The 10 Essential Tools You Need to Be an Effective Communicator
Effective communication skills are essential in nearly every aspect of life. From our earliest years, we’ve been taught the mechanisms of communication. But for some of us, communicating with large crowds, strangers, and even friends doesn’t come naturally. And since communication is so important, encompassing business, family, and friends, here are a few tips to help you sharpen your skills.
Remove conversation fillers. “Uhs,” “ums,” and “likes” are nonessential communication fillers that get in the way of your message. They often distract your listener from the bigger picture. A great way to know if you’re guilty of using them too frequently is to record yourself having a conversation. If you say “like” in every other sentence, it’s time to consider ditching the fillers.
Map your conversation. When you’re first starting to practice better communication, having a road map is helpful. Eventually you’ll become well enough acquainted with it that you’ll be able to ditch it, but for starters, the FORD road map is great. Fill in conversations (like those painfully awkward small talks at networking events) with these four topics: Family, Occupation, Recreation, and Dreams.
Learn to listen. Really pay attention when the other person is talking. Do not interrupt, no matter how relevant or exciting your input may be. Listen to what they have to say, roll it around in your brain to catch their understanding, before responding. This will help you create a deeper connection with the person you’re speaking with.
Make eye contact. This one can be plain awkward. Sometimes it just feels uncomfortable to hold someone’s stare, but it’s important for communication. Without eye contact, you may miss out on a lot that’s happening in the conversation.
Be brief and specific. Brief conversations help ensure that your audience stays intrigued. Being brief is important for both spoken and written communication and this helpful BRIEF acronym will help you make your important points and nothing more: Background, Reason, Information, End, Follow-up.
Tailor your message to your audience. A business presentation wouldn’t be appropriate for five-year-olds, just like the way you have a conversation with a family member wouldn’t necessarily be appropriate with a coworker. It’s important to tailor your conversation to the situation or person you are speaking at or with.
Put away distractions. Nothing is more frustrating than trying to hold a conversation with someone who is consumed with his or her smart phone or something else going on in the room. Have a more concentrated engagement by removing your distractions, which will encourage others to do so as well.
Ask and repeat. Be sure to ask questions when someone else is speaking. This will show that you’re interested in what they have to say. It also helps to clarify when there’s a potential misunderstanding.
Watch your non-verbals. Communication isn’t just about what you say or write. Body language, a form of non-verbal communication, is also a large part of it. Not only should you be conscious of what your body language is telling others, but you should be skilled at picking up the vibes others are putting out as well. Here are some of the most frequently used signals and what they mean:
- Folded arms. When someone folds their arms, it typically means they are becoming defensive or closing off.
- Lack of eye contact. If a person isn’t making eye contact, it could mean one of several things. They either aren’t interested in what you are saying, are ashamed or embarrassed of the topic of conversation, or it’s a difficult discussion for them to have.
- Rising voice. A raised voice generally means a person is becoming more aggressive. If you find yourself doing this, or the person you’re speaking with is, consider backing off of the subject to friendlier territory.
- Eye roll. This is the classic signal that a person does not agree with what you’ve just said.
- Heavy sigh. Unless a person is practicing their yoga breathing, heavy sighing typically indicates they are frustrated.
Smile. Don’t forget to smile. People feel more comfortable speaking with someone who is inviting and engaging, which is often accomplished with a pleasant smile.