How To Communicate Better: Techniques That Work
Updated February 11, 2020
Reviewer Heather Cashell
Communication is defined as: "the act or process of using words, sounds, signs, or behaviors to express or exchange information or to express your ideas, thoughts, feelings, etc., to someone else" Source: Merriam-Webster dictionary.
*Verbal Communication: using spoken word to convey information
*Non-verbal Communication: using the face and body to convey thoughts, feelings, and other information
*Written Communication: using written word to convey information
Things That Block Communication
*Being critical: if someone wants to communicate with you and trusts you with their thoughts, being critical of them is a sure way to block them from communicating.
*Putdowns: no name calling or pigeonholing; a sure way to block communication
*Analyzing behavior: unless you are a trained professional, you should not be making any diagnosis
*Over praising: too much praise is taken as insincere, and it is hard to believe that person if it occurs over and over
*Commanding others to do things
*Threats to others: powerfully informing others about what you will do or not do if they do or don't do something is a sure way to get them to clam up
*Lecturing others about what they should do: urging others to do something that they are unsure of or don't want to do doesn't support open communication
*Too many questions: rapid-fire questions, whether they are appropriate or inappropriate, can be overwhelming and can make people shut down
*Trying to solve others' problems: if someone wants help, they will ask…offering a solution without prompting is often not welcomed
*Overlooking others' problems: minimizing others' problems or changing the subject can make them feel dismissed
*Using logic instead of feelings: sometimes feelings just need to be felt and using logic isn't appropriate for the situation
*Negating feelings: sometimes people just need to let their feelings flow, and it is okay
Being Open To Communication
Communication is one of the most important skills in life. It is how needs get met, questions get answered, feelings get conveyed…the list goes on and on. Sometimes communication can be difficult, especially when it involves negative or confrontational information. When information isn't easy to express is usually when clear communication is the most needed. If you need to communicate something that is problematic, try some of the following techniques.
Silence is Golden: This may sound counterintuitive, but one of best approaches to communication is staying silent. Believe it or not, when someone is telling you something, if you remain silent, they will most likely give you additional information to complete their thought, discussion or explanation.
Questionable Behavior: You won't learn everything you want to learn or get all the information you need if you don't ask some questions. Close-ended questions elicit a yes or no answer while open-ended questions give a more thorough, detailed explanation.
Listen and Learn: Although communication usually involves expressing thoughts, feelings or information, listening is also a huge piece of communication. To take in what is being expressed, you must be an active listener. When communicating with another individual, an active listener is seen as someone who is listening and comprehending what is said. This makes the communicator more likely to share more.
Seek and Ye Shall Find: Observing skilled communicators can teach you many useful communication methods. From a young age, we learn many things by watching those around us to see how things are done. Observing someone who models high-quality communication is a great way to learn these approaches.
Attention Please: Paying attention to and keeping eye contact with the person who is speaking to goes a long way towards giving an encouraging response. The speaker will want to share more and will be open to give and take of ideas when you show eagerness and attention to the conversation. The other individual in the conversation will walk away from that exchange with an optimistic attitude.
Choose Your Words Well: When you want to foster a "we're in this together" vibe, using words that are inclusive and group-centered. We and us connote collaboration and teamwork. When you want to be chief, the person in charge, play up your strengths with I and me.
Compassion and Understanding: Being able to read the emotional state of others will help immensely with your communication. If someone's body language and facial expression say, "I'm angry," it's probably not the best time to start a difficult conversation. On the other hand, if those signals say, "I'm happy," it may make that difficult conversation a little easier. Look for those indications, and it will make you a successful communicator.
Reading Rainbow: Some great books teach successful communication techniques. If written communication isn't a strength reading any books, magazines or newspapers can help you become a better-written communicator. Again, models of good writing are great examples to learn from. Sharing a great book that you have read is also a conversation starter that can help with your interpersonal communication.
Step Away: If you are having a particularly contentious conversation with someone else, this can be extremely stressful. Take a minute to step away and calm yourself with some breathing exercises or to think of what you need to say. The minute away can help you to clear your mind so that you can better express your thoughts and feelings.
Laughter is the Best Medicine: Being witty and using humor appropriately will set people at ease and get them to loosen up. When people laugh, they are easing their stress and anxiety. It puts them in a positive mood and agreeable state of mind. Being able to keep your sense of humor in a situation can also lessen your stress and leave you more open to accept what information is being communicated.
Show Those Pearly Whites: Along with laughter, a smile can go a long way to making others feel at ease, welcome and happy. This one tool can be one of the best parts of good communication. Smiles are infectious, and when you see someone smile, it makes you feel comfortable. This level of comfort will ensure that others will want to listen and share information with you.
If You Think You Know It All, Go Back and Learn More: Always be open to learning new and different things. Lifelong learners always have something to share. They can start and continue conversations. They ask good questions and love to share what they have learned. Be a lifelong learner, and you will be on the path to being a great communicator.
Journaling: Keeping a journal of feelings, observations, lesson learned, etc. is a great way to work on your conversational skills. If talking in a group seems like an impossibility, write out your thoughts. This written organization will help you when you need to take part in a conversation.
Use an "I" Message: No one likes to be told they are doing something wrong or that their demeanor is harsh. When you need to deliver difficult information, state it in a way that conveys how you feel about the situation. For instance, if a co-worker is always using your ideas or you are doing all the work, you can say, "I feel frustrated when I am the only one who shares ideas" or "I would love to hear some of your ideas." You could even say, "I need you to do x and y to finish this job". If you deliver the information this way, it takes the negativity off them and expresses how you are feeling.
Communication Technique Books
*Never Split the Difference: Negotiating As If Your Life Depends On It, authored by Chris Voss
*Crucial Conversations: Tools for Talking When the Stakes are High, authored by Kerry Patterson
*How to Talk to Anyone: 92 Tricks for Big Success in Relationships, authored by Leil Lowndes
*Essentials of Business Communication, authored by Mary Ellen Guffey
*Communicating at Work: Strategies for Success in Business and the Professions, authored by Ronald B. Adler
*4 Essential Keys to Effective Communication in Love, Life, Work-Anywhere!, authored by Bento C. Leal III
*Simply Said: Communicating Better at Work and Beyond, authored by Jay Sullivan
*Communication Skills for Dummies, authored by Elizabeth Kuhnke
*Conscious Communications: Your Step-by-Step Guide to Harnessing the Power of Your Words to Change Your Mind, Your Choices and Your Life, authored by Mary Shores
If you have trouble with communication and you have tried many of the above techniques, you can contact a trained professional to help you. Going to BetterHelp (https://www.betterhelp.com/start/) can be your first step to getting the help you need. It is private, convenient and will be one of the best things that you can do for yourself and your wellness. Do the thing today that your future self will thank you for.