Do you ever have trouble communicating with others? Effective communication is key to sharing our thoughts, feelings and ideas with others. It’s how we relate to the people in our lives.
How often do you think about your communication habits? Are you an encourager? Are you a good listener? From time-to-time, we all need to look at our habits of communication.
Recently an Uber driver picked me up and drove me to meet some friends for dinner. I got in and we talked about where I was going, the traffic and the best route to take. It was all pretty standard conversation.
Then I found myself describing how I had developed the habit of listening to books on Audible whenever I drive. He seemed interested, so I suggested that he might want to try that when he has downtime.
He said he enjoys documentaries and TED talks–he watches them when he exercises. We talked a little more, and when I got out of the car, I told him that I enjoyed talking to him and smiled.
He said the same thing and smiled back.
What made this conversation so pleasant? Why did I enjoy talking to this driver? How did we find common interests to talk about?
As I thought about this conversation, I recognized 5 habits that can lead to more positive conversations. In order to improve your communication skills, you might want to try these habits.
This is by far the easiest thing we can do when we communicate with others. When I was teaching, I had quote poster in my classroom: “Smile, It Improves Your Face Value.” It’s a true and simple statement. Isn’t it more pleasant to talk to someone who is smiling? Isn’t it more enjoyable to talk to someone who sounds cheerful? Even when you talk on the phone, smiling while you talk makes your voice sound more inviting. Get in the habit of greeting others with a smile— whether they can see you or not.
2. Use encouraging words.
Start conversations by using language that is positive and uplifting. Ask open-ended questions as opposed to yes/no queries, and be genuinely interested in what is going on with the other person. Empathize to show that you care and listen to understand. If possible, find something in the conversation that excites you and further the discussion. Be encouraging and make others feel good about connecting with you.
3. Be excited and present.
When talking to others, be present: Make eye-contact and pay attention. Let the other person know that you are interested and excited about talking to them. Keep distractions to a minimum and keep your cellphone away and out of sight.
4. Never criticize, condemn or complain.
While reading How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie, I noticed that this was the only principle to becoming a friendlier person that was stated negatively. That’s because it is that important! Did you know that people associate the words you use with you? In other words, the words you use stick to you.
“Instead of condemning people, let’s try to understand them. Let’s try to figure out why they do what they do. That’s a lot more profitable and intriguing than criticism; and it breeds sympathy, tolerance and kindness. ‘To know all is to forgive all.”
– Dale Carnegie
5. Listen to understand.
In my research, I have found many, many ways to be become a better listener. As a teacher, I used to say, “You have two ears and one mouth for a reason: You need to listen twice as much as you talk.” Actually, the rule of thumb is to listen 5 times more than you talk. In the past when I listened, I was just forming my response and waiting for my turn to talk. That doesn’t sound very complimentary, but it’s true. Now when I have a conversation, I remind myself to listen 5 times more than I talk. I find that this has helped me to slow down and hear what the other person is saying. As I do this, I am better able to listen and be understanding.
Opportunities to practice these habits happen all day, everyday even with complete strangers like the Uber driver. You could also try these strategies when communicating with colleagues, acquaintances, and most often with your family and friends.
Develop better communication habits and you will rapidly improve every part of your life.
“Communication – the human connection – is the key to personal and career success.”
– Paul K. Meyer
Question: Have you found any strategies that have helped you become a more positive communicator? Please share your ideas in the comment section below.