The Best Thing for Great Relationships… and to Get What You Want
“The way we communicate with others and with ourselves ultimately determines the quality of our lives.” – Tony Robbins
Communication affects all areas of our lives, business and personal. But do you ever wonder whether you could be communicating better?
Relationships are important and are perhaps the most important factor of life satisfaction and emotional well-being (Reis and Gable). Therefore, isn’t it of utmost importance to cherish relationships, continue to build on them and communicate effectively in order to enhance rather than damage them?
Being an effective communicator starts with being an effective listener. You should show a genuine interest in the other person while they are talking. Don’t be the person who is always talking. You should try to listen more than you speak. Once you have asked a question, be quiet and allow the other person to answer it in their own time.
Good listeners don’t interrupt the other speaker and they don’t judge. They think before responding, they face the speaker and they’re close enough to hear and watch non-verbal cues. They are also aware of their own biases that may distort what they hearing. They look for the basic assumptions that underlie remarks, concentrate on what is being said and don’t insist on having the last word.
More effective communication occurs when you ask open-ended questions. Don’t ask questions that can be answered with a simple yes or no as this can quickly delay any conversation. When you are talking, show that you are hearing what the other person is saying by verifying it. When you are verifying, you are taking part of what the other person said and repeating it by saying, ‘Are you saying…?’ or ‘Do you mean…?’ in front of it. When engaged in a conversation with someone, ask for additional details to show your level of interest.
When you first meet someone, make sure that you hear their name and use it straightaway to help you remember it. If you normally have difficulty remembering names, use a word association trick or alliteration. For example, ‘Cate is a caterer’ or ‘Peter likes pizza’. Although it may sound silly, it actually works.
Interestingly, 95% of communication is actually non-verbal. Non-verbal cues, or body language, involve posture, eye movement, tone of voice, facial expressions and hand gestures. When talking to someone, eye contact (without staring) shows that you are confident. You should also be aware of your body language when talking to someone else. Crossed arms or legs can indicate defensiveness or being unreceptive.
Perception checking is used to understand the feelings behind what is being said by the other person. The easiest way to do this is to describe your impressions of a person’s feelings at any given time, avoiding sounding approving or disapproving, and they will respond accordingly.
Effective communicators use sentences with ‘I’. Using sentences with ‘I’ reflects a person’s own views and gives a description without blame or criticism. By using an ‘I’ sentence, the other person is less likely to become defensive, and the message is more likely to be heard and received. For example, an ‘I’ statement might be ‘When you didn’t call, I worried that something may have happened to you.’
Effective Communication Involves the Following:
- Listening: Good listening skills and showing a genuine interest in what the other person is saying are attributes of a successful communicator.
- Using Names: When meeting people, make sure you hear the person’s name and use it right away so you will remember it (use a word association trick or alliteration if that helps). If you are not sure what the person said, ask him/her to repeat it, as it can get awkward when you’ve known them for a while and still don’t know their name).
- Getting to the Point: Show value for people’s time by being as concise as possible when giving information (don’t ramble or feel the need to give lengthy, unnecessary details). Give important and relevant information only.
- Letting Others Talk: Don’t be the person who does all the talking. What you are saying may be of interest only to you, and by talking you are not hearing/learning anything new. Keep the other person in mind, giving them a chance to be a part of the conversation too. Look for signals of whether you may be boring your listener and ask questions to involve them in the conversation.
- Using Non-verbal Language: 95% of our communication is non-verbal, so be aware of non-verbal communication and keep it consistent with your message.
- Creating an Atmosphere of Openness: When communicating with someone, give them your undivided attention by not keeping physical barriers (such as desks) between you. Avoid trying to communicate in a busy area and keep your focus on the other person.
Communication is your door to financial wealth, loving relationships and all that is good in life. Communication is the most talked about, and least understood area of human behavior. Our ability to communicate in so many ways is unique to humans.
People who do not have the ability to speak can be wonderful communicators. The loss of one or two senses can certainly impair communication, but it does not have to stop communication.
Effective communication is rarely taught and even more rarely learned in our society. It is difficult to communicate effectively if you don’t know what you want to achieve in the communication. You should therefore consider the following questions:
- What precisely do I want from the communication?
- What does the other person want or what are they likely to want?
- What is the least I will accept from the communication?
- What problems could come up from communication?
- How will I deal with each one, and if possible, use the problem as a BENEFIT for the other person?
- How will I bring the communication to a conclusion?
It’s also important to be aware of what others’ needs and wants, or, put more simply, values are. Everyone has values, but values differ from person to person. Learning the key values of other people is therefore paramount to being an effective communicator.
In many instances people enjoy talking about themselves. It is therefore important to establish rapport with people by asking them about their highly valued feelings, thoughts and interests. Rapport is a close and harmonious relationship in which the people or groups concerned understand each other’s feelings or ideas, and communicate well. The ability to build and maintain rapport in communication is one of the key skills of an extremely effective communicator.
The ability to politely and effectively close a cycle of communication is a skill that takes a while to master. Closure is the ability to acknowledge the other person, thanking them and confirming that what was said was understood. Closure is the final step in any cycle of communication. If someone walked out of a room, hung up the phone, switched subjects mid-conversation without explaining why and so forth, then the previous communication did not end as there was no closure.
When complete cycles of communication are not accomplished, it leaves the other person with feelings of frustration and often disappointment. For closure in communication to occur, it is not necessary to agree with the other person if you are not prepared to. Instead, you just need to acknowledge that you understand what was said. It is extremely important to close each cycle of communication.
Most people aim to be interesting when they should rather aim to be interested. The truly successful communicator is a curious person who wants to know more about other people. They are fascinated by what other people can share with them, and what knowledge they can impart. You may wonder how you could possibly be interested in some people with whom you have nothing in common. If what interests them doesn’t interest you, try to discover how they became interested in that activity, how they became so excited about it and what experiences they had which started their fascination.
Can you relate to this? Comment below with your thoughts and tips on improving communication.