Becoming an effective communicator is something that needs to be worked at. All of us will know people whom we think are natural communicators and, if asked, many of us will say things like, “he’s the life and soul of the party”, or “you could put her anywhere and she’d end up chatting to somebody.” And, whilst there’s nothing wrong with either of those statements, there is a marked difference between extroverted people who are able to naturally strike up conversations with complete strangers almost effortlessly and ‘effective’ communicators. And, to become an effective communicator, it all begins with listening.
Become A Good Listener
At the heart of all good communication is the ability to be an attentive listener. It’s all about being conscious of your need to be receptive to what others have to say and to listen to their views and respect them - whether or not you necessarily agree with them. This is especially important if you hold a powerful position where it’s important to encourage others to voice their opinions. Ways in which you can achieve this is through clarification and affirmation. Here are a couple of examples of responses which demonstrate you’ve actually listened to what someone has to say and not just heard them:
Clarification - “I was interested in you saying that you thought introducing flexible working time would be a good idea. Please tell me a little more about why you think that?”
Affirmation - “I can fully empathise with you because the airline lost your luggage. I’d feel annoyed myself.”
Both of the statements above will show the other person that you have truly listened to what they have to say which is the basis for all effective communication.
Using And Observing Body Language
Many people feel some sense of unease or apprehension when being introduced to people they’ve never met before. The problem here is that our body language often gives the game away and makes us appear defensive. As a result, conversations can be difficult and stilted and, even though it may not be our intention, we can come across as aloof, untrustworthy or disinterested if we do not adopt a positive approach to body language. Therefore, to become an effective communicator, it’s important that you stand or sit upright with your arms by your side and maintain good eye contact. Don’t fidget, play with your ear or engage in any other unpleasant habit and a smile and friendly greeting will always be welcomed. Keep your voice level and well modulated and try to relax. Body language is always going to be one of the lasting impressions people will have of us and vice versa, perhaps living in the memory for far longer than what was actually said so it is a key component of effective communication.
In today’s society, we’re likely to meet people from all walks of life. Differences might include cultural or social and economic background, occupation, personality types, differences of opinion etc and it’s by accepting that we’re all different and unique individuals that unlocks the secret to respecting and recognising differences which in turn leads to better understanding and less potential for conflict, resentment and frustration.
Assertive behaviour isn’t the same as aggressive behaviour. It’s perfectly acceptable to say ‘no’ sometimes and to stand up for what you believe in whilst accepting that not everybody will always share your viewpoints. If you want something doing make your point in a friendly and clear manner. So often, communications break down because people are ambiguous in their use of words out of concern that they don’t want to confront a particular issue. An example might be where somebody says:“I suppose it’s the soaps on the TV again tonight?” when what they REALLY want to say is “Would you mind if I watch that documentary about wolves on BBC2 at 8 o’clock.”
The Importance Of Feedback And Recognition
Whether it’s at work or in any personal relationship you have, an effective communicator will always encourage feedback and offer praise and support where it is due. Letting others know that you appreciate their efforts or achievements gives them a sense of self-confidence and accomplishment and by being open in this manner, you’ll usually find you get the same in return. Ultimately, in becoming an effective communicator, it will produce better relationships both in your personal and professional life, will give you more self-esteem and will prevent misunderstandings and resentments and, therefore, also reduces stress.