It sounds so easy… “Go out there and talk to people like you mean it.”
However, what you say might be different to how they perceived it.
Have you ever said something that was supposed to be a good thing, and somehow it’s been lost in communication and the other person feels offended?
Or, those times when what you say sounded so clear and intelligent in your head, but when say it out loud, you feel like an idiot?
The good thing is, communication can be improved over time, so you don’t have to hide under your blanket and cringe at the thought of making a fool of yourself whenever you talk to people.
We’ve all been there …
There are ways on how you can effectively talk to people, so you can minimize these… “moments.”
Know What Communication Is
Before we start, you should first know what communication really is. Based on Webster’s definition, communication is the act or process of using words, sounds, signs or behaviours to express or exchange information or to express your ideas, thoughts, feelings, etc., to someone else.
Having effective communication skills means that both you and the one you’re talking too understand each other… and not just throwing your ideas or thoughts to one another.
And as mentioned in the definition, it’s not just limited to talking. Communication can also be seen in the way your body moves and the tone of your voice – verbal or written.
How to Improve Your Communication Skills
1. Listen Attentively
This is one of the things that I always emphasize when it comes to talking to other people.
You have to listen.
And not just listen so you’ll know how to respond, but to understand what the person is trying to convey.
Don’t interrupt them when they are talking.
Focus on what they are saying, how they say it, how they move. Show interest and ask them questions so they’ll talk some more.
2. Watch Your Own Body Language
I’m sure you’ve already read somewhere that crossing your arms while talking to people means that you are “not really open to the conversation.”
Not facing them and keeping an eye contact means that you are “not really interested in what they have to say.”
Remember, an effective communication is two-way and not just you talking to yourself.
Make sure that the message that you’re trying to convey matches the movements of your body.
For example, if you say you’re happy but you’re not smiling, would the person you’re talking to believe you? Or if you’re trying to discipline a team member but you’re smiling, do you think that will be effective?
It may seem silly, but how you display yourself matters at all times, so try to show yourself as you want to be perceived.
3. Volume, Tone and Speed
This is similar to body language.
You have to match it with what you’re trying to say.
Even written messages have tones in them by using punctuation marks (so be careful with those exclamation points and question marks!)
Be sure to use the proper volume, dependant on the situation.
Lower your voice when talking close to each other, and speak louder when talking to an audience.
Talking faster could mean that you’re too nervous and talking too slowly could show that you think the person you’re talking too is ‘unable’ to understand– which is not how we want them to feel.
You can talk slowly when you’re trying to make a point, but not too slow where you’ll sound boring, and not for too long, otherwise you will sound as though you can not speak properly.
4. Empathize But Be Assertive
Empathizing with the person you’re talking to means that you’re trying to feel how they feel so you’ll know how to form your words in a way that they will understand.
How the person you’re talking to feels is important, but your own ideas and feelings matter to.
So don’t just give in all the time, you have to give them a piece of yourself as well.
5. Know What You’re Trying to Say – Before You Say It
Remember the saying, “Think before you speak”?
Yes, it still applies.
When you’re trying to say something, but you can’t explain to yourself, then you won’t be able to explain it to someone else.
So have confidence, and form your words properly in your head before you say them out loud. This way you’re sure to convey the right message.
You might ask “how are I supposed to apply all of these while speaking and at the same time be be myself?”
There’s no harm in practicing how to speak to other people. It’s better than making a fool out of yourself when the talking time comes.
Practicing will make you feel silly at time, but it will make it a lot easier to get it right.
Let us know how you go!