Have you ever been misunderstood? Have you ever misunderstood anybody? We all have. And a lot of that lies in the fact that there was some sort of communication gap.
One thing about words is they’re like a toothpaste squeezed out of a tube. Once they’re out, you can’t get them back in.
Remember that hurtful word you once said, that joke you shouldn’t have made in a meeting, or that insensitive remark over dinner? These could have all been avoided if we knew how to communicate better.
Since we were young, the school system has taught us about language. We were taught communication as a technical skill, but never as a soft skill that can benefit interpersonal relationships.
The good news is it’s never too late to work on your communication skills. Whether you want to explain what online customer experience management is to an employee or you just want to express your emotions better to your partner, we can do something about that communication gap.
5 Ways to Improve Your Communication Skills at Home and Work
1. Do not hold hostage conversations.
Ever. Most folks think that being vocal is equal to being a good communicator, even to the point of taking over a conversation. This communicates disrespect to the other party and communicates that what you have to say is more important than what they are saying.
The same also goes for finishing people’s sentences. This dis-empowers them and tells them that you know more than they do.
2. Learn to paraphrase.
Paraphrasing is a good exercise and habit to build to ensure that both parties are on the same page. All you need to do is repeat what was said in your own words according to how you understood it. This minimizes the risk of misunderstanding.
3. Reread before you hit the Send button.
A lot of miscommunication nowadays happens on the digital platform. Text messages, emails, tweets, and other similar digital output can be easily misinterpreted by the recipient.
The slightest grammatical or spelling error, a misplaced punctuation mark, misuse of emojis (for personal communications), and other similar occurrences lead to misunderstandings that a little proofreading could have solved.
Make it a habit to reread your messages before clicking on Send to avoid unnecessary headaches.
4. Listen to understand.
One of the main causes of miscommunication and misunderstanding is this: people listen to respond.
Learn how to listen actively to people and what they are saying. This goes beyond just the words being said. It involves taking in non-verbal cues as well — the tone, the manner of delivery, the pauses, the body language. Listen empathically to the person and what he or she is saying to understand their current situation.
5. Your body language matters.
Body language is indicative of a person’s current emotional and mental state. It is easy to see if a person is jolly or burdened just by the posture alone. Learning how to read and manage one’s body language can help you improve how you communicate and manage conversations.
Plato once said, “Wise men speak because they have something to say; Fools because they have to say something.” There is a difference. Improving your communication skills bring you a step closer to the former and a step away from being the latter.
Avoid the bad communication habits you have built over the years and start employing better ones.