Let’s face it. Most of us have horrible communication skills.
We talk too much, listen too little, and don’t really put much thought into how we come across to others.
Which seems ironic – considering all the ways we have to communicate these days. With email, texts, social media, and video there are more ways to get your message out than ever before. But herein lies the problem.
With such easy access to share our thoughts and ideas, the emphasis on communicating effectively seems to have taken a back seat.
But for those of us looking to improve how we interact with others, we can use this trend to our advantage. Because it doesn’t take much to stand out from the crowd when everyone else is just doing the bare minimum to get by.
Let’s take a look at a few ways that we can separate ourselves from the herd. No bull.
1. Curb Your Enthusiasm
We all know someone like this!!! The person who feels the need to add an exclamation point to everything they post/share/send! It doesn’t matter if they’re talking about a trip to the grocery store or passing a kidney stone – they both seem equally exciting!!!
It’s not necessary to end every statement you make with an exclamation point! Because when you do, the very emotion you’re trying to convey gets lost in your message! Placing emphasis on every sentence you create makes it difficult to decipher which ones are truly important from those that are not!
Try this instead:
As a general rule of thumb, aim to limit your exclamation points to 2 per page or post. This will allow you to make a greater impact with your audience when they do come across such heavy-handed punctuation.
Besides, no one likes to feel like they’re being yelled at during a conversation. And that’s what exclamation points are intended to convey.
2. Like, Pay Attention To Your Words
We’re facing an epidemic these days. The “likes” of which the world has never seen (I couldn’t resist). I’m referring to the defamation of the word like. This simple word used to mean something. “I like you as a friend.” “That kid can run like the wind!” “She was into cooking, baking and the like.”
Nowadays, like is usually nothing more than a filler word. If you don’t know what I mean, take a listen the next time your teenager tells a story or when an airhead celebrity gives an interview. “Like, this was a really powerful role for me, because I can like, really understand what the character was going through.”
Excuse me while, I like, hurl.
I encourage you to listen next time you hear anyone younger than 60 telling a story and see how many times you hear “like” come out of their mouth. Once you train your ear to listen for it, you will be amazed at what you discover. And you’ll be embarrassed at how silly it makes people sound when they repeat “like” over and over again.
On a side note, kill the “amazings” too. Not everything people say, do or eat has to be amazing.
It’s okay if the enchilada plate at Jalisco’s was just pretty good.
3. Become A Better Listener
It may seem contradictory, but becoming a better listener will improve your communication skills. Why? Because listening is a skill that most people rarely practice. This makes any extra effort you put in become that much more valuable.
Most interactions go something like this: One person begins the conversation then the other picks up on a key word or phrase that comes up. Once locked on to this thought, the 2nd person immediately begins to focus on how they can parlay this topic into their own response in the hopes of making themselves seem more intelligent or hip.
Basically, they’re trying to one up the other person.
Although this seems harmless enough (I mean, who doesn’t want to look cool in front of others?), this process can greatly diminish the quality of your interactions with others. Because when you’re constantly searching for that golden comeback in your mind you’re never really focused on what the other person is saying.
In other words, you’re not listening.
Try this next time instead: Make it a point to devote your full attention to what the other person is saying. Eliminate all distractions in your mind and focus solely on what you’re hearing.
Afterwards, stop and reflect.
Pause to analyze what the other party just shared. Instead of trying to jump into your own related story afterwards, ask a strong follow up question or relay what that person said back to him or her. People are always flattered when they find others interested in what they have to say.
“Talk to someone about themselves and they’ll listen for hours.” – Dale Carnegie
Developing your “listening” skills is a sure fire way to build rapport, gain trust, and make a great impression with everyone you meet. When you hear someone out, and show afterwards that you were actually paying attention, you’re much more likely to hear a “yes” if you hit them up for a favor afterwards.
4. Use Common Language
Ever listened to someone in law enforcement give a press conference? It can be some of the most utterly perplexing use of the English language that you’ll ever hear.
“The alleged suspect was observed by local security during the timeframe of the purported incident and was believed to be a person of interest at that time.”
You mean you saw the guy running and figured he was your man? Why didn’t you just say that?
I know I know. Police have to talk that way to avoid lawsuits and the “like”, but it’s a great example of how language can serve to either help or hinder your message.
Don’t try and impress others by using big words or phrases that the average person wouldn’t understand. The only thing you accomplish by doing so is to annoy your audience and have them look elsewhere for information.
Keep it simple and get to the point in your messages. It’s fine to choose “colorful” words and phrases in order to keep things interesting, just don’t get too technical or complicated.
If you’re unsure about the language in your messages, use the following as your litmus test: If you tried to explain it to your grandmother or your kids, would they understand what you were talking about?
If not, start over and try again.
5. Sweat The Details
Think, for a moment, about the last time someone surprised you…in a positive way. I’m not talking about family or close friends – I mean a stranger or someone that you barely knew. What was it about their actions that made an impression? I can’t say for certain, but I’m willing to bet it had something to do with the details.
Maybe it was an acquaintance from work who randomly wished you a happy birthday. Or perhaps the server at your local restaurant that brings out your favorite drink before you even have to ask. Why do these moments stand out in our minds? What causes them to make such an impact?
It’s because they make us feel special. And that’s a desire that we all share.
There’s no better way to make friends, or start a dialogue with others, than to make someone feel special.
So how can we integrate this process into the ways that we communicate with others? Simple. Since we’re already becoming better listeners, all that’s left to do is put the information we learn to good use.
When someone decides to share details about their life with you, make note of it. Remember their spouse or kids names, where they grew up or who their favorite baseball team is. Next time you talk to them, ask how Suzie or little Johnny is doing or whether or not they think the Astros will make the playoffs. You’ll be amazed at how much people appreciate the fact that someone else payed attention to them, and they’ll love the way that makes them feel!
Focusing on the details is a powerful way to quickly build new relationships and strengthen the existing ones you already have. And all it takes is a keen ear and a little effort to make use of what you hear.
Hopefully by now you’re starting to see a pattern emerge. Everything we’ve discussed boils down to the fact that you’re taking action and doing the things that most around you will take for granted.
Pay attention to others, listen to what they have to say and always try to make them feel special or valuable. Be vigilant about how you present yourself and come across to others. Be proactive about not dominating every conversation and making yourself the focal point of discussion.
If you’re not implementing these tactics already, take a step back and re-evaluate your communication strategy. By focusing on what’s important to others, while still relaying your own needs at the appropriate time, you’ll notice a huge increase in the effectiveness of your interactions with others.
What do you think? Do you have any other valuable communications tips that I missed? Let me know.