Being an effective communicator starts with being able to listen. Show a genuine interest in the other person. Don’t be the person that is always talking. Once you have asked a question, be quiet and allow them to answer it in their own time. Good listeners don’t interrupt the other speaker, don’t judge, think before answering, face the speaker, are close enough to hear, and watch non-verbal behaviour. They are also aware of biases or values that distort what they hear, look for the feelings and basic assumptions that underlie remarks, concentrate on what is being said, avoid rehearsing answers while the other person is talking, and don’t insist on having the last word.
Ask the right questions. More effective communication will come with asking opinion type questions or open ended questions. Do not ask questions that can be answered with a simple yes or no as this can quickly stall any conversation. When you are talking, show that you are hearing what the other person is saying by recounting or reflecting it. when you are reflecting, you are taking part of what the other person said, you then repeat it by saying “Are you saying…” or “Do you mean…” in front of it. When engaged in a conversation with a person, try and ask for additional details, examples or impressions.
When you first meet a new person, make sure that you hear their name and use it straight away to help you remember it. Use a word association trick if you have difficulty generally remembering names. For example, Jane is a journalist or Peter likes pizza. It doesn’t matter if it sounds silly, as long as it works! After all, no one will know of your little trick but you.
It is interesting to note that 95 percent of communication is actually non-verbal. Non-verbal cues, or body language, involve eye movement, the tone of voice, posture, facial expressions, and hand gestures. If you are talking to someone, eye contact without staring shows that you are confident. Be aware of your body language when talking to someone else. Crossed arms or legs can indicate defensiveness or being unreceptive. Mirroring someone else generally shows genuine interest in them and what they’re saying.
Feedback is also an effective communication tool. It is important to note however that the receiver is ready for the feedback. Any comments that you make should be describing in nature, rather than interpreting. Focus on recent events or actions that can be changed but do so in a way that does not try and force people to change.
Paraphrasing is not used to clarify what the other person actually meant but to show what it meant to you. this means that you might have to restate the original example that was given to you in more specific terms or more general terms depending on which is more appropriate.
Perception checking is used to understand the feelings behind what is being said. The easiest way to do this is to describe your impressions of a person’s feelings at any given time, avoiding sounding approving or disapproving.
Effective communicators use “I” messages. These messages reflect their own views and rely on description rather than blame or criticism. By using an “I” message, the other person is less likely to become defensive and the message is more likely to be heard. One form of the “I” message includes three elements – the problem or situation, how you feel about the issue, and the reason for the concern. For example, “When you don’t call, I worry that something may have happened.” For expressing feelings, refer directly to the feelings, use similes, or describe what you’d like to do.