Updated: May 28
Excerpt From: Lifehacker
We learn to talk at an early age, but most of us don’t have formal training on how to effectively communicate with others. That’s unfortunate, because it’s one of the most important life skills there is, and one you use your entire life. Whether you want to have better conversations in your social life or get your ideas across better at work, here are some essential tips for learning to to communicate more effectively.
Watch your body language
You tell your partner you’re open to discussion but your arms are crossed; you say you’re listening but haven’t looked up from your phone yet. Our non-verbal and non-written cues often reveal more than we think they do. Whether it’s how you make eye contact or how you hold yourself during a video interview, don’t forget that you’re constantly communicating even when you’re not saying a word.
One strange way to tap into your body for better communication? Think about your toes. Or adopt a power pose if you need to boost your confidence before a big talk. Or learn how to read other people’s body language so you can respond appropriately.
Get rid of unnecessary conversation fillers
Ums and ahs do little to improve your speech or everyday conversations. Cut them out to be more persuasive and feel or appear more confident. One way is to start keeping track of when you say words like “um” or “like.” You could also try taking your hands out of your pockets or simply relaxing and pausing before you speak. Those silences seem more awkward to you than they do to others, trust us.
If you don’t think you’re great at communicating with co-workers or people you don’t know very well, practice on friends and family that you’re comfortable with. Ideally, find people who will give you honest feedback and let you know if you’re getting too quiet, personal or might make someone else feel uncomfortable.
Have a script for small talk and other occasions
Small talk is an art that not many people have mastered. For the inevitable, awkward silences with people you hardly know, it helps to have a plan. The FORD (family, occupation, recreation, dreams) method might help you come up with topics to discuss, and you can also turn small talk into conversation by sharing information that could help you and the other person find common ground. Hey, all that small talk could make you happier in the long run.
Tell a story
Stories are powerful. They activate our brains, make presentations suck less, make us more persuasive and can even help us ace interviews. Learn the secrets of becoming a phenomenal storyteller with these rules from Pixar or by simply using the word “but” more to structure your narrative. Everyone’s got at least one great story in them.
Ask questions and repeat the other person
Let’s face it, we’ve all drifted off when someone else was talking or misheard the other person. Asking questions and repeating the other person’s last few words shows you’re interested in what they say, keeps you on your toes and helps clarify points that could be misunderstood (e.g., “So to recap, you’re going to buy the tickets for Saturday?”).
It also helps for small talk and to fill in awkward silences. Instead of trying to stir up conversation on mundane topics like the weather, ask the other person questions (e.g., “Got any plans for the summer?” or “What are you reading lately?”) and engage in their answers. It’s more important to be interested than to be interesting.