Last Updated on January 3, 2021 by Lori Geurin
The way we handle stress can be a cause for communication breakdown. When you’re dealing with added stress and anxiety it’s more challenging to focus on important communication skills like listening. Sometimes it may seem like the people we love the most are difficult to understand and communicate with. And this can be frustrating and disheartening. Especially if you feel misunderstood. Or worse, not heard at all.
The good news is that you can improve your communication skills and be a better communicator in marriage, with your partner, on the job, and with family and friends.
Even if you’ve struggled with communication your entire life, you can get better at this and become someone your spouse, friends, and co-workers want to talk to. And most importantly, you can feel confident in your abilities to listen and understand others well and express your thoughts accurately so your voice can be heard.
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First, we need to know exactly what a good communicator looks like.
What Is A Good Communicator?
- Great communicators listen more than they speak.
- They read non-verbal cues well and approach conversations with curiosity and empathy.
- They’re masters at understanding body language and non-verbal cues.
- They make positive assumptions about other people and keep an open mind.
- Good communicators have a strong desire to understand the other person’s perspective.
Now that we have a snapshot of what an effective communicator looks like, let’s go straight into useful tips for improving your communication skills.
7 Ways To Be A Better Communicator
1. Listen well
This is one of the most vital steps to good communication. Yet, one of the most overlooked and underutilized. Ya know why? It can be hard, people!
We all want to be heard, so keep this in mind when you’re having a conversation and it will go a long way.
Practice active listening so you can understand exactly where the other person is coming from and stay connected. And so you’ll know what you need clarification about.
2. Stick to the topic
Though it can be tempting to bring up the past, especially if you’re feeling attacked, it’s always best to leave history alone. Focus on the topic at hand and speak only about the current issue.
If things start to get off course, try to re-direct and keep your laser focus concise and to the point of your intended conversation. If this doesn’t work it may be best to take a break. You can agree to talk about it later when you’re both feeling calmer.
(Wanting to learn more about being a better communicator? Robin Roberts teaches effective and authentic communication in her exceptional online MasterClass.)
3. Practice reflection
This is a technique many therapists use. You want to mirror (or reflect) what the other person is saying. Keep your focus on understanding what the other person is saying.
Use non-judgemental, neutral phrases and statements (such as “it seems to me…”, “it sounds like…”, “I want to hear your point of view,” and “tell me more”). Avoid using judgemental ‘you’ statements (such as “you’re overreacting” or “you’re yelling at me”).
Clarify what you hear them saying, feeling and thinking.
For example, “Now let me see if I’m understanding you correctly. It sounds like you’re saying that I keep leaving my dirty socks on the floor, and you feel taken for granted and angry because I never pick them up, and you want me to take initiative and be more organized and neat with my things. Am I understanding you correctly?’
You keep reflecting back to your communication partner until they agree that you’ve heard them correctly. Don’t rush the process. It can take some back and forth to hone in on the exact message but is so worth it.
And once you do you can take a turn and switch roles. Finally, brainstorm some solutions to your problems together.
This technique can be quite effective but requires patience and practice. Once you get the hang of it, it can be an incredibly useful way to connect and work through relationship and work-related issues.
4. Pay attention to body language
Notice the nonverbal cues you and your communication partner are sharing with each other. These can include:
- a lack of eye contact which can show disinterest, avoidance, or lying
- crossing arms or legs which can reveal defensiveness or the appearance of being closed off to the conversation
- body positioning. For example, if your feet are facing away from the other person but towards the door, it can show that you’re ready to end the conversation and leave the room.
- a loud tone, which can reveal that someone is feeling emotional or not heard
5. Embrace silence and wait time
Silence can be a very good thing. It gives you both a chance to collect your thoughts and take a deep breath if needed. Nevermind the awkwardness.
Have you ever been in a conversation with someone who constantly interrupts you when you’re speaking? Of course, you probably have. Pretty frustrating, right?
I’ll admit this is one of my biggest pet peeves. As someone with a naturally softer voice, this tends to happen to me more than I’d like. But just because my voice is soft doesn’t mean I don’t have an opinion that I’d like to share.
As a former teacher, I learned about the importance of wait time. In the classroom setting, it means giving students extra time to respond after you ask them a question.
But it can be an effective communication tool as well. When people get caught up in a rapid-fire communication pattern this leaves little time for personal introspection. So allow the conversation to flow naturally. Slow it down intentionally. This is a great way to make sure you’re not interrupting the other person’s train of thought (or words).
Try this technique the next time you’re having a convo and don’t be afraid of a little silence.
6. Be open and honest
This may not come naturally to people who have kept their true feelings hidden for much of their lives. But practicing honest, open communication is crucial if you want to have strong relationships.
Yes, it can be scary to be vulnerable. But approaching your conversations with honesty and honoring who you are as a person at your core allows you to live up to your full potential.
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7. Be appreciative
No matter how difficult the topic of conversation may be, always find something you can thank the other person for. It could be something small or more significant.
Maybe your husband is a great cook. Or your friend is always there to talk when you’re having a bad day. Be sure to share this with them so they know how much you love and appreciate them.
Practicing gratitude in the small things comes through in our relationships and conversations. Plus, you can experience the benefits of being grateful too. Just showing up to talk through an issue can be cause for appreciation. I’ve found that keeping a gratitude journal makes me more aware of all of the good things in my life – especially during the most stressful times.
Related: 20 Easy Ways To Express Gratitude
Summary – How To Be A Better Communicator
Learning to be a good communicator is a life-long skill that takes lots of practice. Some people are naturally gifted in this area. But knowing that you can improve your skills and become much better is encouraging.
Focusing on listening, body language, reflection techniques, and staying open and honest are some notable ingredients of effective communication. I hope you’ve found these tips to be helpful for both your personal and working relationships.
What do you think about these communication tips? Do you find communication to be fun and/or challenging?
Leave your comments below. I love hearing from you!
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