Some people just naturally have the “gift of gab,” while others find it difficult to communicate what they think or feel. And way too often we just talk past each other. It’s a known fact that body language actually plays more a part in what is communicated than what is actually said.
The following are some simple rules to help you to become a more effective communicator. By effective, I mean getting your message across in a concise and clearly understood manner.
1) Be a focused listener.
Listening requires focussing on what is being said as well as the body language and other cues that accompany the message. Learning how to become a good listener takes practice on learning to focus on the speaker and not tuning out even if you think you know what is going to be said. Look and focus on the speaker. Do not let yourself get distracted. If you are engaged in a personal, face-to-face conversation, move as close to the speaker as possible and look them in their eyes. If you sense the speaker is uncomfortable with the space between speaker and listener, back off until you see they are more comfortable with the distance. Focus all your attention on what the speaker is saying and try not to be thinking of your rebuttal or next question while they are speaking. It is a fact that we are linear thinkers and most of us find it difficult to digest more than one idea or input at a time.
Here is a very important point when it comes to being a good listener: If you don’t understand what is being said, you can do one of two things: 1) Ask the speaker to repeat what was said; or 2) Feedback what you think the speaker just said and let them correct you if there was a misunderstanding. In fact, if what is being said is considered important, it is always a good idea to feedback what you think you just heard.
2) Respect the communicator.
As mentioned, the context of the communication can dictate the “emotional factors” of the communication. Try to be respectful and do not interrupt the speaker, even if you know you are opposed to what they are saying. Try not to react spontaneously without thinking first not only about what you are going to say but also how you think the listener will respond. This can demand a force of self-discipline, but when emotions get too high, conversations can become counter-productive. Indeed, if you find that the conversation has turned aggressive or overly adversarial; ask yourself if getting engaged is worth the time and psychic energy. If not, it may make sense to divert the conversation to another topic or gracefully withdraw altogether. What you don’t say, can’t hurt you. Indeed, if you feel you are getting angry or emotionally affected, make yourself smile and beg off. If you choose to plunge ahead, ask yourself why? Is it your ego? Does anyone really care? However, if it becomes a must respond situation, try to lower the emotional component and think at least twice of what you are about to say.
Keep in mind that your subconscious body language may be affecting the mood of the conversation. Take a breath and step back. Too many conversations have little to do with the actual content of the conversation and more about the emotional component that lurks underneath. Indeed, some conversations are not worth having if they cannot be carried out in a respectful manner.
3) Keep your message as clear and concise as possible.
Many of us tend to “shoot from the hip” when trying to get our point across. Our mind works much faster than our lips. I find that making a conscious effort to tell yourself, “Slow down and keep it simple.”
If the subject of the conversation is complex, it makes good sense to try to organize your thoughts as if you were writing an essay: A topic sentence that provides an overview and several supporting ideas. Then, visit the supporting ideas and summarize the key ideas. If you see the confusion on the face of the listener, ask them if they have any questions. Wait for them to think and respond.
4) Be patient answering questions and keep an open mind.
You may be convinced of the correctness of what you are saying, but if your listeners have questions, it is wise and respectful to hear them out and listen to what they are saying. They may have an important point for you to learn. Do not let your ego get in the way of your time to listen. We learn from each other, and there are many ways to interpret our complex world. We should all take the attitude of being a humble student and teacher.
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