Possessing the ability to speak does not mean we possess the skill to speak well. Communication is the cornerstone of all relationships. It therefore stands to reason that if communication skills are suffering, then so is the relationships. These tips and suggestions will help those who wish to communicate effectively and strengthen their relationships.
Communicating effectively is not necessarily intrinsic to our nature. It is true that some people possess a talent for communication, but everyone can learn to communicate effectively. It merely takes knowledge and practice.
All of the tips given here are meant to be practiced and studied. Communication is much like any other skill. It must be developed.
STUDY GOOD COMMUNICATORS
People who communicate effectively are usually good speakers and writers. Many of them do not necessarily possess a talent for it, but they developed the skill. Study how they string words together. And study the body language of a speaker. Study the sentence structure of a good writer.
There are several things to improve upon:
- Language skills
- Grammar and syntax
The ability to express ideas, thoughts, fears, and hopes is largely predicated upon your range of words. The study of new words (vocabulary) will open your mind to new concepts, ideas, and mental pathways.
Take the word “synergy.” The average person will have no concept of what it means, but if one took the time to look it up and study it, there would be an opening of the mind’s understanding and therefore the strengthening of that mind’s ability to convey a new concept. (We’ll leave it to the reader to look up “synergy.”)
The more ideas and concepts a person understands, the greater his ability to communicate. This is why reading is so important to someone who wishes to communicate well. Reading opens your mind to concepts and ideas that will allow you to apply them to your own life and then convey them to those around you.
LEARN TO LISTEN
There is little doubt that a good listener will also communicate effectively. The person who spends more time talking than listening will struggle making associations between relationships. Listening will grant the listener understanding of problems, situations, people, and ideas.
Relationships are about connecting with people. People will invariably listen to someone they feel has listened to them. In listening, you are able to build connections through understanding, sympathy, and even empathy.
It is essential to the one seeking to communicate effectively that he also learns to listen well.
PREFACE AND RESTATE
Everyone has experienced the sinking feeling of being misunderstood. And no matter how skilled and talented a person may be in regards to communication, someone—somewhere—will misunderstand something he says.
It is therefore imperative that the communicator preface his statements and words when he suspects there is a likelihood someone will misunderstand what he is trying to say. The following examples may help:
- “I’m not sure this will come out right…”
- “I’m not sure how to say this right…”
- “Please forgive me if this doesn’t sound right…”
- “I don’t know a good way to say this…”
These trigger phrases informs the other person, subtly, that there is a fear of a misunderstanding. It usually sets the other person’s judgment aside and gives the communicator the benefit of the doubt. It provides the opportunity to restate something if it is taken wrongly.
Watch body language. If there are signs of a misunderstanding or of confusion, restate the statement using different words and coming from a different angle.
A public speaker, for example, will often say the same thing many different ways. He understands that what connects with one person could possibly be a misunderstanding for another. He will restate it in terms that make it clear to as many people as possible.
Don’t be afraid to preface and restate.
THE POWER OF THE QUESTION
Bar none, a good solid question can become the most powerful tool in the communicator’s arsenal. Asked right, a question can elicit instinctual responses from people that will set them at ease. It will also avoid arguments, disarm anger and frustration, relieve tension, and probe for root causes.
Questions asked in defense or in offense will elicit the exact opposite response. But questions asked for clarification or for more information can actually convey opinions without seeming to contradict.
For example, someone may state, “I don’t believe in God.” Another, who disagrees, may ask, “Did something happen to you to cause you to believe that? Do you know this for a fact, or is it something you believe? Do you think people that do believe in God have the right to believe in Him?” None of these questions will cause an argument, yet they clearly give the asker’s personal opinion on God.
Questions force the other person to evaluate his own statement without the need to verbally defend it. A wife may say to her husband, “You don’t love me!” The wise husband may respond, “Is this something you are feeling all the time, or just right now?” This forces the wife to evaluate her statement. The husband isn’t so much defending himself as seeking the root of her emotions and feelings. It’s a good start to solving the problem.
Here is a very small list of questions that will elicit instinctual reactions from people:
- “Can you help me?”
- “What do you think?”
- “I don’t understand…can you explain?”
- “When did you start feeling this way?”
- “I’m sorry. Do you think it is all my fault?”
These questions subconsciously demand an evaluation of one’s own thinking without seeming to be aggressive.
Learn to use questions in communication and you will communicate effectively.
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