Good communication skills can help you out in so many different areas of life from work to personal relationships. They can help you to improve both your job prospects and your relationships. However, communication isn’t something that many of us know how to do well. All areas of life can be improved with work, but you need to know some of the main communication skills and techniques to pick up. Taking this into account, the following article details some of the ways in which you can boost your communication skills.
Learn How to Listen
It may seem strange that the first area we discuss is not about expressing yourself, but listening is an integral part of good communication. Without learning to pay attention to what others are saying, you are not going to be able to respond to them in the most effective way possible. Active listening is a skill that takes time to develop. So, if you find yourself waiting for your turn to speak rather than listening to what the other person has to tell you, this is a big part of the problem. This goes for both your personal and your professional lives. In people’s love lives, one of the main things that people are seeking is someone who listens to them. As for professional lives, when you go to a networking event, you also need to listen to what other people have to say to you. Otherwise, they are less likely to want to hear from you. Not only this, but you may miss out on some excellent networking opportunities as a result.
Read Body Language
They say that a huge percentage of communication is done in a non-verbal manner, so don’t assume that everything that you need to know is coming out of the other person’s mouth. In fact, their hands and gestures can tell you a lot. For some people, picking up on body language cues is second nature, but there are plenty more who need to work harder at it. You should also pay attention to your own body and the impression that it is giving off. For example, if you continually have your hands crossed over your body, this can give the impression of being closed off. Conversely, if you adopt an open-armed stance, you are automatically more welcoming to what people are saying. There are plenty of articles available online that give you more information about body language and what it is saying, so browse through some of these to see what sort of information you can pick up from them.
Take a Communication Course
If you want to learn about good communication in a more formalized setting, one of your best options is to take a communication course. There are some basic courses that just last over a few sessions. Your other main option is to take a bachelor’s or master’s degree in the subject if you really want to delve deep into the subject. This article tells you more about these courses. These are generally taken by those who want to get involved in the business or commerce side of communication, and a professional qualification can certainly help to put you over the edge in all sorts of different ways.
Observe Communication in Different Contexts
Human communication is complex, so it takes some observation to learn as much as possible about it. A good idea is to observe communication in different contexts. For example, if you are going to be giving a presentation at work, you could try watching a video online that shows how past masters have done it. This kind of communication is bound to be entirely different to the kind that you get at a networking event, which will also be entirely different to communication at a speed dating event! Learning how to adapt your communication – including when to be formal and when to remain casual – can go a long way towards ensuring that you are equipped for all different types of communication. A lot of this is done through observation. After all, you need to be able to walk before you can run.
Don’t Be Afraid of Silence
While some people think that silences need to continually be filled, but they can actually be an important part of communication. Leaving them to stand for a while without discomfort takes a bit of time, but it is worthwhile giving it a go. Letting pauses occur naturally ensures that you are not interrupting them, which can be a major frustration for many people. Also, silence can be highly useful in certain other situations such as interviews as you can learn a lot more than if you had talked instead.
Learn How to Ask Questions
The best kind of questions that help to facilitate a conversation are those that are open-ended. Essentially, you want people to answer with more than a simple yes or a no. This is where listening properly can go a long way as well. If you ask questions that are based on what the person has just said, this is a clear indication that you are listening and actively involved in the conversation. However, like many things in life, there is a balance to be struck here as well. You don’t want to make the other person feel like they are involved in an interrogation! Ideally, the other people in the conversion will take their cues from you and ask interesting and appropriate questions as well.
When your goal is to extract information from the other person, it is crucial for you to know how to frame your questions in order to receive the right response. Sales reps, for example, need to skillfully ask their prospective clients questions and then steer the conversation towards buying the product and closing the deal.
Try to Find Common Ground
There is a time and a place for disagreements, but you generally don’t want these to occur after meeting somebody for the first time. One of the best ways of interacting with another person successfully is by attempting to find common ground with them. Finding a shared interest can help to make the conversation much more interesting and enjoyable for the pair of you. However, this doesn’t mean that you have to automatically agree with everything that the other person says. Instead, you can disagree politely, before moving onto another topic. If you find yourself not agreeing on one particular topic, it is more than likely that you will be able to find some common ground on another. It is important not to get dragged into a widespread disagreement – particularly if you are involved in a business opportunity or job interview situation.
Read, Learn and Get Involved in the World
If you commit to lifelong learning, you are much more likely to have a whole host of cultural references that you can draw upon. This way, you can find common ground with a wide range of people and shift from topic to topic with ease. If you know that you are going to be discussing a particular topic, it is worth brushing up on it specifically. If you are going for a job interview, you know that the main topic of conversation is going to be you! Learning about the other people who are involved in the conversation can also go a long way towards ensuring that you are never left without something to talk about. For example, if you are going to be attending a networking event, you could do some research on the other people who are going to be in attendance. The internet is an invaluable tool in this situation as it gives you the opportunity to look up people and get a general idea of what they are all about.
Learn to Use Verbal Bridges
Sometimes, you want to transition from one topic of conversation onto another. One of the best ways of doing this is with a ‘verbal bridge’. Learning to use these bridges effectively is a great conversational art form to master. Essentially, this means finding a topic that bridges the gap between the one that you are on now and the one that you want to move onto. Alternatively, you can use general phrases that allow you to switch course. We already talked about silences in conversations earlier in the blog post, but these can also be highly effective in allowing you to move onto a new topic of conversation.
Relax and Enjoy
One of the main factors that can put people off when they are having a conversation with someone is if they sense discomfort. If you are not a natural communicator, this can be difficult to mask, but it is a case of practice eventually making perfect. When you do it enough times, you may well find that your entire perspective shifts and you are actually able to enjoy a conversation in a way that you weren’t before.
Taking into account all of these different tips can help you in your quest to be a better communicator, which is a skill that can be highly effective throughout both your personal and professional lives. The more you work at it, the better you will get. Don’t forget that conversation is very much a two-way street and being a good listener can be just as important.