Good communication ensures that people understand one another and plays a key role in peaceful coexistence. Bad communication does the exact opposite. Apart from being confusing, it may lead to hurt feelings, wasted time, and frequent misunderstandings.
Communication is basically a way of sending a message from one person to another. It makes up a vital part of our day-to-day lives, is involved in almost everything we do and may determine success in our work, business, and relationships, among other areas.
Good communication is not just about what you say but also how you say it. The message you are putting across should also be easy to understand and take into consideration the attitudes and thoughts of the receivers. Consider the following tips to improve your communication skills.
Be receptive. Communication is two-way. Don’t only focus on what you have to say as you may tune out important messages. Also, avoid communicating with the expectation of certain answers or reactions. Different people have different communication styles so keep an open mind. People may also not respond as well as you had expected. Learn how best to handle critical people but also be open to criticism. Instead of taking criticism personally, look for the message in it.
Be respectful. Successful communication will never take place without mutual respect. It’s not hard to note a lack of respect in conversation either. Whether or not you like someone, it’s important to acknowledge his or her background, expertise and capabilities. In addition, watch your tone while speaking. Communicate confidently, directly and calmly without aggression or intimidation.
Be sincere and positive. Genuineness is important for good communication. Let your communication be guided by the best intentions. Have a sincere desire to understand the person you are talking to, especially if you’re not very well acquainted. Let other technicalities like what you want them to do for you come second to establishing a good rapport. Offer constructive comments and don’t shy away from offering encouraging praise as well. Look out for something positive in everyone.
Listen actively. When talking, face the person and affirm him or her by nodding or giving the occasional “uh huh.” Avoid interrupting, unless you really have to. Let the person finish expressing himself before jumping in with your comments. When in doubt, ask for a clarification. Don’t assume or draw your own conclusions.
Also, maintain eye contact. This is a reassuring way of affirming that you are listening and are there. Don’t hold your gaze for too long in a way that may make the other person uncomfortable, neither should you completely avoid their gaze as it may make you seem distant and uninterested in what they have to say. Retain your gaze long enough whenever the person looks over, giving a reaffirming nod once in a while.
Pay attention to non-verbal cues. Communication does not only occur using words. Body language also plays an important role. Pay careful attention to your own body language as well as the other party’s while communicating. Fidgeting, shuffling, wandering eyes and crossed arms may indicate restlessness. Sighing or yawning may suggest boredom or mental or physical exhaustion. Do your best to avoid body language that may hinder good communication and also pay attention to the body language of whoever you’re communicating with, as it may be necessary for you to know when to either stop or restructure your communication.
Ask for feedback. Feedback is important to ensure that everyone involved understands you. Ask for others’ input, thoughts, comments or opinions regarding your communication. This makes them feel valued and respected, and also gives you as the communicator helpful information. In the same way, it is necessary for you to give feedback when you happen to be on the receiving end.
Published in February 2013