I’ve talked to a lot of people lately about self-improvement. I’m a firm believer that self-improvement is a lifelong journey. We can always keep improving ourselves. I’ve been asking which areas people are having the hardest time improving in and “communication skills” came up a lot!
Some people find it difficult to convey their emotions to others. Lots of people freeze up when speaking in front of a group. Social anxiety plays a pretty large role in communication. Communication skills is quite a broad category. Even something as seemingly easy as “small talk” has came up as a problem area for many people. Don’t worry! Effective communication can be improved upon and it’s probably a lot easier than you think. I’ve compiled some helpful tips to help you level up your communication skills:
Understanding Body Language
Body language is key to improving your communication skills. I want to do a more in-depth article about body language in general but for now, I want to share some quick, helpful tips.
You can discover a lot about how a person is feeling by examining their body language. Here are some body language cues to be aware of:
- Nodding: agreeable & interested
- Straight Posture: Focused & Confident
- Rubbing hands together: Anticipating
- Fidgeting: Discomfort, nervousness, boredom
Non-verbal communication cues are an excellent way to gauge a room, or an individual that you’re in a conversation with. Pay attention to body language and learn the difference between positive body language versus negative body language during communication.
Timing Really is Everything
Have you ever found yourself in an incredibly awkward conversation? I certainly have. It really is true when it’s said that “there’s a time and place.” Bringing up certain topics during certain times simply isn’t acceptable or practical.
Know the appropriate times to bring up certain topics. For example, it’s probably not a good idea to bring up politics or religions during your first encounter with someone.
Avoid “Over-Talking” like the Plague
When I say “over-talking”, I don’t mean that you’re talking too much. I’m talking about blatantly interrupting others while they are talking. We’ve all known someone like this and it’s really damn annoying!
If someone talks over me, I avoid that person. Nobody wants to feel disrespected in a conversation. Talking over someone is just flat-out rude.
Now, I understand that anxiety can trigger us to talk over people sometimes with no ill-intent meant. Some people are nervous talkers. It’s okay, it’s just an area that needs some work. Try remaining calm in social situations and learn to listen – I mean really listen.
If you’re conscious that you’re over-talking someone, you can absolutely change it.
Focus on Networking
Networking with others is one of the best ways to level up your communication skills. Focus on building relationships with people who share your values, are in the same type of career or anyone that shares a common passion with you.
These people – YOUR people, are going to be the easiest for you to communicate with. Why? Because, chances are, those who share the same passions as you are generally more like you.
If you have never networked before, it can probably seem a bit intimidating. Honestly though, think about the worst case scenario. No reply: that’s it! Nothing horrendous is going to come out of an attempt to network!
Be aware of your Tone and expressions
I have that mildly annoying symptom where my face pretty much does it’s own thing when someone says something ridiculous. I’ve had to work on it a lot, (especially when it comes to dealing with people I don’t know well). Even without our knowledge, our tone can come off as “annoyed” or “bored” and that’s not good for communication!
Keep a straight posture, smile and mirror the body language of the person you’re communicating with. Ensure that your tone is acceptable for the circumstances and that you’re using appropriate facial expressions.
Also, be sincere with your communication! Nobody likes a BSer!
Know what you’re in for – Your “Why”
What is your goal when you’re communicating with a specific person? That’s the ultimate question to have answered before the communication begins. Are you trying to establish a relationship with the person? Do you want to learn something from them? Is your interest in them strictly in a professional capacity? Know your “Why” during communication and you’ll be better able to pinpoint which conversation topics are most appropriate.
Knowing what your expectations are through communication, specifically for those whom you’re communicating with will help you communicate effectively. Plus, it will build on your communication skills – especially when it’s focused on a specific area of communication. (Professional, personal etc.)
Maintain Eye Contact
You become far more trustworthy when you maintain eye contact during communication. It lets the listener know that you’re serious and helps you appear more reliable.
Practice in the Mirror
I’m sure most people have tried this one, especially if they find they are going to speak in front of people. However, this method isn’t restricted for speeches. You can use this technique if you have a big meeting coming up, or you’re considering having a talk with someone who can help improve your career. Do it like you did in college – practice in the mirror.
This a great confidence-builder. It’s also an excellent way to become more aware of your facial expressions .
Have a Mental List of “Small Talk” Topics
I know so many people who struggle with small talk. They overthink what to say, how they’ll be perceived and whether or not they’re coming off as likable or not. Trust me when I say: small talk isn’t complicated. It’s us that over-complicates it.
Small talk can be relatively uncomfortable for many and I completely get it. The easiest way to make it seem less uncomfortable is to have a quick list in your mind about some easy topics you can bring to the conversation.
Some great “small talk” topics for when you’re stuck:
- Weather (the ultimate small-talk topic, in my opinion. We all have to deal with weather, right?)
- Your Surroundings at the time (A great way to “break the ice” in a conversation is to discuss where you are in the moment.)
- Compliments (Who doesn’t love a good compliment?)
- Drinks & Food (This is a great topic when you’re in a conversation with someone over drinks or food. Simply talk about what you’re enjoying in that moment).
- Hobbies (What are your hobbies? What are theirs? This is not only a great topic for small-talk, it’s a good way to get to know someone)
- Tech Talk (Discuss new tech)
- Family & Friends (Discussing friends and family – especially mutual friends, is a great way to “share common ground.”)
Be a Good Listener
Be able to both listen to whom you’re communicating with as well as truly absorbing what they’re saying. “Active listening” will get you nowhere when it comes to effective communication. You need to truly be listening to what the other person is saying.
While intimidating, communication can be improved on. You just have to be committed to improvement.
Just like any other area of self improvement, you have to be committed to improving. Lots of us struggle with effective communication and that’s okay! It’s also important to note that improving on your self confidence will also aid in the improvement of communication skills. More confidence means less nervousness!
I hope that these tips are able to help you level up your communication skills and gain more confidence in this area! Good luck, nerds 🙂