When in a social interaction, business or otherwise, what one says only goes so far. The way it is said, however, can have great influence on how others feel about a person. One method of successfully communicating with others is to show them respect; not only through what is said, but through tone, attitude, and non-verbal cues. Below are several tips for becoming an effective communicator.
- Listen: When engaging another person in conversation, the most important rule for success is to listen. Put another way, “listening is not the same as waiting your turn to talk.” By genuinely being interested in what your partner has to say, you can ask further questions and get to know that person on more than just a superficial level. Relationships are always stronger when the people involved spend their time truly getting to know one another, instead of planning what they are going to say next.
- Maintain eye contact: By keeping eye contact while holding conversations, you are showing the other person you are interested in what they have to say. This does not mean trying to stare down the other person, or looking at them for so long your eyes become glassy. Simply hold their gaze when they look at you, and respond not just with your voice, but with your eyes as well.
- Be empathetic: Empathy is a hard trait to learn, and an even harder one to put into practice. It involves not only listening to and responding to another person, but putting yourself in their shoes. By feeling what your partner feels, you build an emotional connection and establish much stronger lines of communication. The most difficult part of empathy is learning what your partner experienced and how their experiences have shaped their beliefs and reactions to the world around them. Successful doctors, social workers, and mental health specialists often have high levels of empathy.
- Be open-minded: Like empathy, being open-minded requires an ability and willingness to see things from another person’s point of view. A person must suspend their belief and accept the possibility they are wrong, or at the very least that there might be multiple valid ways of thinking. This is another difficult skill, but very helpful in facilitating real and meaningful conversations.
- Stay relaxed and open: Body language conveys far more to our listeners than we might consider. Keep your body language open and don’t tense up or draw inward, as these are signs of a closed off personality. If you look relaxed and friendly, people will be more willing to share with you and you will invite more involved conversation.
Good communications skills are important not only at the negotiating table, but in every facet of life. Being able to interact with people and make new friends and partners is dependent upon one’s ability to communicate with people. Follow the above tips, letting your partner know you are genuinely interested in what he or she has to say.