How to Communicate Better with Others
The greatest asset to harmony is communication. Learn how to better understand friends, family, and strangers, so you can lead a happier, more fulfilled life.
Most people don’t list “learn to communicate better” in their New Year’s resolutions. In fact, the entire concept of communication seems vague. But if I told you there was a surefire way to strengthen your relationship with every single person you meet and it was completely free, would you go for it? Of course you would. Here’s an easily digestible overview of steps you can take today to become a better communicator.
Nix the Phone
It’s much, much easier to say things via text, right? Tap out your concerns, add a unicorn emoji, and voila! Problem solved. Except that the more you text, the more ambiguous your communication becomes. Texting and emails are fine for basics (addresses, making appointments, etc.), but we don’t communicate as a species using only words, which means most of your meaning is left out of each text you send.
A better alternative is to talk, but the best alternative is face-to-face interaction. Make a goal to stop texting, emailing, social media-ing, and messaging as much, and you’ll find you’re on your way to finding joy in communication again.
There’s a difference between listening and hearing. Sure, you can hear when someone talks to you, but do you listen to what they’re saying? Truly listening is the only way to connect with someone. There are loads of articles on how to be an active listener; if you take no other step to improve your communication skills, at least learn how to excel at listening.
Make eye contact, respond to what the other person is saying, focus, and put your phone away. You can even repeat back what the other person is saying. For instance, you can respond with, “I believe what you’re saying is that I need to do a better job at___________. Is that what you mean?” Sometimes emotion clouds the bottom line, so when your spouse is so frustrated that the conversation rambles, you can gently repeat what you’re hearing in an effort to understand better.
Related: How to Become a Better Listener
Watch your tone
Even saying the word “fine” takes on different meaning depending on how it’s said. When you want to communicate better, watch how you say things.
You’re guaranteed to get upset occasionally, but when that happens, step away from the situation and give yourself time to calm down. Return to the situation when you’re calmly able to express your feelings and propose a solution.
If you’ve ever been on a date with a person who talked only about himself or herself, you know the value of asking questions. Questions indicate that you’re taking a genuine interest in someone. Here’s a pro tip: When you’re struggling to make small talk with someone, asking questions helps find common ground.
Even when you think you have nothing in common with a person, you can ask questions until you find some aspect of that person that you can relate to. And that’s how you can survive different coworkers, too!
These four suggestions are the basis for healthy communication. When you get more secure, move on to things like making eye contact, watching your body language, and learning how to be a master of small talk. From colleagues, friends, families, or marriages, healthy communication can have a positive impact on relationships.