Wait. Don’t tell me. I can already see your answer:
“Jeremy, I’m a terrible communicator and you’ll never convince me otherwise!”
Okay, maybe that wasn’t your answer. But it was probably a variant of that. And you’re not alone: most of the people I’ve met both online and in person stridently maintain that they’re both terrible communicators and even worse public speakers. They tell me they never seem to know what to say or how to interact with their peers beyond some small talk and flatteries. And maybe you’re one of those people.
Not knowing how to interact, of course, can lead to terrible things: Poor communication can lead to awful things like missed meetings, conflict, arguments, and terrible sequels to movies.
Okay, maybe not that last one. But you get my point. If you’re one of those people who can never seem to get your point across effectively (or who can only get it across with tears and/or excruciating repetition) read on for some of the quickest, easiest ways to fix that!
1) Ask Good Questions
This one might seem counterintuitive, but ask questions! Ask good questions. Generic questions are just that- generic. As a result, they come off as insincere. When someone’s talking to you, really listen to what they say and craft good questions. If they’re complaining about a meeting, don’t say “oh, yeah? What happened next?”. That’s predictable and trite. Say something “Woah, really? Why were Keith’s fourth quarter numbers that low?” (or something else topical). They’ll appreciate it- and they’ll be more receptive to follow up convo.
2) Stop Fluffing Up Your Words
We’re all guilty of doing this (and if you think you aren’t, remember back to every high school paper you ever wrote. Yeah. Thought so). We’ve long been taught that being thorough and explaining everything in detail is the way to go, but often it just gets in the way.
Not saying to be vague and unhelpful, of course. But next time you’re writing that email, think about what you could cut- or what you don’t even have to include in the first place. Chances are that your emails will actually become clearer!
3) Address Problems Promptly
You might be thinking “What on earth does this have to do with communication?”
A ton, in fact. Because a problem left unaddressed is a communication breakdown at its most basic level. If there’s a problem, even if it’s an uncomfortable one, you have to address that right away! Ignoring it means that not only are you not actively resolving it, you’re probably also making the problem worse. If you’ve got an awkward conversation in your future, don’t put it off: face it head on and nip the problem in the bud before it gets even bigger.
4) Don’t Just Talk About Yourself
Most people will violate this rule: In fact, this may be the hardest rule to adhere to on this entire list. As it turns out, often the most interesting person to us is- surprise! – us. But that won’t help you communicate with people, and in fact it’s one of the quickest ways to turn people off.
The only time it’s appropriate to talk about yourself is when you can tailor your story to your audience. Remember, we’re all selfish. You want to talk about yourself, but they want to know what’s in it for them. So make it about them- make sure to tailor your stories and your experience so it fits in with both the topic at hand and your audience’s own history and point of view. Guaranteed they’ll be more receptive to your message!
5) Don’t Sugarcoat It
Ever since we were little, we were taught to be aware of other people’s feelings. Often this manifests itself as trying to cushion the blow of bad news, but many people take this to the extreme: they water down the bad news so much that it effectively isn’t news any longer.
If you’ve got to give someone bad news, don’t sugarcoat it: give it to them straight. Don’t be mean about it, and you can cushion it a little if need be, but make sure the recipient understands the full extent of the news. Not giving someone the straight talk can cause a great deal of heartache down the line, so make sure to be as clear as possible the moment you’ve got the chance!
So try these out. Start today, if you want- you’ll find that you’ll be a better communicator with a minimum of effort- and everybody around you will be thankful for it (and, if they need these tips, pass them along…)