BATON ROUGE, La. (BRPROUD) – Many would agree that communication is a critical aspect of the relationships we form at home, in the workplace, and in relaxed social settings.
The person with stellar communication skills is able to foster trust with others by listening attentively and embracing different points of view. This often leads to career success as well as positive familial and social interactions.
These successful individuals aren’t just lucky. According to an article in Entrepreneur, “Effective communication is an attainable and deliberately acquired skill set — one that can be learned and practiced over time.”
So, even when someone feels their communication skills are lacking, there are techniques they can use to improve their interactions with others.
Three such techniques are listed below.
#1 Avoid talking over people and finishing their sentences
Most of us have been guilty of this at some point. Even when we care about someone and want to hear what they have to say, we may find ourselves talking over them or “helping them” by finishing their sentences.
But an effective communicator gains the trust of the individuals they’re speaking with, and the habits mentioned above typically result in the opposite outcome.
According to an article on the subject from Lifehack, talking over people, “demonstrates a real lack of respect. By talking over someone what you’re basically saying is ‘I don’t care what you’re saying—what I have to say is more important.’”
In regards to finishing other people’s sentences, the article goes on to say, “Research has shown by doing this you are dis-empowering the other person because you are taking control of the conversation, so bite your tongue!”
#2 Practice Active Listening
It’s fairly simple to sit mutely while someone else speaks. But active listening involves tapping into our empathy and self-control, which can be challenging.
According to Dr. Lauren Florko, a contributor to Psychology Today, “Active listening requires removing your judgment, ego, and solutions while taking the time to not only hear the words but also the emotions, tone, body language, and nuances. That is, active listening is about listening without thinking of what you will say next and it’s about understanding rather than debating, fixing, or contributing.”
She adds that it’s important to stay focused on what the other person is saying and periodically making sure we’re hearing them correctly.
To do this effectively, Dr. Florko adds that, when appropriate, ask the other person something like, “It sounds like you were really frustrated when____” Then, allow them to clarify if you heard them accurately.
#3 Build Sincere Empathy
As we actively listen to someone, it can be helpful to exercise empathy.
Exercising empathy typically involves putting ourselves in someone else’s shoes and imagining how we would feel if we faced the situation or emotions they’re facing.
The goal in doing this is to relate to the other person so we can work with them towards a common goal.
Interestingly, empathy doesn’t mean quietly listening to a person express themselves and then immediately saying, “I know what you’re feeling” or “I understand.”
In fact, reacting this way can come across as insincere and send a once promising conversation into negative territory.
To avoid this, Dr. Florko suggests that after listening to someone express their feelings, exercise empathy by finding common ground with them.
She says, “Finding common ground doesn’t necessarily mean finding a common viewpoint or thinking, but can just be finding a common action or outcome.”
For example, if someone insists that a certain rock group is the greatest band of all time, you may not agree at all. But, it’s likely you also have a favorite band or composer and you can relate to how enjoyable it is to listen to their music or even see them perform live.
So, you can tap into your empathy and shift the conversation towards a shared interest- a deep appreciation for music.
This keeps your conversation positive and helps build rapport with the other person.
Communicating with skill is often considered an art, and just as talented artists consistently work at their craft to improve, communicating effectively may take some time – and a few stumbles along the way- to master.
But by letting other people speak freely, actively listening to them, and exercising empathy we can make progress as effective communicators.
In this regard, Dr. Florko says, “As you are working on these skills remember that intention is more important than technique. You may stumble or bumble but if people see you are genuinely trying, they will be forgiving.”