5 Ways to Improve Your Communications Skills
Honest, two-way communication is the foundation of any healthy relationship, but many of us don’t take time to improve our communications skills. And, even though most of us spend the majority of our day talking to others, that doesn’t necessarily mean we’re all proficient at it.
Whether you’re aiming for a promotion at work, trying to solve disputes with your significant other or casually chatting with a friend or family member, knowing how to share your ideas effectively can help improve your reputation in every facet of your life. Get a head start on your goals with these tips for improving your communications skills.
1. Use Active Listening Techniques
Imagine yourself in a conversation with a friend or colleague. When they’re speaking, are you fully engaged with what they’re saying? If you’re like many people, you use the time when others are talking to come up with your response. As a result, most of us only retain a fraction of the information we hear each day.
Becoming a better communicator requires you to cultivate self-awareness. When someone’s talking with you, don’t let yourself get bored or distracted by whatever else might be happening around you, or by forming counter-arguments while the other person is still speaking. If you have trouble concentrating on what someone else is telling you, try repeating their words mentally. Doing so will not only help you stay focused, but will also help you remember the conversation better.
2. Ask Plenty of Questions
Some best practices for honing your communications skills might make you feel like you’re overcommunicating at first. However, don’t automatically assume everyone around you understands exactly what you mean every time. People you interact with might not come away with as much information as you’d prefer. To combat this, emphasize crucial points with questions like:
- Did that make sense?
- Do you want me to explain that again?
- Does all that seem clear?
- What would you do in that scenario?
- Can you think of solutions to that problem?
Asking questions keeps the conversation lively, interesting and relevant to your audience. By inviting people to take a more active role in the conversation, you’re also helping them remember more of the essential details.
3. Look for Nonverbal Cues
Think of all the information you might be able to pass along in a single glance. For example, rolling your eyes or quirking an eyebrow might indicate disbelief. Nonverbal cues – such as gestures, facial expressions, eye contact and postures – are a crucial component of communication.
Improving your communications skills requires you to become more familiar with the varied emotions people can convey without saying a word. If you pay close attention, you might even be able to pick up when someone isn’t being honest with you, since it’s possible for people to say one thing while their body language is telling you something different.
4. Think Before You Speak
Are you the kind of person who usually blurts out the first thing on your mind? Being a reactive listener can lead to misunderstandings and hurt feelings. Instead of saying something you might regret, take a minute to collect your thoughts. Creating a mental “first draft” will help you come up with a respectful, well-considered response.
5. Don’t Fear Silence
It’s natural for conversations to lapse occasionally. When that happens, it doesn’t mean you aren’t communicating effectively enough. Instead of getting anxious and trying to fill pauses with meaningless chatter, take a more relaxed approach and use these lulls in conversation to breathe and ground yourself.
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