Effective communication is key to a successful and happy life. Generally, unless you are living in the Alaskan wilderness, by yourself, off the grid, you can't get through the day without having to communicate with friends, family, co-workers, and just about everybody else in the world. If you're not communicating in the right way, you could actually be alienating, hurting, or talking down to people with whom you come into contact.
Most people think that just because they are talking and expressing their feelings, they're communicating properly. Maybe they are. But are they listening to the other person? Are they asking questions, are they speaking with respect and empathy?
Here are some tips to communicating more effectively:
1) Do Make eye contact
Pay attention to the person who is talking. Show interest in what they're saying. You can do this by asking questions, digging deeper, and nodding intermittently (at the right moment) when they are talking. You never know what you might learn. If you are looking everywhere but at the speaker, you're going to come off as distracted and rude. Stay focused. It doesn't have to be a glaring stare. Just look at the person normally.
2) Do Paraphrase What They Are Saying
This is always a good technique when talking to someone. Let's say the person with whom you're talking says, "I had a terrible night; didn't sleep a wink!" In response, you may want to say, "You must be so tired. Not getting enough rest is hard on the body." You're not repeating exactly what they said, but you're letting the other person know you heard them. And isn't that what we all want? To be heard?
3) Don't Steal the Conversation
If you learn that you've had a similar experience with the person talking, you might feel moved to steal the conversation. Instead of continuing listening with interest, you might say, "Yes, that happened to me too!" And then you take off and running with your story, leaving the other person in the dust. That is rude and unnecessary. No matter how much you want to talk about your climb to Mount Everest, let the other person finish. You can add brief comments, but go back to their story. Your turn will come. Be patient. You'll want the same courtesy.
4) Don't Interrupt
I don't know anyone who likes to be interrupted while they're talking, but people do it all the time. I've seen it countless times in couple's counseling. One partner will be talking, sharing their story, and before they are even finished with their sentence, the other partner barges in, to prove them wrong, of course. The session gets nowhere fast. I've used a technique in the past where I have one client hold something--a little stuffed toy, perhaps. As long as the person is holding the item, the other person listens. When the speaker is done, they hand over the stuffed toy to the other person, and they become the listener. It's a good way to remind the couple whose turn it is.
We are all a work in progress. Improving our communication skills is one of the best ways in which we can create more successful relationships.
I hope you find these techniques helpful. If you try them, and find that they help you, leave a comment and share in what way.
For more on this subject, watch my YouTube video in which I show some tips to better express yourself. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m79fQpy8mYk&t=9s.