How to Improve Communication Skills

Isn’t it nice when we are being understood and understand what others are saying?

Good communication is important, but sometimes it can be difficult. Communication is not only about talking; it is about listening, body language and voice tones.

Communication can make or break relationships, seal or destroy business deals and either make or break careers. So let’s dig a bit deeper into how we can improve our communication skills during difficult conversations.

To improve our communication skills, we need to actively stop talking and instead listen to the other person. I know this can be hard, especially when disagreeing on a subject – but it is so important to force ourselves to listen. We all want to be heard and are used to speaking our minds, but for good communication to work we do have to really listen to each other. Of course this goes the both ways, we need to be listened to.

We also need to be open and truthful. We will not get very far if we cannot see our own shortcomings. Admitting when we are wrong will help the person we communicate with to lower their guard during difficult conversations.

Keep in mind that we are not trying to manipulate anyone here, we are simply using the tools necessary to have healthy communications.

Something we always use while communicating are non-verbal signs. This is about body language, voice tones and eye contact, just to name a few. In other words, all things included in communication that are not about the words themselves.

Body language is how you communicate with – you guessed it! – your body. Most of the time the body language happens subconsciously.

Standing with our arms crossed, turned away from the person we are having the conversation with is not a good idea when we want to be productive and effective. Instead, trying to keep arms down on the sides, preferably with the palms facing the other person (this shows openness and can be explained as showing that you don’t have anything to hide).

Also, we should try to make sure the feet face the direction of the other person, facing away could be interpreted as wanting to get out of there. Which we probably do want when the situation is uncomfortable – so we have to actively make an effort.

Keep the voice calm, even if feelings of frustration occur. Sounding aggressive will only make the other person feel uncomfortable and/or aggressive too. Speaking slowly is one way to calm the other person, and perhaps even ourselves. At least it can give us time to think through what we are about to say, which is better than the opposite, wouldn’t you agree?

Try to keep eye contact as well. Looking away can make you seem like you are not present, or that the other person is not important to us. This may not be true, but it can be interpreted that way.

Did you know that introverts often keep eye contact while listening during a conversation, but look away while talking?

Or that extroverts often keep eye contact while talking but can drift off if listening to another person for a long time?

Understanding these personality traits can help us have effective and better communications. And while looking away can happen subconsciously, it is never, ever respectful to check your phone during important conversations. That will definitely put others off.

I have actually ended friendships with people who kept looking at their phones during important conversations and activities. It is a perfect way to make others feel unimportant. I know no-one is perfect and I am sure I have made some mistakes during conversations, too. I do, however, expect to be respected during conversations – and so should you.

Here are some other ideas for better communication:

Don’t bring up other things that are irrelevant to the topic. It will only irritate the other person. Unless it is about ducks. If they are annoyed by that then it is a lost cause. Just move on.

Use your words carefully. No one wants to speak to someone who uses words like “only”, “always”, “hate”, “bad” or in other ways are attacking the other person.

Try to find a common ground. Build your conversation upon what you have in common. Maybe you both love cats. Or ducks. That is the best common ground you could possibly have. (Also, may I join your gang?)

Give a sincere compliment. Say something nice about the other person, if you can (I really hope so). A sincere compliment can make the other person feel more at ease. Just don’t say anything you do not believe, or it can be received as manipulative or fake. In that case it is better to not say anything at all. Well, unless you are an actual psychopath and your lies are completely undetectable. Then by all means, spread those loving words with no meaning. (But please leave my blog now)

Be yourself. But be yourself without digging too deep into political views or other controversial subjects with people you have not known for very long. I know it is super interesting that your in-laws voted for the worst politician in history (in your honest opinion), but perhaps the person with whom you are speaking with would not agree. So let’s keep those cats in the bags, for now.

Make sure it’s a two-sided conversation. You both should listen and be heard. So no monologues, my friend. You are probably an awesome speaker but this is a two-way street. Save it for your cousin’s wedding.

Know about filters. Both your own filters and the ones of the other person. Keep in mind that factors as the background, culture, economic status and education works as filters during communications. These filters are creating barriers for effective communications, but being aware of them can go a long way.

Keep first and last impressions in mind. People remember first impressions and final impressions, so make sure you start off the conversation in a good way and end it like that as well. If you bring a fluffy animal with you it is a sure way to leave a great first impression. (The answer is ducks, it’s always ducks!)

Remember that it takes two to have a conversation, how it goes is as much on you as the other person.

You can take these ideas to try to have better ones.  

What are your thoughts on this subject? Please feel free to share in the comments, I would love to hear from you!

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  1. This is an excellent primer on communication. The only concern I have regards the words “only”, “always”, “hate”, and “bad.” To me, those words do not attack others. I can say that I hate thieves or that high taxes are bad without offending anyone. Similarly, I could say “only a daredevil would scale a tower” or “people who engage in such activity always risk injury” without causing any offense. Moreover, you can say “you always say that” to another person without causing any negative feeling, and that’s especially true if the statement is correct and the listener knows it, or if the conversation is already established as informal and friendly. If anything, a good laugh is had by both parties after saying it!

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    1. Thank you for your comment Keith!
      These are suggestions for how to have better conversations, and I do believe that the use of words like these during difficult conversations should be avoided. What I get from your comment is that you might mean that it is ok – and might even be good – to use these words in your daily life, not during sensitive topics. If that’s the case, then I agree with you. But as mentioned, I would not suggest the use of these words when talking about sensitive stuff. Of course everybody is different and for some people it would not be an issue.

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  2. I think many people forget to really listen to others, I’ve probably done that too, but when we do listen everything gets so much easier in communications.
    Thank you for these insights!

    Liked by 1 person

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