10 Tips to Improve Communication
Good Communication is as stimulating as black coffee and just as hard to sleep after – Anne Morrow Lindbergh
Who doesn’t enjoy a good hearty conversation with family and friends? These can be enjoyable and memorable times to sustain us and build us up. Heart to heart conversations with friends and family is the glue in our life. But not all conversations, discussions or “talks” are memorable in the positive sense.
Sometimes we need to have ‘crucial conversations’ with people around us, both personal and professional. Sometimes things need to be discussed and wrinkles need to be ironed out in order to move on. Depending on the relationship and the intensity or importance of the subject, without effective communication skills, these kinds of “intense fellowships” can get heated fairly quickly. Sometimes they can turn into downright shouting matches with both parties launching missiles at the other and neither feels that he or she is getting anywhere.
The essentials of effective communication are really quite simple, but, in their simplicity, they may seem difficult. They require such steps as slowing down, listening, being present and being attentive. In essence, they require a different mindset and way of viewing other people.
I hope that you find this post both inspiring and challenging in your quest to be the Best You.
10 Important Tips to Improve Communication
If you hesitate before you criticise, complain or quarrel, you are a better communicator
― Amit Kalantri, Wealth of Words
1. Pause before Responding
Pausing before responding gives you time to reflect on what was said and gives the added benefit of showing the other person that you are considering their words. It gives you an opportunity to understand what you heard. In highly charged emotional exchanges, pausing will be even more beneficial because it will bring down the temperature during a heated discussion.
It may seem counterintuitive to pause before responding especially in today’s fast-paced world. Some people might wonder what is wrong with you or question if you actually heard them. Generally, people need quick responses and they often respond before the other person has finished speaking, let alone hear what was said. Pausing before responding will certainly take people by surprise because it is so uncommon.
The only way to make a man trustworthy is to trust him – Henry L. Stimson
2. Be a Trustworthy and Honest Person
Trust and honesty are two qualities that are increasingly difficult to find today. Too often it is easier to compromise both to avoid difficult situations or problems or just to “save face”. Unfortunately, giving in to what is uncomfortable, even though it is the right thing erodes our reputation as someone who can be counted on and trusted.
If we are consistently known as someone whose word and actions can be trusted, it is far easier to have fruitful communication with others. They know, from our track record that we are not out to deceive them or hurt them in any way and they will be far more likely to open up to us and not withhold necessary (even personal) information that may be useful to the conversation. They will be more likely to trust us with their feelings as well. So trustworthiness and honesty are crucial for effective communication.
The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place – George Bernard Shaw
3. Take the Time to Communicate
There is no need to hurry to communication. It is said that communication is an art and that seems to be very true. It is not to be rushed and will bring about better results when we invest the time to communicate in a meaningful way. Too often we have agendas of what we want to say without necessarily wanting to know the perspective of others; our focus is on our ideas, which need to be said as quickly as possible so that we can get on with our day.
The more technology we have at our disposal, it seems the less we engage in meaningful conversation. It is easier to send text messages even between two people sitting beside one another. Somehow, we believe that a text message is faster and more effective. Text messages may seem speedy and easy, but is real communication actually taking place?
Like meals lovingly prepared at home, artful and meaningful communication shows the other person that you care and that you want to share a part of you with them and that you are interested in the relationship. Fast food is quickly obtained and quickly consumed without too many memories of the moment, whereas slow food carries with it memories. Likewise, taking the time to share and talk leaves us with satisfying memories.
Effective communication is 20% what you know and 80% how you feel about what you know – Jim Rohn
4. Tailor Your Ideas to Others
It is hard to have meaningful communication with others when we haven’t taken the time to know where they are coming from. To communicate effectively, we need to have a good understanding of what the other person understands. having this foundation helps us to eliminate misunderstandings and prevents us from jumping to conclusions.
We may be on opposite sides of the table or the room but in our conversation we can try to get on their side of the table, so to speak. Why not try to see the issue from the same side and through a similar pair of glasses? We may have to overcome some obstacles such as generational differences, cultural understandings, positional differences (ex. between a boss and employee), male and female differences in seeing the world, etc.). Usually, in most situations, asking questions and taking the time to listen will help us to overcome differences.
