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How To Be a Better Communicator

Career & Business, Relationships & Family

 Seven ways to help you express yourself and be a better communicator

The Importance of Communication Skills

1. Be a proactive listener: What’s the difference between listening and proactively listening? You can be in a conversation with someone and say that you’re listening, you’re there physically, hearing them speak, but you still aren’t proactively listening to them.    

Proactively listening means you are present, conscious, and concerned with what the person is telling you. You’re not just physically present but also mentally and emotionally engaged. Proactive listening doesn’t mean you have to have answers or solutions to another person’s problems. Still, you do have a genuine concern and interest in understanding what they are feeling and trying to express.  It is vital to building trust in professional relationships and intimacy in social ones.  

How can you be a proactive listener? 

How can you be a proactive listener? To some people, active listening comes naturally.  It is an innate skill they seem to have been born with. Others must learn how to be more engaged, but it is something you can learn.   

First, be physically present. Being physically present means sitting in appropriate proximity with them, making proper eye contact as they speak.   What is considered proper space and eye contact can vary in different cultures, so be aware of these when communicating with people from different backgrounds. 

Secondly, listen with the intent to understand. Listen without judgment. Ask questions, show emotion, and interest.  Try paraphrasing what you just heard to show that you’re present in the moment with them. 

Third, try and support them without jumping in and offering advice if it wasn’t asked for.  Sometimes people aren’t looking for answers; they want to vent.  If you choose to talk about yourself, relate it to something the person was saying.    

2. Build trust by showing empathy 

For effective communication, it is essential to be able to show compassion. Empathy is recognizing and acknowledging another person’s emotions. It is validating that what they are feeling is valued and of significance. If we’re not able to show empathy, people tend to think that what they’re expressing is not important or isn’t appreciated. In addition to listening proactively, being empathetic requires ignoring distractions and acknowledging what another person is saying. 

How to be more empathetic 

First, here’s what you DON’T do.  The worst thing you can do is tell them “not to feel that way” or try to make them feel better by “one-upping” them. (this is when someone says something like, “you think that’s bad, something even worse happened to me”)  

As the listener, put yourself in their shoes for a moment. Try to feel what they feel, and then you will understand what it is they’re trying to say. Let them know it’s okay to feel whatever it is and that you support them (even if you don’t agree with their feelings, you can still show support of them as a person of value).  When you’re able to express empathy, there will be active, more in-depth communication. 

3. Improve non-verbal communication/body language  

Why is it essential to master non-verbal communication skills?  Studies show that 55% of all communication is non-verbal.  Non-verbal cues show attitude and emotion.  They send signals to the listener that are read both consciously and unconsciously.  Verbal and non-verbal communication work together.  While we use words to say what we want, our non-verbal communication must be consistent, or it will cause confusion and possibly distrust.     If someone is telling a sad story yet seems to be smiling or laughing, they seem cold or at the very least, in denial or shock.   If you avoid eye contact or have shifty glances, you’ll be perceived as dishonest or insecure.  

Be a proactive listener: What’s the difference between listening and proactively listening? You can be in a conversation with someone and say that you’re listening, you’re there physically, hearing them speak, but you still aren’t proactively listening to them.

Proactively listening means you are present, conscious, and concerned with what the person is telling you. You’re not just physically present but also mentally and emotionally engaged. Proactive listening doesn’t mean you have to have answers or solutions to another person’s problems. Still, you do have a genuine concern and interest in understanding what they are feeling and trying to express. It is vital to building trust in professional relationships and intimacy in social ones.

How can you be a proactive listener?

How can you be a proactive listener? To some people, active listening comes naturally. It is an innate skill they seem to have been born with. Others must learn how to be more engaged, but it is something you can learn.

First, be physically present. Being physically present means sitting in appropriate proximity with them, making proper eye contact as they speak. What is considered proper space and eye contact can vary in different cultures, so be aware of these when communicating with people from different backgrounds.

Secondly, listen with the intent to understand. Listen without judgment. Ask questions, show emotion, and interest. Try paraphrasing what you just heard to show that you’re present in the moment with them.

Third, try and support them without jumping in and offering advice if it wasn’t asked for. Sometimes people aren’t looking for answers; they want to vent. If you choose to talk about yourself, relate it to something the person was saying.

2. Build trust by showing empathy

For effective communication, it is essential to be able to show compassion. Empathy is recognizing and acknowledging another person’s emotions. It is validating that what they are feeling is valued and of significance. If we’re not able to show empathy,

people tend to think that what they’re expressing is not important or isn’t appreciated. In addition to listening proactively, being empathetic requires ignoring distractions and acknowledging what another person is saying.

