Have you ever suffered through a long conversation where the other person spent the whole time talking at you? Our society conditions us to believe that we need to talk a lot and fill up all the free space in the universe with words in order to demonstrate competence or credibility. This encourages people to speak up first, continue speaking and then speak some more at the first sign of any lull. We end up enduring conversations that are complete traffic jams of people all trying to outdo each other with bigger and better stories and facts.
We’ve all interacted with people who seem to be in love with the sound of their voice and rarely let others into the conversation. There are many reasons for this type of behavior but the main one is that they aren’t aware of any other way of communicating. What they might not realize is that communication is over 90% non-verbal, which means that talking is just a small part of what we’re supposed to be doing.
Excellent communication begins with us. We each have the ability to either open the doors to a two-way exchange of information or slam them shut. We have a choice as to whether we spend our time spitting out our stories rather than gaining more insight into others’ experiences. Think about your own communication style: Do you talk more or do you listen more? What would happen if you shifted your style just slightly?
Highly effective communicators understand that getting their point across is often as much about understanding someone else’s perspective as it is putting one’s own input into the mix. Here are some tips to help you add to your communication skills:
1. Try to listen more than you talk.
2. Ask open-ended questions and give the other person time to answer.
3. Please stay away from questions that lead the conversation in a certain direction or only lead to a yes or no answer.
4. Try not to think of the next thing that you want to say.
5. Avoid thinking about the perfect rebuttal or your next magnificent story.
6. Allow people to say what they want and give them the space to do so.
7. Listen actively. Search online under “active listening.”
8. Did I mention listening?
We spend so much time talking that we ignore the most important element of communication. Listening opens up amazing new doors we never knew existed when we were flapping our gums. It’s incredible what we learn when we take the time to really listen to someone. Suddenly we understand people better and can make decisions based on rich, detailed information. We avoid misunderstandings and we connect with people on a deeper level. People also tend to trust us more because they can confide in us without being steamrollered.
In the end, it is up to us how we communicate. Excellent communicators understand the value of listening and use it to communicate more effectively. Listening improves our interactions and allows us to breathe. We don’t have to fill up every space and constantly think of witty things to say. We get to learn all kinds of interesting information about others and relax more. Try the ideas we’ve mentioned and continue adding to your excellent communication skills.