How to Communicate More Effectively

Communication is a vital life-skill, affecting the quality, depth, and authenticity of your relationships. To improve the way you communicate, try the following:

1) Listen. The most effective communicators know when to be quiet. They listen to what the other person says- really listen. Too often, people do nothing more than maintain a respectful silence. That is not listening! How can you communicate with someone if you do not absorb everything they say?

2) Rid yourself of egotism. Egotists, as well as being unpleasant, are usually poor communicators. They will monopolise a conversation, constantly interrupting, correcting, and boasting. Conversations are not opportunities for you to massage your ego! Egotists love the sound of their own voice and assume others share this love- that is rarely true.     

3) Be assertive. Shy, unassertive people will often mumble, avoid eye-contact, and speak so quietly that others cannot hear them. However, assertiveness should not be confused with aggression. Never shout. And never bully. These are signs of weakness and insecurity, not strength.  

4) Watch your body language. Non-verbal communication can be just as important. So maintain eye-contact, smile, keep your shoulders back, and do not cross your arms.

5) Empathise. The more you empathise with someone, the better you will communicate. If someone exposes their fears and insecurities to you, take it as a compliment: it means they trust you.   

6) Do not take yourself too seriously. Many people are insecure and riddled with self-doubt. The moment you boast, or even talk of your achievements (or those of your children), you threaten the other person's self-esteem. And as soon as you do that, they will become defensive. Few things will endear you to other people like self-mockery. But keep it gentle: a negative, self-loathing rant will make them uncomfortable.

7) Expect nothing of the other person. 'Networking' should be top contender for the ugliest word in the English Language. If your basic approach is "what can I get out of other people?", they will sense it. Be open, generous, and kind without expecting anything in return.

8) Be calm. Anxious, tense, over-eager people make others uncomfortable. The more relaxed the other person feels, the more open they will be.  

9) Use verbal and non-verbal encouragement. For example, pepper your conversation with phrases like "yes, that's so true", "oh, did you really? That's interesting", "oh, god, I know exactly what you mean" and so on. And to show that you are 'tuned in' to what they are saying, try nodding, smiling, laughing, and shaking your head at the right moment.

10) Practise your speaking skills. Poor communicators often speak in a flat, monotone voice, or they mumble and stutter. When you are home alone, try reading passages of your favorite poetry and prose out loud. As you do, project your voice, varying the pitch, tone and rhythm. You could even try standing in front of a mirror and introducing yourself.   

The more connected you are to others, the better you will communicate. Many people are full of self-doubt and thus defensive and wary. The warmer, kinder, more open and friendly you are, the more they will relax and let you in.