Two monologues do not make a dialogue – Jeff Daly
5. Be Present
We humans can so easily be distracted, can”t we? At any given moment we are probably thinking of at least 10 other things that have nothing to do with the present moment. It is so hard for us to stay focused on what someone else is saying. We are usually trying to figure out what our response will be rather than what the other person is actually saying.
Get in touch with the way the other person feels. Feelings are 55% body language, 38% tone and 7% words.
6. Be Attentive to Non-Verbal Language
According to Dr. Albert Mehrabian, author of Silent Message, 55% of our communication is actually non-verbal. We call this body language. I think it would be fair to say that many of us are somewhat illiterate in this language and fail to pick up the cues. Then we wonder why we end up in misunderstandings and conflict. We also need to pay attention to our own body language and what messages we are sending to others.
Understanding body language cues (facial expressions, gestures, and body movements) help us to better perceive the message of the other person and give them a better understanding of what we are saying. It is actually more reliable than the words we use. Through non-verbal cues, we communicate emotions that are highly useful in helping us deliver a complete message. Knowing this, it is easy to see how just communicating in written form (such as emails and texts) can easily contort our message or completely change it.
The art of communication is the language of leadership – James Humes
7. Seek to Understand
We should try to understand the whole picture and the other’s point of view – how they understand things. Maybe there is information that we are missing that we might need in order to communicate with them better. Is there a back story? Are the events that have happened or is there information that the person may have received that may affect how they are feeling? Perhaps there may be cultural differences that need to be understood.
Communication is complex in the best of times. We can never assume that we understand everything in the context of communication. In fact, we would do better to go into a discussion (or potential argument) with the attitude that we really don’t know much at all but are willing to listen and learn. In using this approach our chances of being listened to and having a fruitful discussion are greater than if we just saw discussion as an opportunity to give our opinion only.
The less people know, the more they yell – Seth Godin
8. Be Open-minded and Patient
Everyone has an opinion on everything. We are human, after all. But oftentimes our opinions become entrenched so solidly (as in concrete) that nothing and no one can change our minds. We close our minds to the possibility that we may have been wrong or misunderstood. Our pride gets in the way, so we stick in our feet and refuse to budge on our position. We see ourselves as right and the other person as wrong or misguided (or worse).
But effective communication hinges on our ability to be open to other possibilities and perspectives. If we remain rooted in our self-righteousness on a matter, we can not move forward and we can not learn and grow. Patience comes from a humble spirit. It is the willingness to take the time to listen, to learn and accept that the other person has important things to say. Patience is really an attitude and a choice.
People can’t hear what you don’t say. Thinking isn’t communicating.”
― Frank Sonnenberg
9. Restate and Confirm
What a compliment it is to the person who is speaking to you if you take the time to restate what they said in order to clarify your understanding. It is refreshing in a world where everyone is on overdrive and rarely listens if at all, to have someone actually listen to what we are saying and be interested. So, when we take the time and make the effort to confirm by way of repeating what was said, we are really showing respect to the person we are speaking with.
Of course, in order to do this, we will need to turn off all the other information channels running through our minds. We will need to focus not only on hearing the words but also intently on understanding what is being said. Most of us use the time someone else is speaking to plan what we will say next, but this definitely not what we should be doing if we want to communicate effectively.
There is a huge value in learning with instant feedback – Anant Agarwi
10. Ask for Feedback
As uncomfortable as it may be, getting feedback on what we have said can be very educational and help us to change and grow. No one enjoys hearing negative feedback about themselves. No one likes to know (or admit) that they have character weaknesses. Most of us would just rather assume that we are good people, we communicate well and many times we are just plain right and others are misinformed.
But have the courage and the humility to ask for the other person’s perspective. We can’t look at ourselves through an objective lens, but others can see things about ourselves that we may be blinded to. If we don’t want to keep making the same mistakes and butting ourselves against the same wall, then certainly it is a good idea to seek other’s feedback – how they see us. We all need a mirror to see how we are doing.
I hope that these tips have been helpful to you. It has been said that our biggest relational problems happen with other people. Since we live in a world with other people and have to communicate with them, maybe it is a good idea to learn how to be the best communicators we can be.
Has this post been helpful to you? Please leave a comment in the comment section below.
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Diana Lynne’s passions are family, travel, self-improvement, living a debt-free/financially free life. She also loves hanging out with family, friends and being with her dog Skye. You can connect with her through Livingandstuff.ca