What is Effective Communication?
I beg your Pardon……
Could you repeat that, please?…..
I don’t get it…..
Do these expressions sound familiar? Haven’t you faced situations where effective communication had a lot of barriers? When you don’t get it right or don’t hear it right or don’t pay attention to the message, do you try to find out what the exact problem is? It’s natural to make errors, confuse the listener or even misunderstand the message. But do you ever wonder why and how we argue, get the wrong impression or even hate someone when you make a conversation?
When you interact you make use of almost all of our senses. We naturally get inclined towards an impressive communicator. Not necessarily it’s their fluency of language which draws our attention but in fact, it’s their proficiency to create and maintain healthy relations which set them apart. They hope to eliminate the errors and develop this knack of smart skills leads to invoking our effective communication skills.
The way you say it, comprehend, encode, decode and respond makes all the difference. The reason we prefer talking to some people more than the rest is simply not because we only share common interests but then these people possess the gift to kindle interesting conversations at any given point. They can easily stimulate you to open up, share and feel comfortable at the same time. Also, their tactic of conveying a message elegantly can be totally mesmerizing!
Hence who wouldn’t like to take control and learn a few fundamentals of effective communication!
Ways to Enhance your Communication Skills
Here are 7 ways that would help you for effective communication and to enhance your skills as a conversationalist.
- Listen to understand and relate- Be mentally present in the conversation.
- Be spontaneous, don’t hesitate to be verbal about your instinctive thoughts.
- Create a subtle bond discreetly- Ask prompting questions and try to understand opinion.
- Don’t belittle yourself or focus on possible language errors.
- Smile, gaze and use the right gestures at appropriate times.
- Do not repeat your point or thought.
- Share, learn and enjoy the process.
1. Listen to understand and relate – Be mentally present in the conversation
A few experts estimate that the mind thinks between 60,000-80,000 thoughts per day. That’s an average of 2500-3300 thoughts per hour.
Most of these thoughts are repetitive ones and might have a kind of negative energy in them. For instance worries, anxieties, insecurities, fears, uncertainties, etc, which naturally drifts you into total oblivion. Hence monitoring the wandering mind can be quite a task.
It becomes imperative to keep a check whether the mind is alert when someone is talking to you; as most of us just hear things out and do not clearly listen to understand. We are too much in a hurry to respond based on our own perceptions. At times conveying our point of view is more important to us rather than comprehending the actual information which is being shared. We do not mind deviating from the topic even if it may lead to conflict, a pointless argument, and chaotic disputes. The strong urge to satisfying our ego strives to win the argument no matter what! Well, generally the wandering mind could be the culprit in such situations.
Have you ever noticed a couple fighting? Or two best friends quarreling? Or the general arguments which occur in meetings? If you aren’t actually a part of these at that particular point you may learn a lot of things out of such incidences. A third person’s perspective can be very lucid to see the problem as it is and resolve it in an effective manner. Simply because, if he illustrates what he actually witnesses, it would make people laugh on their silly approach if they can review the same situation with an open mind.
How much time do we waste in proving the unnecessary substance and how much difference would it make if you can keep your ego aside while communicating with anyone?
So having patience is the key. Active listening is important. Also, our disinterest in people, boredom and emotional instability make us weak as a listener. It’s simple if you want your message to be heard and understood by others, that’s exactly what others expect from you. When we consciously make an effort to be mentally present in any kind of conversation and provide undivided attention to the message it makes the conversation easier. The speaker may have a lot of points which you can connect to or might have experienced, heard or said before. Hence if you have the ability to be an attentive listener, instantly people would feel at ease to converse and valued to be around you.
2. Create a subtle bond discreetly- Ask prompting questions and try to understand the opinion
“I was going to ask about your fractured foot but last week I got so busy……. I heard of your engagement but I just couldn’t believe it…….”
We are aware of all such excuses. In today’s age, people are no longer fools that they can not hear the fakeness behind such excuses. It’s like both the parties just pretend not to have noticed the truth. Generally, these are false attempts to create or maintain goodwill.
You don’t have to become a liar to ensure that your relationship is intact. In fact, it makes your relationship worse. Society norms, structures sometimes compel you to do things that you generally won’t. Transforms you into someone you are originally not.
Break that stereotype and try to be real. Wouldn’t you prefer a brutally honest person over a fake unreliable liar? People prefer to be in a company of a person who is responsive not to please someone but genuine with his motives. It isn’t difficult to spot a liar. Someone who may complement your attire and the next moment asks for a favour to solve his problem is not a very trustworthy individual. Compliment someone when you actually notice their unique qualities, behaviour, gestures, bravery, talent, beauty or skill. When you do that, it automatically shows in your voice tone, facial expressions, and body language. These non-verbal factors add authenticity to your message.
