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Most of us have situations where we find it difficult to communicate. Improving your communication technique, and being comfortable speaking to people is extremely important. Watch our top tips for being a better communicator.
Step 1: Use open-ended questions
For conversation to flow well, it's important to ask open questions, these often start with ‘how', ‘when', ‘why' etc. An open question is something like: "What sort of things do you do in your spare time?" This really gets the conversation flowing. Try to avoid asking closed questions. These are questions that can be answered with yes or no answer, such as: "Do you like films?" Closed questions tend to kill the conversation.
Step 2: Active Listening
People speak at 100 to 175 words per minute (WPM), but they can listen intelligently at up to 300 words per minute. Since only a part of our mind is paying attention, it is easy to go into mind drift - thinking about other things while listening to someone. The cure for this is active listening - which involves listening with a purpose. It may be to gain information, obtain directions, understand others, solve problems, share interest, see how another person feels, show support, etc. It's also important to give feedback to show yourself and the other person that you've understood what they've said. Do this by summarising and repeating what you heard.
Step 3: Create a 'cocoon'
If you're finding it particularly difficult to concentrate on what someone is saying, try to imagine a “cocoon” around you and the person you're listening to. Imagine that the cocoon is blocking out all outside distractions, so you can really focus on what they're saying. Try repeating their words mentally as they say it - this will reinforce their message and help you control mind drift.
Step 4: Engage with the other person
When someone is trying to get your attention, or engage you in conversation don't turn your back on them, or answer over your shoulder. Instead, turn and face them, engage with them. Good communication is when you really engage. When you are talking to people observe your body language and your tone of voice. Remember to use open strong gestures, look people in the eye and smile when you talk unless you are complaining about something.
Step 5: Assumptions
Don't assume you know the other person's thoughts and feelings. Learn to identify when you do this. It normally occurs when the facts aren't present to support your belief, so always check with the other person what they mean when they say something.
Step 6: Antagonistic sentences
If you need to talk to someone about a difficult topic then avoid using sentences like “You should know me better”, “Why are you trying to upset me?”, “You've never understood me”, “I thought we were going to enjoy ourselves”. These are antagonistic sentences, and are not productive in any way and will just ensure there is a conflict.