How to be more empathetic

First, here’s what you DON’T do. The worst thing you can do is tell them “not to feel that way” or try to make them feel better by “one-upping” them. (this is when someone says something like, “you think that’s bad, something even worse happened to me”)

As the listener, put yourself in their shoes for a moment. Try to feel what they feel, and then you will understand what it is they’re trying to say. Let them know it’s okay to feel whatever it is and that you support them (even if you don’t agree with their feelings, you can still show support of them as a person of value). When you’re able to express empathy, there will be active, more in-depth communication.

3. Improve non-verbal communication/body language

Why is it essential to master non-verbal communication skills? Studies show that 55% of all communication is non-verbal. Non-verbal cues show attitude and emotion. They send signals to the listener that are read both consciously and unconsciously. Verbal and non-verbal communication work together. While we use words to say what we want, our non-verbal communication must be consistent, or it will cause confusion and possibly distrust. If someone is telling a sad story yet seems to be smiling or laughing, they seem cold or at the very least, in denial or shock. If you avoid eye contact or have shifty glances, you’ll be perceived as dishonest or insecure.

You can talk extensively about something, but if your non-verbal cues don’t match what you’re saying, you will not convince your audience to believe in you. Physical gestures should be consistent with the message we are trying to convey.

4. Be clear and concise

To be clear and concise is an essential communication skill. Whether it be written or oral, it’s best to get straight to the point without a lot of flowery and unnecessary words that are just meaningless. What you may think is an introduction to a topic may be thought of as a waste of time in getting to the point if it’s not directly connected to it.

How can you give value in an introduction to a topic?

First, make it informative and drop anything irrelevant. Avoid wordy sentences so that the point is not watered down with unimportant detail. Don’t be repetitive. It’s one thing to assert a position, but repeating the same point, again and again, is just overkill. If your point is not clear, try to illustrate or explain in different ways. An analogy is an excellent tool for this if the analogy is truly relevant. Check for understanding before offering more prolonged and more in-depth explanations. Maintain focus on your topic and make sure not to use too many words when you can say it with just a few.

Whether you’re speaking to a crowd or captivating an audience with your writing, it is best to be clear and concise to keep your audience’s attention.

5. Ask “good” questions

The manner you ask the questions says a lot about your communication skills. You ask questions to get information; to be fully committed and engaged; to understand what the speaker is trying to say; to affirm your interest.

To get good answers, you must ask good questions. As easy as it may seem, asking questions can be a bit tricky. Some pointed questions may be offensive. The tone of your voice and your body language are vital when asking questions in most settings.

  • Keep questions focused on what you really need to know. The questions asked should be based on the topic. Structure the questions based on the information you already have.
  • Discern if your question is best asked as open (an explanation) or closed (yes/no) ended. Is it rhetorical? If it is personal, can it be asked in a way that one can decline to answer comfortably?
  • Know the reason you’re asking. Do you need clarification? Are you looking for a different perspective? Are you looking for help with something?
  • Consider your intent: Are you looking for help? To start a discussion? An argument? What will you do with the information you get?

These awareness’ will help ease the flow of communication so that no one feels like they are being interrogated or put in an embarrassing situation.

6. Improve written communication

Written communication is a communication skill that not all people will take time to master. While some people are naturally gifted at putting their thoughts into written words, others do struggle.

How can you improve your written communication?

After you’ve done your research (if needed), try brainstorming. Brainstorming is nothing more than writing down all thoughts randomly, without any censorship, judgment, or concern for accuracy or cohesiveness. Then, go back and circle the main points you want to get across. From there, put them in some logical sequence. Maybe organize them by time or level of importance. Then construct your writing. If you are writing a letter, find a template online, there are thousands. If it is an essay, start with a basic 5 paragraph format (Introduction, 3 body paragraphs, conclusion). Use a free tool like Grammarly to check your grammar and spelling. Have a fresh set of eyes read your writing before you submit it whomever.

7. Learn to resolve conflict

Agree to disagree:

Agreeing to disagree means accepting other peoples’ opinions even if it is different from what you think. When two people have opposing viewpoints, it doesn’t always have to be that one person is right and the other one is wrong. Part of being emotionally and socially mature is the ability to accept the fact that other people may think differently and have different values. Some people who cannot allow other people’s opinions find themselves threatened that they might be wrong. This negative feeling hinders effective communication. Being open-minded or at least having a higher level of acceptance will allow you to feel comfortable in most situations. As a result, your thinking will stay clear and not clouded by the need to be right. Resolving conflict starts with accepting differences in opinions, views, and sentiments. Instead of getting angry, try to take it constructively as a different perspective you could learn from.

Strong communication skills are essential for success in both your social and professional life. Being adept at discussing and resolving problems, asking for and giving information, and interacting with other people with respect and dignity will pave the road to growth and happiness.

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