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how to communicate better

Have you ever looked back on a conversation and wished it could have gone smoother? Or tried to have a difficult conversation and found it hard to express yourself properly? I’m sure we all have those moments, but there are a few tips and tricks that can help you navigate your way through almost any social situation.

Actively Listen

This is really important when it comes to creating a connection with someone. If you’re too worried about what you’ll say next that you stop listening, or worse, you’re just waiting for your turn to speak, your audience will sense your inattention (think: glazed over eyes or not nodding alone with the conversation). Practice active listening, make good eye contact, and you’ll see a remarkable difference in the way people connect with you through conversation.

Ask open ended questions

Making small talk, or trying to get to know someone new? The worst thing you can do is ask a question that can be easily answered by a “yes” or “no”, as it doesn’t encourage further dialogue. Instead, ask questions that make them think or explain in further detail. For example, “Why is that important to you?”, “How did you do that?” and “How does that make you feel?” are all great open ended questions that will prompt longer answers, giving you more insight and a chance to reply.

Try to avoid saying “but”

Responding to someone with the word “But…” immediately puts them on the defensive, making it harder for you to reach an agreement. The best way to deal with a difference of opinion is to initially agree with the person and then try to move the conversation along. It’s not deceptive, it just shows that you’re willing to work with them even if the ask is difficult. Instead of disagreeing, an example response would be, “Yes, I’m happy to work towards that deadline, and I’ll circle back with my team/supervisor to make sure we have the necessary resource to get it done.” That way you’ve answered favorably and ended the discussion on a positive note.

Respond, don’t react

A reaction is an emotional reply, whereas a response is a thoughtful one. Responding can help you keep the tone of the conversation positive, and often lets you take a moment to consider the situation and the other person’s point of view. Reacting (or overreacting) is often impulsive, based on an emotional outburst, which can lead to miscommunication or lack of action. Basically, it’s best not to focus on the problems, but find solutions for them instead.

Use “us” and “we” instead of “you”

When you’re having a difficult conversation it’s always best to avoid pointing fingers and signaling people out. Instead, avoid directing blame and using the word “you” in favor of more neutral terms like “we” or “us”. For example, if you’re talking a about a missed deadline, instead of jumping straight to accusations, you could say instead “What can we do to move this project forward?” or “Our team is really busy, but is there something we can do to avoid being rushed in the future?” Essentially sharing the blame (and responsibility) keeps the tone positive and invites open conversation instead of resentment.

Delegating

You may be superwoman, but even heroes need help sometimes. Feel guilty delegating? Or maybe you don’t trust the work will be done on time? Avoid miscommunication by using concise language, avoiding phrases like “soon” or “if possible” and instead giving a clear demand: you know they are busy but you need their help, there is a clear deadline and if they can’t meet it then they need to let you know well before the date/time you’ve set. The demand isn’t too vague, and you’re not left high and dry without the work you asked for.

All of these examples can be used in both your professional and personal life. Whether you’re trying to negotiate a sale, a raise, or a girls night out, clear communication is one of the best tools you can have in your arsenal.

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