Listening well, speaking clearly and asking the right questions—these skills are vital to your success as a communicator. The good news is that by using a few simple strategies, you can boost your own communication confidence.
The way to avoid ineffective communication patterns is to practice being authentic. This means explaining how you really feel and asking for what you really need.
When you communicate effectively, you’re direct and honest. Believe you have a right to feel what you feel and to ask for what you need. This will help you speak authentically. The following ideas can also help you communicate effectively:
- Speak clearly and simply. Try to say what you mean. If you think you may have trouble saying something you need to say, write it out and practice.
- Make sure your voice matches what you want to say. Does it sound like you’re joking when you want to be serious? Are you mumbling because you think it’s selfish to ask for what you need?
- Be aware of your posture. It’s hard to speak clearly and authentically when you’re slouched over or slumped in a chair.
- Stay in touch with your body. Is your stomach in knots? Is your heart racing? What do these signals tell you about how you’re feeling? Breathe and allow yourself to relax as much as you can.
- Keep your goals in mind. They’ll help you stay in touch with what you need.
- Speak for yourself by using the word “I.” Using the word “you” often means you’re focusing on the other person rather than yourself. The word “I” puts you in touch with your feelings. Instead of “You have no right to say that to me!” say “I get really hurt and angry when you say that to me!”
Respect yourself and others
When you communicate authentically, you respect yourself and the other person. You make sure that the other person hears your feelings and needs, but you also listen to that person’s feelings and needs too.
You show respect when you:
- Choose the appropriate time and place to express your feelings and communicate your needs. For example, asking instructors in front of the class about a mark you feel is unfair puts them on the spot.
- Express yourself as clearly as possible and listen carefully to others when they speak.
- Take responsibility for your own feelings. Don’t put the other person down in order to express yourself.
- Ask people how they feel about what you’ve shared with them and respond to their feelings.
Our brain works a lot faster than our mouth. People at a rate of about 125 words per minute, but our brains turn out ideas at a much faster rate. Our thoughts race ahead while we listen, filling in the space between what the speaker is trying to say and our thoughts. This is why many people have trouble listening. It’s estimated we hear only 25 per cent of what’s said to us.
Here are some ideas to help you become a better listener:
- Make eye contact
- Don’t think of listening time as waiting for your turn to speak.
- Listen to understand.
- Don’t interrupt.
- Listen for the feeling beneath what the speaker is saying.
When you communicate authentically, you bring your whole self—your thoughts, feelings and experiences—with you. You show others that you respect yourself and them too.
When you’re honest and direct, people pay attention. Your voice is heard.