What is communication? It is more than just sending and receiving messages; it is about understanding those messages. There are lots of things that can get in the way of understanding a message, such as:
Here are two tips for removing those barriers.
- Empathy: Make a conscious decision to try to understand. We often talk about empathy as taking off your own shoes to walk in someone else’s. This helps you to understand where they are coming from and to set aside your judgments or biases in order to give your full attention to the other person.
- Rephrasing/reframing: This technique gives you a chance to think of your response, and it also allows you to demonstrate that you understand while putting it into words that you can relate to.
Remember the saying: “We have two ears and one mouth so we can listen twice as much as we talk.”
Body Language Basics
Much of our face-to-face communication is through body language. While we deliver a message through words, we are also emphasizing, confirming, or even negating what we say through our tone of voice and our non-verbal body language.
This needs to be pleasant, or at least neutral. The face should be relaxed instead of tense to convey that you are comfortable with your role.
Smiles are always welcome and help people to relax. When we are tense, however, our smiles can look like grimaces. Practice smiling in a mirror and get comfortable with offering more smiles. This shows that you like what you are doing.
When you speak with people, your eye contact needs to be steady and confident. Don’t stare people down, but do look at them. While there are cultural aspects to eye contact, it’s our position that you need to look at people so that they see you are being genuine and honest. Also, if you are nervous you will tend to blink more frequently which can make it look like you have something to hide. Try to relax so that you blink at a more normal rate.
This needs to be welcoming, confident, and comfortable. Even if we are incredibly busy, our body language should show that we are interested and focused on this conversation with this person at this time. Leaning into the conversation, avoiding distractions such as phone calls or people at the door, controlling nervousness, all convey positive messages through our body language.
Your attitude is projected through your voice as well as your body language. Make sure your body language always says, “I’m here to help as best I can.”
When your voice is annoyed, impatient, or condescending, the other person may become angered or angrier. Speak with a calm, firm, caring, soothing tone. Your communications will be more relaxed, more pleasant, and better understood.
The speed and rhythm of your speech is important as well. Clear communication includes appropriate pauses and inflections to support the words being said.
Here are some tips:
- As people talk to you, say to yourself: “Which means that…”
- Be clear in your own mind what you hope to achieve.
- In sales or when dealing with problems, take the lead in conversations wherever possible. This gives you the psychological advantage, putting you in a stronger position to direct the conversation along lines that are favorable to you.
- Check your understanding with your six helpers: why, what, where, when, who, and how.
- Talk less than you listen.
- Try silence.
If you are interested in learning more about how effective communication can help you in the workplace, take a look at our course Critical Elements of Customer Service.