Yes, yes I understand, this post is a bit off topic compared to the usual health-minded articles. However! Enhanced communication skills lead to improved confidence, reduced stress and thus better health. A little convoluted, I agree, but I’m sticking with it!
Admittedly, I’m not the most accomplished of speakers, though I have seen considerable improvement with consistent application of this strategy. Experiment with it in your day-to-day life and reap the rewards.
Listen, listen, listen!
As simple as it sounds, this is the most underestimated and perhaps the most important component of communicating. Many people, myself included, think of communication skills as the speaking and articulating aspect. However a good conversation is a give and take scenario, it shouldn’t be one way traffic.
When I refer to listening, I’m referring to the active process. Don’t just stand there like a potato, engage with the other person. Here’s how to do it…
Open Body Language
Crossing your arms and constantly looking away gives the impression you’re disinterested. Rather, adopt an open stance and maintain eye contact. This will not only allow you to concentrate better on what the individual is saying, but also gives the sense that you respect them and find value in what they are saying.
After a person has finished discussing something with you, paraphrasing or summarising what they have said, and relaying it back to them demonstrates you have indeed been listening. Furthermore, it allows for clarification of any points you may have misunderstood. Imagine this scenario…
Johnny: It just seems like I’m taken for granted. My co-workers and seniors barely notice me, and worse still, at the end of the day I feel as though I’ve achieved nothing.
Jimmy: Mmm, it sounds like you’re no longer getting a sense of fulfillment which you once experienced in the workplace.
Johnny: That’s exactly how I feel!
Form a “Cocoon”
We’ve all been in a situation where distractions are buzzing all around . You overhear a juicy bit of gossip over to your left, the TV to your right is blaring highlights of your team’s most recent game. Meanwhile, your friend is trying to tell you something purposeful and your giving him the old “uh huh” treatment.
Next time this happens to you, imagine you and the other person are surrounded by a cocoon. Block out your surroundings and hone your focus on the other individual and what they’re saying. You can wait to hear about Wendy’s hot date.
Let Them Talk!
Your Honour, I’m guilty of this one. Listening 101, don’t interrupt a person when they are talking, no matter how important or excited you are to add your two cents worth. In addition, you may think you’re doing them a favour, but finishing other’s sentences is another thing to avoid at all costs.
Interruptions disempower the individual and demonstrates that you care little for what they have to say. I know what you’re thinking, “I’m just trying to help them out”. Despite your good intentions, the other person in the conversation isn’t thinking “Gee wizz, I’m so glad he finished that sentence for me. I don’t know what I would have done!”
Think back to when you’ve been interrupted, it doesn’t feel pleasant but rather makes you feel insignificant.
I’m Talking ‘ere!
Apply these principles in coming days and make them a habit. You will likely find that you’ll be catching yourself out when you interrupt your Mum or your gaze starts to wander. That’s OK, keep practicing and perfect this craft and it will become a useful tool for social and work relationships alike.
“I remind myself every morning: Nothing I say this day will teach me anything. So if I’m going to learn, I must do it by listening”
By Andrew Cammarano