We are all communicators by nature. For many, it can be an attribute that runs in the background going largely unnoticed. But when improved upon, proper communication can enhance nearly every facet of our lives. No matter your aspirations, expressing your thoughts clearly is integral to getting the most out of wherever life takes you.
Adapt to the Situation
It’s common sense that you wouldn’t speak to your boss the same way that you would a child. But some instances aren’t so obvious. Realistically, every person you encounter is an individual with their own unique personality. This means you may need to modify your tone and word choice from person to person. Additionally, each situation will call for a different approach to communication. What is deemed appropriate at a work party may be very different than what is acceptable back in the office. Consider who you are talking to and under what circumstances. If you can meet people where they are, your words will be much more powerful.
Be Aware of Your Mannerisms
To communicate successfully, our mannerisms should always reinforce the point we are trying to make. People will notice if there’s ever a disconnect between the words you say and the story that your body language is telling them. Eye contact, hand signals and even posture are some of the universal gestures that others will pick up on during conversation. The easiest way to avoid any sort of discrepancy is to always say what you mean. When we firmly believe something, our nonverbal cues are more likely to naturally fall in line.
Keep Your Emotions in Check
Most of the interactions we have can benefit from a healthy dose of emotion, but a little goes a long way. Someone who is visibly overwhelmed with emotion will often be perceived as an unreliable source of information. Rather than letting your feelings steal the show, try to keep your composure and focus on the logical side of what you’re presenting. People will be much more receptive to your ideas, and you’ll lessen the risk of embellishing statements you will later have to walk back. It’s good to be passionate at times, but make sure you don’t get carried away.
Think Before You Speak
During conversation, we can feel pressured to respond quickly. Some worry that a moment of contemplation could be mistaken for weakness or indicate that they are ill-informed on the subject. On the contrary, taking time to formulate your thoughts will signal to the other person that you care deeply about what you’re saying. A calculated speaker is also less likely to overshare or misrepresent their stance on something. Not all silence is awkward, so don’t be afraid to pause and reflect whenever necessary. People will be more impressed by your valuable insight than they will be with rapid conversational skills that don’t amount to much.
Go with the Flow
In spite of preconceived notions, discussions rarely play out exactly how we envision them. It’s for this reason that we should prepare ourselves for the unexpected turns conversations are bound to make. It’s unrealistic to enter dialogues expecting the other participants to stick to a script we have in our heads. Communication isn’t a one-way street, so don’t disregard someone’s comment just because it happens to deviate from what you wish to discuss. There will always be another opportunity to say your piece, and they will appreciate you indulging in what they have to say.
Practice Makes Progress
As with most things, the best way to build on your communication skills is to practice regularly. Assuming you already converse with others from time to time, this doesn’t have to involve going out of your way at all. As a matter of fact, each time you talk with another person in your daily life is a chance to hone these abilities. Just be sure to make the most out of even the briefest of exchanges. If you know anyone who you regard as particularly skillful in this area, perhaps take note of their behaviors the next time you interact with them.
The ability to communicate effectively is indispensable. Both our work and personal lives rely on us adequately conveying what we think and how we feel. Sadly, many struggle with this process of externalizing the internal in a way that is palatable to others. But by working toward more deliberate communication, it doesn’t have to be like taking a shot in the dark.