You know what they say,”You are never not communicating.” And it’s true! Communication is constantly happening all around us, even nonverbal. Yet, most workshops, self-help books, and guidelines focus on the words you are saying or the way you are saying them.
Sure it’s helpful to learn how to become more persuasive and we could all probably use a public speaking class or two, but you may end up ignoring the communication that is happening around you the majority of the time. To help you think about communication beyond speaking, we’ve created a list of 5 communication tips that have nothing to do with what you say.
1. Listen like you mean it
Listening is by far the most important role you play in communication, which should be a relief, especially when you don’t know what to say. But good listening doesn’t come naturally, and sometimes it’s forgotten altogether.
Too often people join in a conversation simply to get their point across. When this happens, they completely miss what the other person is saying because they are too focused on how they will respond. Failing to listen ultimately leads to failure to communicate.
So how do you practice good listening?
- Make an effort to pay attention to what the other person is saying.
- Ask questions. When you ask questions the person you are talking to knows that you are listening, and you get more information in the process.
- Paraphrase what the other person has said. Doing this confirms that you have heard them correct and it affirms their confidence that you understand them.
The key to good listening starts with being present, let’s talk more about that.
2. Put away distractions
It’s easy nowadays to believe we are good at multi-tasking, especially with technology that connects us to people, activities, and things at all times. The truth, though, is less positive. Multi-tasking can actually be harmful to your brain and it has a negative impact on your communication.
Sure, you think you can search the internet and have a conversation at the same time. Those activities don’t even require the same senses, right? In reality, your brain is unable to capture all of the information being thrown at it, and it’s likely to dismiss anything it doesn’t deem important. This can result in you missing key details of a conversation.
Worse, though, is the fact that multi-tasking when communicating makes it look as though you are not fully interested in what the person is saying. This comes across as indifferent and even disrespectful.
Communicating better, and being a good listener, requires you giving your full attention to the other person.
3. Be aware of your body language
Looking engaged during a conversation goes beyond simply putting your phone down. There are other non-verbal communication elements that affect how you are perceived by the other person in the conversation.
Body language describes your stance, gestures, facial expressions, and movements during the conversation. The other person is picking up hints about your motivation, engagement, and emotions based on your body language. If you’re upset, displeased, or angry, your body language will probably give it away.
But sometimes you can unknowingly be using body language that does not match your true intent. When you are communicating, be aware of your body language and try the following things to better communicate interest, respect, and friendliness:
- Don’t cross your arms. Instead, relax and employ an open stance to appear approachable.
- Engage in conversation by making consistent eye contact
- Avoid slouching to look confident and garner respect.
- Lean forward (slightly) to indicate intrigue.
- Shake hands firmly.
- Smile and nod to demonstrate friendliness and understanding.
- Make sure your facial expressions match your tone and your intent.
4. Carefully choose your method/mode of communication
How you communicate is just as important as what you say.
It may be your go-to to send an email or a text, especially if you feel uncomfortable speaking in person, but these methods of communication don’t allow you to use non-verbals. Lack of facial expressions and vocal tone make it difficult for the receiver to gauge your meaning. Additionally, the words you choose when communicating without speaking become key to getting your message across, which means communication through text or email should be concise, straightforward, and carefully edited.
Explanations, conflict resolution, casual conversations, and communication to impress should happen in person or over the phone. Even then over the phone you still lack some non-verbals such as gestures.
In-person communication should be sought as often as possible, and all other methods of communication must be carefully considered and reviewed.
5. Go into a conversation practicing open-mindedness
Having well-defined personal beliefs is important in any situation, especially when communicating because you need to maintain your true self. That being said, one of the most important aspects of communication is having an open-mind.
If you aren’t prepared to hear what the other person has to say and possibly adapt your opinions or stance, then you might as well not bother communicating at all. Communication is all about the exchange of ideas. As a two-way street, you can’t just expect the other person to accept your viewpoint in every situation. Instead, you should have an open-mind to new prospectives and be flexible in your stances.
These five communication tips may not come easily at first, but the more you practice good communication the more natural it becomes. Of course, the business world adds an additional layer to communication. The interaction between peers as well as superiors takes a delicate balance. Your office environment, efficiency, and overall results hinge on good communication – verbal and non-verbal!
Be on the lookout for our upcoming E-book that discusses internal communication in your office and practical ways you can make positive changes in your company’s communication!