As far as life skills go, knowing how to communicate effectively is one of the most important, but seems to be something few people are willing to study. Perhaps they plan to talk louder whenever they’re not understood, or just avoid everyone who won’t put in the extra effort needed to communicate with them. If so, they will find that effective, considerate communication is the easiest way of avoiding conflict and building good relationships whether with a colleague, spouse or friend.Regardless of whether you’re a teacher, a manager, salesman or in any other social role, learning more about conversational skills will reap great benefits and make your daily life much easier.
Remember that It Goes Both Ways
Just because you’ve been talking since you were three years old doesn’t mean that you understand a conversation. The first step towards knowing how to communicate is to realize that it’s as much a reflexive verb as a transient one; in other words, talking isn’t only about telling someone something, but also allowing them to tell you things.
Very frequently, people are only interested in their side of the conversation, interrupting others while they are actually speaking, refusing to concede the valid points other people may have or simply terminating the conversation once they’ve said their piece. This is not only a good way to prevent effective communication, it is also incredibly rude and may cause people to give up speaking to someone who does this too frequently. While most of us will be able to think of a few times when we were mistreated in this way, can we really be sure that we’re never guilty of the same thing?
Pay Attention to Non-Verbal Cues
While we’re thinking about our own conversational habits, we can also probably remember a time or two when we’ve disappointed a friend or partner by saying something truly insensitive at the wrong time. Often, people aren’t comfortable telling others when they’re feeling depressed or anxious, but these emotions will be revealed by their body language. This is definitely not the right moment for you to discuss their future with the company or the things that bother you about their behavior. Instead, wait a few hours or days; be aware of their facial expressions and body language to know when the conversation is heading into troubled waters.
Practice Active Listening
Even when people are speaking the same language, they might still attach slightly different meanings to the same words. Even when they make an effort to discuss something clearly, each person’s interpretation of a statement will be filtered through their own values, priorities, and experiences.
One way to avoid this gap in a conversation is to concentrate only on the person you’re talking to while they speak. All of us have a constant mental dialogue running through our heads, thinking about what we’re going to say next, what we agree with or don’t, and things that aren’t even relevant to what is being discussed. Quieting these internal voices allows us to listen to the actual content of the conversation and understand the other person’s viewpoint. It is often helpful to repeat it back to them using different words to confirm your comprehension and show that you value their point of view, even if you don’t agree with it.
Keep Your Audience in Mind
Especially in public speaking where there are few opportunities for those the speaker is addressing to interact with him. Clear and appropriate communication relies on knowing what the audience is interested in, what they want from a given presentation and what their attention span is. You wouldn’t use college-level language when speaking to a group of teenagers, nor will a group of financial managers be interested in a mass of technical information.
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Psychologists who study conversation will tell us that there is a lot more to it than the words we use; it is not only the message but also the medium that determines how it will be received. Maintaining positive body language, paying attention to the person you’re speaking to and thinking ahead of time about what you want to achieve in a conversation are not the only tools to make the whole process easier – but this is still more than what most people do.