In the modern competitive world, communication skills are the most sought-after quality by employers. Besides business, interpersonal communication skills are critical in a wide range of circumstances and environments where one may interact with other people.
If one can express oneself and understand others without generating misunderstandings, conflict, and mistrust, one has a better chance to advance a career, have meaningful interpersonal relationships, and improve quality of life.
Improving communication skills is not difficult as you may think. In fact, there are many tools that can help you with that.
We’ll review them in this article.
If done properly, feedback can be an excellent tool for learning. Giving and receiving feedback requires some skill and can lower your level of emotion, keep you honest, and help to stay balanced.
Here are some tips to improve your communication by giving and receiving feedback:
- Be specific. Avoid general comments and unclear pronouns like “that” and “it.”
- Give encouraging phrases like “sounds interesting” and “I understand what you mean” to let the speaker know that you’re following the conversation and are interested in what he or she is speaking about.
- When criticizing, focus on behavior than person. (“Starting to speak before other person had not finished is inappropriate” rather than “You are an arrogant person who totally disregards what other people think”).
- If you realize that criticism of your actions is not appropriate, ask for the grounds on which it is being made. This way, you may discover whether the person criticizing you is making own assumptions or following an unknown agenda.
- When the criticism is true, avoid blaming others. It’s better to say that you’re ready to take responsibility and thinking about ways to improve the situation.
“Effective questions can get people what they want because they help to connect with others, improve understanding of problems experienced by others, persuade, and provoke thoughts,” says Anissa Morgan, a speech coach from AWriter. “For example, you can use open-ended questions to get all information you need because they cannot be answered with a simple answer like “yes” or “no.””
Here are some examples of typical, but powerful open-ended questions that can help you to improve your communication skills.
To request further information:
- What other ways did you try to solve the issue?
- What do you mean by …?
- Could you tell more about …?
To identify an issue:
- How do you feel about …?
- What you think the issue is?
- What seems to be the problem?
To determine an outcome of an action:
- What do you expect from …?
- What is your desired outcome?
- What is your suggestion/solution/proposal?
Identify what actions will be taken:
- What do you think you’ll do?
- How will I know you did it?
- What is your next step?
3. Body Language
It’s a powerful non-verbal communication tool that includes eye contact, use of hands and arms during a conversation, and posture.
There are many tricks to improve body language, including the following:
Perfect the handshake
- Offer your hand early to let the other person know that you’re confident and prepared
- Apply some pressure
- Eye contact during a handshake should not last more than 3 seconds
Maintain friendly eye contact
- Don’t avoid direct eye contact
- Keep it relatively consistent but not longer than 3 seconds; too much of eye contact can be threatening or intimidating (duration between two and five seconds is also supported by recent scientific studies).
Be aware of how you cross your arms and legs
- Make sure you cross them toward your conversation partner
- Don’t cross your legs in a “figure four” fashion, it can be perceived as a sign of stubbornness and arrogance
Be aware of your facial expressions
- Take an opportunity to smile and nod in agreement
- Keep your chin up, it evokes positivity
- Don’t frown or wrinkle your forehead to keep conversation positive and open
4. Active Listening
Epicteus once said: “We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.” To engage in active listening means to make a conscious effort to concentrate on what is being said and avoid passively ‘hearing’ the message.
Examples of Active Listening
- Brief verbal affirmation. “I appreciate your time,” “I understand your concern.”
- Building trust. “You really impressed me with that presentation,” “Is there something I could do?”
- Asking open-ended questions. “I realize you’ve been having a conflict with Mark, what exactly is the problem?” “What changes do you think we should implement right now?”
- Showing concern. “I know what you feel right now – is there something I can do?” “Do you need any assistance with your initiative tomorrow?”
- Specific questions. “What did John say when he arrived at home?” “How long do you think you’ll participate in this project?”
- Disclosing similar situations. “I know what you’re going through, because I felt the same years ago,” “I feel the same about this. When I faced a similar decision, I decided to move on.”
Empathy is important because it helps to “put yourself in another person’s shoes” and better understand the unspoken parts of your communication with others.
Huff Post provides the following tips for increasing empathy:
- Listen and don’t interrupt
- Be fully present with people by eliminating distractions such as smartphone
- Smile at people
- Give genuine recognition
- Try to emphasize with those whose opinions you don’t share
- Challenge yourself to have a deeper conversation
- Use people’s names during conversation
The ability to communicate effectively is an essential skill for everyone. Incorporate these tools into your daily communication with others and discover the real power of being a great communicator.
About the Author:
Nancy Spektor has sharpened her pencil at The Daily of the University of Washington. After graduation, she decided to combine her business degree with her passion for written communication. Nancy writes about marketing strategies, content management and various other topics that she finds intriguing. If she is not composing on her laptop or notebook, you probably can find her playing with her dog, Bok Choy. Get in touch …
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