How well do you communicate? Lots of people are poor communicators, so much that public speaking is the number one fear.
Poor communication can lead to difficult relationships, lost jobs, and plain ol’ stress. Want to become a better communicator? Start with these six secrets to kick off your journey to communicating better in all areas of life.
1. Good Communicators Ask Unique Open-Ended Questions
Remember in elementary school when you would come home and your parents would say, “Did you learn anything in school today?”
You’d shrug and reply, “Eh, not really,” and that was the end of it.
That’s hardly a conversation! Good communicators go beyond the basics and ask unique open-ended questions, whether they’re giving a presentation or talking in everyday conversation. These types of questions open the floor for a deeper and more meaningful conversation.
For instance, instead of asking your child if he learned anything in school today, you could ask what made him smile today. Or when you notice that a friend is upset, instead of asking if she is okay, you could ask her to tell you what’s bothering her. After she gives a little information, you could dig even deeper. Psych Central suggests questions such as:
- How does that make you feel?
- What is the worst part?
- What are you trying to achieve?
- What would you prefer instead?
2. Good Communicators Shift Focus to Their Audience
Good communicators don’t talk about themselves; otherwise fewer people would listen. They’re constantly evaluating their audience and putting the focus on them. For instance, you might be giving a presentation to a group of kids. The words you use and the way you speak will be different than if you’re talking on the same subject to a group of adults.
But it’s not always that simple. Let’s say you’re developing web copy for a company’s marketing campaign. You’re given the task of communicating the product’s benefits to the target audience. Instead of focusing the conversation on the product and all its incredible features, a good communicator will focus on the audience first and then describe how the product’s features will help solve the audience’s problems.
You can do the same thing when you’re telling a personal story. Sure, you’re talking about yourself, but if you frame it in a way that shows how it benefits your audience and more people will listen and understand your message.
3. Good Communicators Don’t Beat Around the Bush
Time.com says that being honest is an important path to better communication. Instead of shying away from comfortable conversations, don’t be afraid to get things out in the open.
Art Markman, PhD, told Time.com, “Be straightforward with people when the complaint is one that directly affects your relationship. Beating around the bush runs the risk that they will not understand your message.”
Whether you’re trying to break up with someone or dreading giving your team bad news, it’s better to be straightforward. Be sure you’re not avoiding the conversation, putting it off, or trying to break the news in a creative way.
4. Good Communicators Prepare and Revise Their Thoughts
Have you ever been told that you don’t have a filter between your brain and your mouth? Perhaps you realized that yourself. That can be a sign of a poor communicator. While you’ll likely always be straightforward, you may also have a tough time getting your point across.
Good communicators take time to think about what they’re going to say, how they’re going to say it, and how their audience will react. This thought process might take them hours if they’re drafting a speech, or it might take a few moments in everyday conversation.
Instead of blurting out every little thing on your mind, ask yourself if the comment is appropriate, if it needs to be said, or if there’s a better way to say it. A good communicator will rethink what words he or she will use to get the message across most effectively.
While this technique can take time to become habit, it is something you can teach yourself to do. Start by taking a breath for a moment before you begin speaking so that you have a bit more time to think about what you’re going to say and how you’re going to say it.
5. Good Communicators are Confident
US News says that “confidence is queen when it comes to effective communication.” Having confidence while you’re talking, writing, or communicating in any other way helps in several ways:
- It keeps others interested and confident in your ideas.
- It makes your message easier to listen to and understand.
- It helps you become a better listener.
To show confidence while you’re communicating, be sure to maintain eye contact, avoid filler sounds like “um,” maintain good posture, and get to the point quickly without beating around the bush (see #3). Chances are, the more you act like you’re confident, the more confident you’ll become.
6. Good Communicators Stop Talking When Appropriate
Both a good and a bad communicator could go on and on for hours. The difference is that a good communicator knows when to stop talking. This is a good thing in countless situations. When you know when to stop talking:
- It keeps you from adding unnecessary information to the conversation.
- It keeps you from rudely interrupting.
- It helps you organize your thoughts.
- It gives you a chance to really listen and understand what the other person is saying.
If you’re engaged in an argument, it’s best to take a deep breath and pause for a minute. Listen to what the other person is saying, and try to understand where they’re coming from. Use this time to decide what you’re going to say next and how your words will change the conversation. This simple tip alone can help you deal with arguments at home, direct conversation in business meetings, or even reach a solution to a problem via email.
Did you learn something here? Then don’t be afraid to share with your friends! Tweet this post as your first act of becoming a better communicator.