8 Ways to Becoming a Better Communicator
If you could list one skill set that would have the biggest impact on your life, what would it be?
Hopefully, your ability to communicate well is somewhere at the top of your list because it’s a key survival tool in the very social world we live in.
We do it so often, and so naturally, that we might not think about how many ways we communicate to others.
How We Really Communicate
It might surprise you, though, that only 7% of communication is verbal.
Studies on communication have shown that 38% of our communication is done through tone and inflection and a staggering 55% is done through body language.
Think about it! 93% of the way we communicate is non-verbal! Wow!
Is it any wonder, then, that we have a serious problem in the world today communicating our beliefs and values to one another?
I recently came across a fascinating online article called “21 Simple, But Effective, Communication Techniques”. I’m going to share 8 of them with you today in hopes that they inspire you to consider ways to improve the way you communicate with family, friends, work colleagues, and others.
So, let’s get started!
8 Ways You Can Become a Better Communicator
1) Offer a genuine smile!
I started with this one because, let’s be honest, we always respond better when people we’re communicating with are open and friendly. It sets the tone of the conversation and allows the person receiving the communication to know they're in friendly territory.
Smiling even acts like a drug in our system. Studies have shown that smiling has physical benefits for the communicator by releasing endorphins and other natural internal system pain killers. In fact, just smiling, in and of itself, is a form of communication!
2) Practice active listening.
To fully understand what’s being communicated to you, it’s best to practice active listening. What’s that?
Active listening is different than “hearing” the words being spoken. It’s 100% being engaged in the conversation and taking in not only the spoken words but the non-verbal communication like tone inflection and body language.
It’s also being truly interested in the message being given, not passively taking it in. That leads to number 3.
3) Ask the right questions.
To truly be interested and an active listener, there is an appropriate time to ask questions. If there’s something that the communicator is saying that you aren’t sure about, ask them for clarification using open-ended questions.
Open-ended questions are questions that can’t be answered by a simple yes or no. Yes or no answers don’t allow a person to share their insights, emotion, and the “why” behind their statements.
By asking a question, you are showing sincere interest in what they’re saying and are leaning into their message. You’re showing them respect and an effort to learn more.
4. Give and receive feedback.
Part of that engagement of asking questions and receiving answers goes two ways. You may be asked questions or feedback as well as the person that started the discussion.
Feedback is a natural process that we use to break down messages into usable and storable bites. Occasionally, to let them know that you are getting the message that was intended, ask for clarification by repeating a version of what you heard.
Something like “What I’m hearing you say is that you need "X" from me?” It does two things for them. First, it confirms that you are truly listening and second, it gives them the opportunity to clear up any potential confusion.
5. Express empathy.
I did a recent post on the difference between empathy and sympathy. Sympathy is feeling sorry that someone is going through something, but empathy is where you connect on an emotional level with their suffering. You feel what they feel.
Expressing empathy when you respond to a person who is emotionally upset is key to getting to common ground. It defuses the emotions, especially if they are hot emotions like anger, resentment, or frustration.
Letting someone know that you are taking their pain seriously is like a balm to a wound. They are able to share their thoughts in a non-judgmental space and know they aren’t alone.
6. De-stress and calm down.
I just described one way you can de-stress and calm a conversation down by expressing empathy. But, there are other ways to do this as well.
If you are speaking in person, watch your body language, facial expressions, and verbal tone when you're in an emotional conversation. Are you making eye contact?
This helps to lower the negative energy fueling the upset and can allow a more open dialog. Frankly, we do our best communicating when we aren’t upset. Our brains tend to shut down into survival mode and we often can’t see solutions that are right in front of us.
Lowering the physical and emotional stress is a huge benefit for both sides of a conversation.
7. Choose your words carefully.
Words have amazing power. How you use them, especially when you are in a conversation where the person is emotional, is critical to a successful meeting of the minds.
You can quickly alienate or isolate a person by the choice of words as easily as you can make them feel like you are both parts of the same team. Staying away from judgmental and inflammatory wording can improve the chances that you can keep a conversation calm and productive.
8. Be clear and concise.
Meandering messaging can be confusing and frustrating for others if they don’t share the same communication style that you do.
Often, we use stories to try and convey a point, but not everyone welcomes that approach. Use whatever form of language and communication style that the person you’re speaking with is comfortable with.
It’ll improve the chance that they’ll get what you are trying to convey without the frustration of trying to decipher unclear messaging.
Well, I hope these tips have opened up some curiosity for you about how you communicate and will inspire you to look for ways to improve those skills. We need better communication in our world today and each of us has a role to play to get there.
So, until next time, my friend, as I always say….stay safe, stay healthy and stay strong!
P.S. Is communication an area you're frustrated with and feel like you could benefit from coaching input?
Click here to schedule a free introductory 20-minute session with me!