However, when you avoid the fake path and choose to be yourself, that makes things much more sorted. Making people talk comfortably is an art and to be good at it surely takes time. When you seek out to know someone out of curiosity, you tend to ask them questions.
If you happen to meet your colleague in a hallway after a long weekend, instead of starting with “Hi, what’s up? Did you have lunch?,” replace it maybe with some common thread such as, “Hey, did you try river rafting when you had gone to Kolad?”. Anyone can strike up an interesting conversation only if they are ready to leave the conventional ideas which they have been following. Ask advice when you have doubts, “Hey you can suggest better, what would be more beneficial investing in shares or mutual funds since you have been investing for the past many years.” Recognize other’s talent, appreciate it and then politely seek their help. Make someone feel special, important not only to get your work done but to really understand their perspective and honour their expertise.
3. Be spontaneous – Don’t hesitate to be verbal about your instinctive thoughts
“Oh no, I knew this already. Only if I could have opened my mouth at the right time during the interview”
You feel this when you regret not being able to express your talent when there’s an opportunity. After the speech or presentation, we sit relaxing with our colleagues or friends and may discuss the list of changes you missed to woo the audience.
And this is how you exactly feel when you don’t say something at the right time. Do not hold yourself back if there is any relevant thought that comes to your mind. They say no question is a stupid question. Similarly, if you are sensible enough to realize what to say when then there should not be any apprehension in your mind.
Suppose, there’s a group of people standing at a party or a casual gathering and they are having a discussion related to the hospitality industry of the recent trends, job markets, new hotels, threats, etc and you (being an experienced and passionate hotelier) are happened to overhear their conversation as you pass by. Wouldn’t your interest get aroused to join them? May be shared a few insights, your learning, experiences? Listen to a few, discover some new information? These and many impulses will cross your mind the moment you come near them.
Seize this opportunity. Sometimes only having abundant knowledge of some subject doesn’t make you a great conversationalist. In fact, if you make a habit of not being shy, just stop by and join such random discussions that surely contribute to enhance your ability to be a better talker. It definitely boosts your confidence and gives you a platform to test your skills.
Be vocal about whatever you feel at that particular moment; do not overthink the consequences. As long as you know that you are enthusiastic to share something then don’t worry about whether it will be right or wrong. Will it make you look stupid in front of a crowd? Will you be able to convey your thought successfully? No need to let this kind of dilemma weaken your confidence. Speak out, don’t hesitate!
4. Don’t belittle yourself or focus on possible language errors
‘With realization of one’s own potential and self-confidence in one’s ability, one can build a better world’- Dalai Lama
Many of us are way too scared of the English language, especially the people who don’t have it as a native tongue. It has become a global lingo certainly because it’s one of the easiest languages in the world. And any language can be learned if you start listening, watching and using it while talking. There are a lot of sources available if you think you need to improve your diction. The modern age has brought so many technologically advanced options to choose from. Gadgets that can be utilized any time anywhere, apps that have all types of topics, the internet which serves all purposes and many more advantages available for any eager learner.
That’s why when you feel you are not that great at speaking, don’t whine; just take a step towards the various solutions available around you. We feel ashamed of making mistakes, sometimes mispronouncing or having a poor vocabulary. But if you keep mum out of this inferior feeling you will never be able to correct yourself.
The fact is nobody is born fluent; everyone has a different kind of gifts. Over the years if you explore, introspect and give yourself a chance then you can identify and nurture your gift. So there could be people who have a genuine interest in languages, speaking, developing interpersonal skills they will surely become powerful talkers (For e.g. Sales professionals, consultants, lawyers, motivational speakers, etc.) one day. And then there are those who possess diverse qualities directly not related to language or effective communication (For e.g. Digital artists, painters, musicians, etc). But if you notice even these professionals got to deal with people and ultimately have to communicate in order to sell their art. Maybe not as much as others but the basic need to be able to convey their message to their audience or vendors is inevitable. Hence it always helps to learn and nurture the smart skills of dealing with anyone.
When you underestimate yourself due to low confidence while communicating you sabotage the other great qualities as well which you possess. In order to present your other skills efficiently, the first thing is to get rid of the worry of making errors. It’s completely okay to make errors and be open to corrections. Befriend the effective communicators, open up with them, and request them to correct your mistakes. Remember, this is how you will learn. Unless you push yourself to develop beyond embarrassment you will always be trapped in the cycle of negative thinking and disappointment.
