Guide meaningful and impactful conversations.
The average adult speaks at least 7,000 words per day. But how well do those words convey what we actually mean?
Communication lies at the heart of everything we do, in both our personal and our professional lives. We communicate in a wide variety of ways, from our written and spoken words to our tone, body language, and facial expressions. Often, though, we’re not fully aware of the messages we’re conveying, or of how our communication habits impact our daily lives. This lack of awareness can lead to misunderstandings that can even hurt our professional and personal relationships.
In many cases, the current pandemic has changed the avenues by which we communicate with specific people. Weekly personal visits to parents may now be video chats. Your monthly face-to-face team meetings are conference calls. Perhaps you find yourself texting with individuals you typically see in person or talk to on the phone. The channels by which we communicate may be different but it’s importance in our everyday lives is as crucial as ever.
So how can we communicate most clearly and effectively? Here are a few simple tips to help you communicate with more intention.
Think about your message
Fans of The Office might remember Michael Scott saying, “Sometimes I’ll start a sentence, and I don’t even know where it’s going. I just hope I find it along the way.” While that might make for great comedy, it does not make for effective communication! Whether it’s an important client meeting or a talk with your spouse, you need to be clear about what you want to say. Take some time to hone your message. Think about what words best explain your meaning and will have the most impact. Determine a few clear talking points. This will help you from getting off-track during the conversation.
Think about your audience
Are you trying to communicate with your boss? A peer? Your spouse or partner? A child? The needs and knowledge of your audience should inform your communication strategy. This includes the language you use, the level of detail you provide, the use of visual aids and other materials, etc.
You should also think about whether the conversation will be formal or informal and whether you will be talking to one person or a group. Finally, it’s important to consider any cultural norms and expectations or group dynamics that might influence what you say and how your message is received.
It’s a simple fact: we all want to be heard. Often, though, we focus more on what we want to say in a conversation than on what the other person is saying; this leads to disconnect and misunderstandings. Truly effective communication requires active listening. When we listen actively, we are fully engaged in the interaction. Active listening means paying attention not just to the words being said but to the other person’s tone, body language, expressions, and emotions. When we listen in this way, we gain a fuller understanding of what is being communicated and are better able to respond appropriately and effectively. Tips for active listening include:
- Putting away cell phones and other distractions so you can engage your attention fully,
- Avoiding the temptation to interrupt with your thoughts and reactions,
- Using non-verbal cues (eye contact, nodding, smiling) to indicate that you are listening, and
- Paraphrasing the other person’s message and asking for clarification when needed. “What I’m hearing is…” and “Is this what you mean by…?” are great ways to reflect back and promote further discussion.
Use simplicity and repetition
The best communicators don’t beat around the bush or give long-winded explanations. So be concise and to the point! It’s also good practice to reiterate your most important points at the end of the conversation in order to cement them in your listeners’ minds.
Pay attention to non-verbal cues
When we think of communication, talking is usually the first thing that comes to mind. But we communicate just as much, if not more, through non-verbal cues. Things like body language and facial expressions play a huge role in how we impart information. Non-verbal cues to be on the lookout for include:
- Eye contact. Maintaining eye contact during a conversation signals that you are listening and paying attention. If your audience is not maintaining eye contact for long periods, this could indicate that their attention is drifting. In addition, if you avoid eye contact while speaking, your words can come off as aloof or untruthful. While you don’t want to just stare at your audience, remember to check in with genuine eye contact regularly!
- Crossing your arms across your chest or leaning away from someone who is talking can indicate indifference or even hostility. Keeping your posture more open can lead to friendlier, more fluent dialogue. Similarly, a slouched posture can indicate a lack of attention and could be a sign that it’s time to re-engage the other person with direct questions or an opportunity to give feedback.
Pay attention to emotions
If you’ve ever tried to get your point across to your spouse or partner when you’re stressed or upset, you know – strong emotions do not make for effective communication. If you feel yourself or the other person getting stressed, frustrated, or angry, suggest taking a break and resuming the conversation when you’ve had the chance to cool down and regroup.
Just like any other skill, effective communication takes practice. By remembering and using these simple tips, you’ll be well on your way to building stronger personal and professional communications and relationships!
Workplace Solutions is a group of dedicated professionals who provide assistance and resources to individuals and families to create a satisfying and meaningful life. We’re counselors, attorneys, financial professionals and experienced specialists in a wide variety of fields. Because life’s challenges and opportunities show up in a range of different areas, we provide assistance in a number of different ways.