Good communication skills are essential in all walks of life. More than just the words you speak, effective communication merges a number of skills that should include some of the following: being mindful of your nonverbal, developing good listening habits, managing stress in the moment, staying present, discerning the undertones, an acquired grasp of social decorum, the discipline to not give advice, and finally knowing when to wrap it up. Developing good communication skills is personally enriching and helps eliminate most of the guesswork in both normal and unusual conversations. Here are a few key components to consider when desiring to improve your interpersonal communication skills.
- A genuine first impression – This applies to any given situation whether it is interacting with work colleagues, an angry spouse or a potential employer during a job interview. Any communication should commence with a warm friendly tone, which leaves your listener feeling valuable and respected. Although it is non verbal, a kind smile at the onset opens the way for your listener(s) to engage and stay engaged.
- Listen, listen, listen well – In any given situation listening well will be your best communication tool. Master the art of listening and you will have a strong lead in every arena of life. Listening well will help you navigate skillfully in just about any type of verbal communication. It will help you pick up nuances, emotions, exaggerations, attitudes, hidden agendas; in short, a broad array of information you will need to help you engage with intelligence and poise in any conversation. (Check out my article: Are You Listening To Me!)
- Self-awareness – Self-awareness is a great tool to assist you in being mindful of your personal tendencies. Do you talk too much, disclose too much, go off on tangents, easily disconnect from a conversation, interrupt, pretend you know more on a given subject than you actually do or wear a neon sign that says I am so stressed out. Being self-aware will help you have a more grounded and focused approach and help you be a better communicator.
- Develop your interpersonal skills – There is an unwritten code of conduct in just about any human type of interaction. While much of it is often learned at a young age during the first years of socialization, not all of us get the same start in life. Therefore, the onus is on you to learn all you can about social expectations, the norms of the culture you operate in – both social and work culture. As well, learn good old basic etiquette. Pay attention, observe, acquire and develop you own social intelligence.
- Engage slowly but surely – Don’t jump in with both feet in your mouth. Learn to measure how you launch and pace your responses. On the other hand, don’t super analyse every word either. If the question is, how are you? Answer simply and end by asking the similar appropriate question. This is not the time to describe the last few weeks of your life or give unnecessary details.
- Hold the advice – Please, please hold the litany of advice. Let’s face it most of us think we are experts on every subject and readily dish out unsolicited advice. If you want to impress and gain the respect of the one you are engaged in conversation with – stay present. Show empathy with simple caring comments. If, and only if, the conversation veers in a direction that warrants your advice, then proceed gently and with reservations.
- Every conversation has an end – Know when to wrap up a conversation. Often a natural silence can give the right signal to just end a good exchange. Alternatively, a change of topic could be your cue to bow out and indicate this is a discussion for another time. Remember talking for the sake of talking is not necessarily good conversation. We are all familiar with the expression “he talked my ear off” and we don’t want to be that one!
The more attention and practice you devote to your communication skills the more comfortable, authentic and confident your interpersonal interactions with people will be. Who knows where your next conversation could lead!