Communication may be considered a “soft skill,” but it is nonetheless a good one to have. Effective communicators often excel in the workplace, as they know how to use both language and logic to fulfill their professional goals.
Outside of work, good communication also enriches people’s personal relationships. It matters a lot when someone knows exactly what words to say to a friend or family member, and when exactly to say them. The conversation can serve to affirm the other person, resolve conflict with them, or learn something new about them.
Some people are naturally good communicators, but some aren’t. Others may find it easy to communicate in certain situations, but feel like they fall short in others.
If you are the type of person who feels like their communication skills could use a little work, don’t fret too much. With a little practice, you’ll be well on your way to becoming a more articulate, more empathetic, and more effective communicator.
Below are five communication tips that you can use in a variety of situations, whether they pertain to drafting a work email, settling an argument with a friend, or even finding encouraging words for someone in rehab. Try these and see what effect they have on your communication style!
1. Center Your Communication on a Specific Purpose
One mistake that a lot of people make is entering a conversation without a clear sense of purpose. When that happens, they often forget what they want to achieve, stumble on the words they’ll use, or drag the conversation for longer than it needs to be.
That said, whenever you have to communicate something important, make it your priority to get your point across. In professional settings, this could be a case of getting the person to answer a question or making sure they understood your instructions. In personal situations, this could be a matter of letting the other person know you are there for them or learning exactly how you can help them.
So before entering a conversation, take a deep breath and remind yourself of what it is you want to do. You’ll be surprised how much of a difference it will make to the outcome.
2. Learn to Articulate Your Thoughts to Yourself
Ever find yourself getting flustered and jumbling your thoughts mid-sentence? This usually isn’t a problem during casual conversation, but it can be if you are articulating ideas in a meeting or presenting in front of an audience.
Everyone gets tongue-tied every now and then, but if you want to keep this from happening in important situations, you must first master the art of articulating your thoughts to yourself.
Think of yourself as the very first sounding board you have for your own ideas. Before speaking your thoughts, try writing them down or taking a voice recording of yourself. See if the words you are using sound natural and appropriate, and if they don’t, take the time to choose others.
There is no harm in making a short script and rehearsing some phrases. In fact, doing so could make you more confident while you are communicating and give your audience the impression that you are thoughtful and well-prepared.
3. Adjust to the Medium of Communication
Along with the words you use, you should also think about your tone when you are communicating. This may differ depending on what medium or channel you are using to reach out to someone. You may sound warm and friendly enough when you are speaking to someone face-to-face, but come off as standoffish and intimidating in your text or email messages.
It would definitely be a good idea to ask your friends, family members, or colleagues how you come across to them when you communicate through different channels.
Aim to be as authentic as you can to your personality, but adjust your communication style to fit the medium. For example, if you are texting, it won’t hurt to include an emoticon or two in your messages to make your feelings clear to your recipient.
4. Ask Questions and Repeat Keywords
Always keep in mind that communication involves an exchange. It is easy to get caught up in your ideas because you are so passionate about them or because you feel like you urgently need to share your side. But in doing so, you may end up dominating the conversation and alienating the people on the other end of it.
To be a good communicator, you must learn how to listen, how to invite other people to contribute to the discussion, and how to assure them that they are getting their own points across. Some ways that you can do this are asking them meaningful questions, repeating their own words back to them to clarify what they mean, and pausing in between sentences to give them the opportunity to share.
If you do this often enough, you’ll get a good feel of when to start speaking, and then when to stop and let others guide the conversation.
5. Pay Attention to Body Language as Well as Spoken Words
In face-to-face settings, body language is just as important as words spoken aloud. When you are the one communicating, always be conscious about how you comfort yourself.
Keep a straight back and maintain eye contact with other people so that you come off as focused and sure of yourself. At the same time, don’t be afraid to change your facial expression and make hand gestures. These will give people the impression that you’re engaging with them, and will also make you seem more approachable.
Conversely, pay as much attention as you can to other people’s body language when they are interacting with you. If they seem tense, put a little more distance between them and yourself until it looks like they’ve relaxed. You can also modulate your voice and calibrate your eye contact with them.
Knowing how to “read the room” takes practice, but you’ll be thankful for the improvements to both your verbal and non-verbal communication skills.
Not everyone is born a gifted orator or mediator, but anyone can pick up good communication skills. In addition to the tips mentioned above, practice how to be an effective communicator by playing to your strengths.
Bring your sense of humor, intelligence, warmth, or sincerity into your conversations with other people, and make these a cornerstone of your communication style. Not only will that help you become a successful communicator—it will transform you into the communicator that you truly want to be.
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I am Adeyemi Adetilewa, a media consultant, entrepreneur, husband, and father. Founder and Editor-In-Chief of Ideas Plus Business Magazine, online business resources for entrepreneurs. I help brands share unique and impactful stories through the use of public relations, advertising, and online marketing. My work has been featured on the Huffington Post, Thrive Global, Addicted2Success, Hackernoon, The Good Men Project, and other publications.