How many words do you speak every day? How many times do you open your mouth and have words spill out without meaning for them to; say something mindless in response to someone else’s mindless chatter or perhaps come out with something deeply profound?
Think about it. Talking is one of the necessities of life. It keeps us mentally alert, keeps us in touch with one another, and keeps us educated, inspired and alive.
There are certain days where I have limited to no contact with other people and feel a little melancholy because of it. When I see another human being I throw words at them like a child who has just learnt to speak for the first time and that’s when I realise just how important communication is to me. (Either that or the fact my Dad says I could talk underwater!)
I don’t know about you but when I have a quality conversation with someone I feel as though I truly come alive and I can feel this wonderful buzz in the pit of my soul.
Also remember communication isn’t just about the language that rolls off our tongues; it’s about nonverbal communication too. The way you hold yourself during a conversation, is your body language open or closed? How present are you to what the other person is saying – and I mean really present? What portion of the conversation are you talking as opposed to listening?
A few months back I attended the Landmark Forum course and one of the biggest ‘take homes’ for me was discovering just how much we as human beings do not communicate effectively and how not present we actually are.
When we are ‘listening’ to other people talk, we are so preoccupied with thinking about what we are going to say next or how we are going to respond that we don’t really hear what the other person is saying. We don’t realise how not present we are until we catch ourselves not being present in that moment. (Mind-boggling isn’t it?)
It may be an assumption of mine, but I am fairly certain most people think communication is about talking, when in fact I believe the real art is listening.
When I look around in day-to-day life I am so amazed at just how little we actively listen to one another. I see it out there in the world; I see it in my own life, in my own home.
I believe effective communication is fundamental for establishing and nurturing quality relationships.
So without further ado, here are my top 7 tips to be an effective communicator:
This is first and foremost. Communication can’t be effective if it isn’t authentic. Granted honesty can sometimes be a scary thought as we fear we may be judged or may possibly hurt the other person, however, I believe we cannot develop quality relationships based on lies. Speak your truth and speak it respectively.
Be really present. Don’t half-heartedly listen while texting on your phone or whilst looking at the latest tweet. Don’t underestimate what it means to be present when you are with someone else. It is mutually beneficial and allows the flow of communication to be a natural and beautiful thing. I can’t tell you how many times I have had conversations where the other person is so unengaged that I don’t see the point in continuing to speak, not to mention how disrespectful I find it.
Next time you’re with someone, give them your open mind and ears and allow their words to enrich you, as yours will them.
LISTEN MORE, TALK LESS
This is where the magic happens. When you actively listen to the other person I guarantee you will learn a whole lot more than listening to the sound of your own voice. What’s even better is that when you give someone your focused attention, they too will communicate more effectively in return.
Be clear about what you are saying. When we poorly communicate and don’t articulately get our point across it’s harder for the other person to understand what we are trying to say and in turn we feel misunderstood. By no means am I saying you need to be an English professor when you speak but do your best to say what you really want to say.
STAY ON POINT
It is very easy to digress in conversations and get lost in musings (trust me I’m great at doing this), but it’s also very hard to remain engaged in a conversation when someone starts talking in nonsensical gibberish.
DON’T INTERRUPT WHEN SOMEONE IS SPEAKING
This is one of my biggest ‘hang ups’ when it comes to communication. Sure a conversation is when two or more people are conversing about different things, however when one party continually cuts the other person off it undermines the conversation. It’s disrespectful to the other person and if you want to have a conversation with yourself you may as well be playing verbal solitaire.
DON’T GIVE ADVICE UNTIL ASKED FOR IT, AND EVEN THEN TREAD CAREFULLY
This can be a bit tricky when it seems only natural to freely give advice, however, the best thing to do when asked for advice no matter who is asking, is to pose a question back to them to guide them to find a solution. Why do I say this? I believe when people have a question and come up with the solution themselves it is far more likely to be beneficial than if ‘dictated’ to. You also run the risk of being in the firing line if your so-called great advice doesn’t serve the person well.
There are numerous ways to be an effective communicator over and above these, so for now let me leave you with this…
How about instead of focusing on what ‘genius’ thing we are going to say next, being distracted and cutting people off, we get rid of the fluff, get present and really listen to what other people have to say? I guarantee your relationships will instantly improve.
“What’s that you say?” Sorry I wasn’t listening. 😉
Remember; life isn’t a dress rehearsal, it’s the main event.
Until we meet again,