body language. How you carry yourself is as essential to communication as vocabulary, so check out these power poses, see if thinking about your toes might be helpful to you, and see if you can make sense of what others are saying with their body language to engage this area of communication effectively.
2. Stop using conversation fillers.
Um’s and ah’s don’t improve everyday conversations. Cutting them out helps you be more persuasive and appear and feel more confident. You could start keeping track of how often you use those “fillers”, take your hands out of your pockets, or just pause before saying something and then getting through what you needed to say all at once.
3. Have a script for small talk.
When you’re stuck hanging out with someone you don’t know, a pleasant conversation beats out the awkward silence every time. An awkward conversation doesn’t, though, so be confident in your approach and chat with the other person. Ask them about themselves; the FORD (family, occupation, recreation, dreams) is always a good one, or perhaps start with something you KNOW you have in common.
4. Tell a story.
Stories are much more interesting than just about any way of presenting information otherwise, unless they involve racecar (because racecars, people). Stories make us more persuasive, make presentations enjoyable to give, and have innate power. Learn what Pixar uses to create great stories here, or simply use the word “but” more to give your narrative a more story-like feel.
5. Ask questions and repeat the other person.
This sounds like a weird piece of advice, but trust us. Asking questions shows the other person what you know and how they may be further able to educate you, while repeating the last few words that the other person said shows that you are actually listening to them and paying attention to what they say.
6. Put other distractions away.
When I was a little kid my mother had to ban books at the dinner table, because my sister and I would show up reading and disinterested in dinnertime conversation. These days it’s smartphones, which seem somehow so much more rude. Put the phone AWAY and enjoy dinner with your family.
7. Tailor your message to your audience.
If you’re speaking about Shakespeare to a class of remedial inner city high school kids, maybe pocket the polysyllabic universe you can so easily reference in your head and chat with the kids first to get an idea of how they speak. THEN you speak, and you tailor your message to them. Easy peasy.
8. Be Brief, and be specific (in email).
Nobody, absolutely nobody, has time to read your novels these days, people. They’re not interested, they don’t want the backstory, they just want things to be concise and to the point. If you’re wrestling with how to do this succesfully, try using the BRIEF acronym when writing emails: Backgroud, Reason, Information, End, Follow-up. For more info on email etiquette, check out what Google exec Eric Schmidt has to say about it.
Increase your empathy. If a person is empathetic they’ll go much farther in their communication skills, be it with a lover or partner, a family member or loved one, or even just on the phone at work. Using the ability to see where the other person is coming from isn’t easy to do, but with time and effort you’ll find yourself becoming more empathetic naturally.