Six Steps to Improve Your Communication Skills

“When you talk, you are only repeating what you already know. But when you listen, you may learn something new.”
– Dalai Lama

People communicate in a variety of ways. Before there was any sort of language, humans communicated through drawings. Then we communicated through oral language before we learned to write words down. Now language has taken off. We communicate with words and body language to get across our thoughts and opinions. How we communicate says volumes not only about our character but our education. Try these helpful tips to learn how to communicate in the best way possible.

Watch your body language. Let’s say that you’re standing or sitting in a room with your best friend. Both of you are just chit chatting, but you have your arms tightly crossed in front of you. Or, you may have your hand under your chin, nodding at what she or he says. The first gesture indicates that you are closed to new ideas, while the second gesture generally means you’re bored. Now, you start playing with your hair. This indicates that you want your friend to move faster through the conversation. You may not mean to convey these actions but most of the time it’s what they mean.

Try to be conscious of what body language you’re sending to those around you, for each body movement indicates a hint at your hidden thoughts. If you roll your eyes, for instance, this tells the speaker that you are annoyed or do not care to listen to the subject matter of which they are speaking. Tapping your foot, or even drumming your fingers on a table, could signify that you want the person to hurry up, that you’re nervous or that you have somewhere better to be. If you want to be perceived well, look the speaker in the eye. Keep your arms at your sides and a neutral facial expression. This is going to give them a good impression of you.

Put away distractions. In this digital age, how many of us have a conversation without a cell phone in our hands? Or, at the least, sitting within reach of us? Not too many of us can seem to go without that instant gratification. But when you’re talking to another person, make them the priority. Put away your cell phone, tablet or computer and pay attention to them. It’s rude to ignore people–especially when they are talking to you. It’s frustrating when someone asks you to repeat what they said–and the other person looks at you blankly. And, really, why should they repeat what they said when you didn’t care to listen in the first place? If they don’t care about the conversation, then why have it at all?

Consider your audience. You wouldn’t talk to little kids the same way you talk to your boss. Usually how you talk to your minister is different than how you talk to your parents or to your best friend. This is because each audience receives a message differently. With each person, a different style of speaking may be used. With each person, your message may be perceived differently. For instance, you may be super casual with your best friend but professional when speaking to your boss. Always try to keep the other person’s perspective in mind. Be ready to answer their questions with an empathetic and positive outlook. They are there to learn from you. After all, you should want to want to assist them.

Learn to listen. Sometimes we don’t hear everything that is said. We only hear the parts that pertain to us. This is known as selective hearing. But if you’re talking to a person, really listen. I mean really listen. They have interesting thoughts they want to convey to you and it’s important that you hear their viewpoint. Don’t just hear the good points that matter most to you. Listen intently and hear what matters most to them. While you may not always agree with it, it’s always wise to take in the information to chew on later.

Be empathetic. Life doesn’t always go our way. Sometimes it’s going the way of the other person and we have to overcome it. We have to be open-minded and be willing to see the other person’s viewpoint. They are not always wrong and you are not always right. (Sorry.) When you develop this mindset, you’re more likely to get your message across effectively without anxiety. The other people feel less on edge and more that they can trust you to be a good companion and friend.

Keep your emotions in check. It’s vital you keep your emotions in control when someone is talking to you. If you’re stressed out or put up a defensive wall, this tells the other person you don’t care and they are more inclined to push away. Instead of taking a negative reaction, hear out what they have to say. Ask them questions in a calm, polite tone and let them answer them. This is the best way to really involve yourself in the conversation. They are more likely to trust you if you’re calm then if you respond to what they say with anger or rage.

Have more tips? I would love to hear about them. Leave them in the comments.

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