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Editorial
17 March 2021

How to Communicate Effectively

The way you communicate with others could either make or break your reputation as an individual, be it in a formal (presentations, interviews, work) or informal (conversations with family and friends) setting. From your ability to empathise to your level of truthfulness, your communication skills can speak volumes about your personality. Hence, communicating the right way can deepen your relationships with others, avoid potential arguments, and make better life decisions. 

So, here are 4 important tips you can practise doing (digitally and physically) on a daily basis to improve your communication skills.

#1. Listening with empathy

 

In order to engage in a meaningful conversation, we must first know what the other person wants to communicate. You’ve probably heard this before, but do you actually do it? Many times, people and even you perhaps, merely listen to respond. You may have even been able to guess what your counterpart is trying to say and have prepared the answers (perhaps to counter) in your head before they’re even done. But were you really listening then?

Listening with empathy suggests that you take the time and effort to understand the perspective, feelings, and thoughts of the other as they speak — putting yourself in their shoe. This way, you’re able to understand and accept why someone else feels and does things a certain way regardless of how YOU feel about it (even if you disagree with it). To do this, you’ll need to set aside your judgement first and withhold any form of criticism you may have. 

Then, you’ll be able to respond from a more empathetic view and communicate more meaningfully instead of coming off as judgemental or superior. Whether you’re lending an ear to a friend in need, having a casual conversation, or conducting a presentation, being a good listener will surely elevate your communication skill and make conversations with you more meaningful.

#2. Avoid interrupting others

 

Remember what I said about listening to respond? Well, here’s the second part to it. The next time you’re engaged in a conversation and can’t wait to give your response, pause for a moment and think again. Are you receiving what’s being said or do you just want to say what’s on your mind too? Typically, when you’re excited to speak, you might even cut what another person is saying just to get your point across. Not only can it be deemed rude by some when you focus only on what you want to say next, but you’re also not giving others a chance to speak their turn. 

An example of listening to respond is when you say something along the lines of “That’s not that bad! Wait till you hear what happened to me last night instead.” By saying this, you’re actually dismissing the problem of another, making them feel like their problem is less significant than yours — when in fact, we all face difficulties in life differently. 

Instead of diverting the attention to yourself, try being there for them. Ask them how they feel about it and offer help if necessary. You can offer advice based on your similar experience too without shifting the focus to yourself.

#3. Think before you speak

 

Some things are easier said than done. Whether it’s engaging in a conversation (online or offline) or being in a meeting, you might feel pressured to speak just to avoid feeling left out. However, speaking for the sake of speaking isn’t a good idea either. You might come off as being insincere if you add on something entirely untrue or worse — being obnoxious to others when you go merry-go-round with nothing valuable to add. That’s not all, by simply blurting out at the top of your head, you risk saying something rude and offensive which you may not have meant or could have been better worded (which will make you seem untactful). In which case, it’s good to note that sometimes, silence is better than unnecessary words. 

HENCE, we strongly emphasise on “thinking”. Is what you say going to contribute any value to the conversation? Have you processed thoroughly what the other is saying? Is what you say going to hurt anybody’s feelings? Is it necessary to express your thoughts? If so, can it be phrased better? These are some questions you should ponder upon the next time you have the urge to say something but are unsure of whether you should speak up or not.

#4. Speak genuinely and straightforwardly

 

Well, you must be thinking, “Isn’t this contrasting to the point above?” Sorry to burst your bubble, but this isn’t your queue to speak absent-mindedly. While some of us may prefer to be honest, you may have noticed people who don’t speak truthfully, a.k.a. being passive-aggressive with how they communicate. They’re never forward and leave you to second-guess what they actually really mean. When asked for their views, they sandwich their criticism between compliments. They’ll never share their honest opinions and will never tell you if they’re unhappy or dissatisfied with something and yet miraculously expect others to know. Are these people even happy one may ask? 

Being able to speak your truth and in a tactful manner will not just help you live your true self but others will also appreciate you for being frank as this will usually save time and effort from both parties. Again, this doesn’t mean you should be rude or harsh in your comments, but rather you should learn to speak frankly with finesse if you want to earn the respect of others. Oftentimes, people tend to mistake rudeness with being frank — both of which are not the same.

So, go forth, and instil these communication habits as you interact with others. As you practise them daily, you’ll realise how your relationship with others will slowly change for the better too! Remember to communicate empathetically, considerately, wisely, and genuinely.

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Josephine Serena
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