Having good communication skills is vitally important in many areas of life. Yet it is sometimes, dare I say, neglected.
Whether at the office with co-workers, socializing with friends or at home with family learning how to communicate effectively is essential to developing good relationships with others. Not only can improved communication help you enhance your relationships, but it can also reduce feelings of stress and anxiety.
So, whether you’re a beginner with much room for improvement or a pro, here are eight steps you can take to develop amazing communication skills.
8 Tips To Improve Your Communication Skills
1. Listening is key.
Do you remember Verizon’s “Can you hear me now?” ad campaign?
It turns out there’s a big difference between hearing and listening. Hearing happens, “with or without your consent“. Hearing is passive and doesn’t require any effort on your part.
On the other hand, listening requires concentration and attention. You must consciously choose to listen.
Everyone wants to know they are being heard. So really listen to what the other person is saying without interrupting.
And without formulating a response in your head.
Barking Up The Wrong Tree‘s Eric Barker outlines the basics of active listening:
“Listen to what they say. Don’t interrupt, disagree or “evaluate.”
Nod your head, and make brief acknowledging comments like “yes” and “uh-huh.”
Without being awkward, repeat back the gist of what they just said, from their frame of reference.
Inquire. Ask questions that show you’ve been paying attention and that move the discussion forward.”
2. Eliminate distractions.
Put down your cell phone, shut your laptop, turn off the T.V. or whatever it is that might distract you from giving the other person your undivided attention.
This not only helps you pay better attention, but shows the other person you’re focused on them and what they have to say.
3. Pay attention to your body language.
Avoid sending out negative signals through negative body language such as tapping your feet nervously, avoiding eye contact and crossing your arms.
Instead, use open body language. Keep your arms uncrossed with palms up. Maintain good eye contact. And smile (when appropriate).
This positive body language sends the message that you’re approachable and interested in what the other person has to say.
4. Consider who you’re talking to.
For example, if you’re talking to your best friend it’s fine to use informal language, including slang.
If you’re a twin, you may enjoy “twin talk” with your identical sibling. No one else will understand what you’re saying but you two will, and that’s all that matters.
And if you’re conversing with your boss, it’s generally best to keep that in mind too. To sum up this tip, simply try to keep the other person’s perspective in mind.
5. Ask questions and paraphrase.
So I’ve been told I ask a lot of questions.
I’ve also been told curiosity killed the cat.
But I digress…
Ask questions to clarify your understanding of what the other person said.
Also, paraphrasing is a great tool to use to show the other person that you’re really listening. Here’s an example: “So Sam, what I’m hearing is that you’d prefer to go to the conference next week?”
6. Don’t finish other people’s sentences.
I know it can be tempting to “help” people when they’re struggling for a word or thought, but please avoid this temptation.
I admit I’ve done this before, usually thinking I’m being helpful, but simply put, it’s just not.
When you finish another person’s sentence, you’re actually stealing power from them in the conversation by taking over, and this never feels good or garners either of you the respect you wish for.
7. Avoid being judgmental.
Some conversations are fun and easy. Often this is because we feel comfortable and perhaps know the other person or have things in common.
But even the most difficult conversations can have successful resolutions.
It’s essential to put aside judgement and criticism about the other person if we want to be good communicators.
8. Be assertive and set boundaries.
Developing an assertive communication style has many benefits, especially when it comes to your health. According to www.anxietybc.com, assertive communication:
“can help you to relate to others more genuinely, with less anxiety and resentment. It also gives you more control over your life, and reduces feelings of helplessness. Furthermore, it allows OTHER people the right to live their lives.”
Assertiveness is based on mutual respect, which is an essential skill when communicating.
It’s also important to keep in mind that assertiveness is completely different from aggressiveness (or passive aggression). The aim of aggressive behavior is to control and dominate others.
On the other hand, AnxietyBC points out assertive behavior is:
“the honest expression of one’s own needs, wants and feelings, while respecting those of the other person. When you communicate assertively, your manner is non-threatening and non-judgmental, and you take responsibility for your own actions.”
According to The Mayo Clinic, learning to be more assertive is a healthy skill which can help you control feelings of anger and stress, while boosting your self-respect.
Learning and implementing excellent communication skills can help you be more successful in life. Knowing how to effectively communicate is an essential part of improving your relationships at work, with friends and family. And having these skills can help you enjoy better health and less stress and anxiety.
Do you have thoughts or more tips to share about being a better communicator?
Please share them below in the comment section. I love hearing from you!
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