By Debra Bacon
Communication simply defined is: “the exchange of thoughts, messages, or information, as by speech, signals, writing, or behavior.”
Communication is very important in all aspects of our lives. The way we interact with our colleagues, peers and managers is important from a professional standpoint. Often, when considering improving our communication skills, we tend to think about our techniques in this realm. After all, it is our livelihood.
However, there are many areas of our lives where communication is as important, if not more as that of the professional relationship. That is the way we speak, move, act or otherwise signal our spouse, partner, children, family members and friends. Moreover, our way of interaction with the general public is very significant.
Let’s talk, blog, bleep, or otherwise say
Today, we have multiple ways to communicate from the face-to-face conversation, to email, IM, skype, Facebook, cell phones and many, many more. Developing effective communication skills is an ever evolving process. Flexibility and compromise are essential in communication today.
The way we relay thoughts, messages or information warrants serious analysis. Let’s take a look at five key areas that can be very effective in the way we communicate with others, whatever form of communication we are using. They are: a two-way flow of conversation; actively listen; rapport building; positive focus and honesty.
- Two-way flo w of conversation: A conversation, whether verbal or written should always be balanced. Both people should contribute to the conversation to feel validated. If you have a problem talking too much, interrupting or dominating conversations try this exercise. Open your mind to what the other person is saying. Quiet the thoughts running through your head. Try not to formulate a rebuttal before the other person has finished their thought. Yours will be incomplete and likely inconsiderate.
- Actively listen: It is important to hear what the speaker is saying. Take mental notes of important points in the conversation. If you are simply staring at someone and do not comprehend what they are saying, there may be an underlying cause. Perhaps you are tired, stressed or emotionally absent. Search for the reason and get help overcoming the problem. Otherwise be engaged with the speaker. Try this exercise to help you actively listen.Be attentive to the communication skills or style of someone you respect, and practice what you have noticed. Begin to apply the techniques in your own life with others.
- Rapport building: It is important to build trust or a common ground with those to whom you communicate. Try this exercise when building rapport.Offer a solid handshake along with a friendly smile when introducing yourself, or greeting someone. Be aware of your body language. Lean forward a bit, it shows you are interested. If the speaker is sitting, if appropriate, you should sit also, being eye level puts you on an equal plane. And lastly, make eye contact.
- Positive focus: Life hands us ups and downs and it is okay to share that at times; however, try not to be a complainer. Try this exercise to offer positive reinforcement.Always lead into a conversation with a positive statement about what is right in a situation, prior to launching into the negative aspects. You will find people respond better when they are acknowledged for what they have done right, or hear what is good about a situation.
- Honesty: Always be honest and try not to drum up flattering insincere words. People will pick up on this and will not take you seriously. Try this exercise to assist you in being forthright and honest. Avoid using words that are designed to manipulate others to get what you want. Be honest about what you want. Speak directly with confidence. This will leave others feeling you have their best interest in mind. It leaves them with a choice without feeling guilty.
These same exercises can be applied in the written form of communication as well. Paying attention to tone is key when writing. It is more difficult to catch the tone of someone’s meaning without hearing their voice, or looking at them for cues. Brush up on your written skills as necessary.