So brace yourself and dare to speak if you have anything valuable to share. Answer when someone asks in a group filled with all fluent speakers, “Hey why do you always keep so quiet?”, say aloud your fearful thoughts, “Not because I am an introvert or don’t have anything to contribute but just a bit concerned whether you all will support if my speech and style aren’t effective enough to convey my message!” When you are bold enough to accept your weaknesses gracefully, trust me there are many who are willing to extend a helping hand.
5. Smile, gaze and use right gestures at appropriate times
Research done by the psychologist Albert Mehrabian shows that our effective communication contains 3 things. The 3 V’s Visual, vocal and verbal, has different degrees of impact.
How would you feel when someone praises you saying “Congratulations, you did a great job!”, without looking in your eyes, with a grumpy face and dull tone. Would you really believe in their words? You might doubt the speaker’s intention. And if the same expression is supported with a firm handshake, stable eye contact, smile and a warm voice then you will feel genuinely appreciated and pleasant about the compliment.
They say we speak the most when we actually don’t open our mouth; hence it’s believed that non-verbal effective communication has major importance in any kind of interaction. It’s our facial expressions, gestures, postures which speak first, then the tone of our speech and lastly the actual words.
As per the diagram above we consider that any effective communication has 55% importance to body language, 38% to the voice tone and the remaining 7% to the usage of words. Hence one has to be equally careful about the non-verbal signals being sent to others. Mostly we do not pay much attention to how something is being said as we only focus our mind on what has to be said.
Don’t you feel nice when the person you are talking to maintain steady eye contact, nod frequently, smiles to encourage you? We tend to forget that these tools play the most important role while interacting with people. In order to indicate that you are equally involved in the conversation, these different aspects are essential. Look into the eyes of the speaker; look at each and everyone present in the room if you are giving a speech or presentation to the audience. Don’t keep smiling just to impress someone; instead smile to show gratitude, admiration or simply your enthusiasm.
Sitting in an annual meeting I felt so nice when my manager conducted the entire meeting by hardly intervening verbally. Whenever he wanted someone to speak up he would subtly gesture towards that person, if someone is talking for a long time then he would motivate the person who has hardly spoken to contribute; manifested his agreement, appreciation, or doubts through his eyes, smile, frowning, gestures, nod, etc. He used concise and sensible statements only when it was needed. This experience taught me to understand the difference between a leader and a boss; in fact an effective communicator and a messy talker.
It is not always important to hurriedly express your opinion through words; our expressive body language is our inbuilt skill which just has to be utilized tactfully.
6. Do not repeat your point or thought
“I don’t prefer using jargons in my presentation, using heavy words is not my style, complex words aren’t used by me.”
Well, I got your point, now can you please move ahead? Many speakers especially those who love talking, unknowingly repeat their point. They constantly try to convey the same message by just twisting words. There’s no new thought, idea or fact being shared in the various things that they continuously say. Such talks become monotonous, the listener loses interest easily and neglect the conversation eventually.
The unease to make your point clear and convince your thoughts pushes such speakers to try all possible ways of communication. This can also show the inefficiency of the speaker. It might also point out that this person doesn’t have enough knowledge to be shared and in order to fill the time he repeats the same point. Also, someone with this tendency comes across as a non-passionate conversationalist.
So choose your words correctly, be conscious about not spending too much time on something which is obvious. Have a concise and meaningful talk.
7. Share, learn and enjoy the process
I learned how to be fearless in public speaking when one of my friends shared his experience of a successful presentation. His tips to handle queries, influence audience and build connections motivated me to analyze public speaking from an entirely new outlook. This is what happens when we share our beliefs, knowledge, and experiences. Learning naturally takes place. Man is a social animal and survival in this society demands useful conversations at the right time.
Even those who don’t prefer talking much will have at least a little to share, maybe not with everyone around him but with a few closed people. We always communicate in some or the other form no matter how shy, introvert we are. The high usage of mobile apps, social networking sites, video conferencing, chats, etc. is the witness of our communal nature. The several new features on Facebook like sharing quotes, links, photos, videos, updating where and what you are currently doing, thinking, eating, feeling, etc. are all channels that allow us to communicate. This quite clearly shows our urge for effective communication.
I feel Brain Tracy has rightly quoted,
“Effective Communication is a skill that you can learn. It’s like riding a bicycle or typing. If you’re willing to work at it, you can rapidly improve the quality of every part of your life.”
This is a guide to Effective Communication. Here we also discuss ways that would help you to enhance your skills as a conversationalist. You can also refer to our other related articles to learn more –