In our post on communication, we looked at verbal and non-verbal communciation. We learned that the WAY we say something is just as important as WHAT we say. Today we are going to look at various ways to improve your communication skills.
Why Improve Your Communication Skills?
If you are a good communicator, then you’ll have less arguments and misunderstandings with friends and family, you’ll be more likely to get what you want, and you’ll be a person that other people like being around.
The better we can communicate with others, the easier it is to go through life. Here are some of the ways you can improve your communication skills.
Identify Good and Bad Communication
First, spend some time watching how other people communicate. Try to identify when someone has good communication skills – is there someone you know who always seems to get what they want? Without being nasty or shouting? Perhaps they are just good communicators.
Watch shop assistants and waiting staff next time you are out. Do they have genuine smiles? Do they hold eye contact? Sometimes if they do not it could be that they have a lot on their minds, or are actually nervous or shy- or not feeling 100% well. Even then, if they have good communication skills, they’ll make you feel welcome in their cafe or store.
Watch your teachers. What is their posture like? Do they sit up tall and breathe deeply with their chests open? Or are they hunched over and breathing shallowly? Which teachers do you think communicate better with the class?
Practice your Communication Skills
When somebody you know well is talking to you, close your eyes so you can’t see them. (explain why you are doing it first!) How hard is it to really understand them?
When you speak to them, try and use a totally flat tone and keep really still. How does it feel?
Practise with your friend, take it in turns to tell each other a story, be an active listener, and an inactive listener (don’t nod, don’t look at them, fidget with your hands, yawn). Is it easy to talk to someone who is not watching you?
Try saying some stuff with a fixed smile on your face. Does the smile reach your eyes? Can you smile without using your eyes? Look in a mirror if you can – how different does a ‘real’ smile and a ‘fake’ smile look?
Think about your own posture, imagine a string in the top of your head drawing you upwards. Let your shoulders relax and fall level. Breathe in deeply through your nose and out through your mouth. Walk tall and sit up straight. You will look more confident straight away.
Consider how people convey emotion through text messages and apps. How many times do you use emojis in your messages? Does your message sound different if you take them out?
When Communication Breaks Down
Has anyone ever sent a text that upset you, and then insisted that they didn’t mean it? We sometimes read something in different ways. It can be easy to misunderstand a text. Look for the meanings between the words – what does the writer actually want from you? What are they not saying?
If someone gives you answer you didn’t expect, snaps at you, or is very upset, stop for a moment before you respond angrily. Think carefully about what you communicated to them. What you asked or said may not have been quite right for that situation, or they may have misunderstood you.
If in doubt, ask the person what they meant. It’s better to do that, than have a horrible argument based on a misunderstanding!
If you practice your communication skills and learn to observe body language, you will find many situations much easier, such as job interviews, social situations like parties, and when meeting new people and making new friends.
Want more on this topic? Check out these posts on communication and negotiation.