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5 Techniques To Improve Your Communication

5 Techniques To Improve Your Communication

Implement active listening, nonverbal awareness, empathy cultivation, clear messaging, and feedback loops for enhanced communication.

Active Listening

Listening is the fundamental skill for effective communication. More than just hearing another person’s words, it means understanding their perspective, emotions, and implied meaning. Some of the ways to improve active listening include:

Focus on the speaker

To practice active listening, one must focus on listening to the other person without distractions. It includes observing their body language, tone of voice, and facial expressions. It would help if you avoided multitasking when listening to someone, as well as planning your response.

Show that you care

To show that you are listening, you may demonstrate your interest. Proper verbal and non-verbal reactions include nodding, significant eye contact, standing open and relaxed, smiling, and other facial and hand gestures, which would imply that you are interested and attentive.

Do not interrupt

To be a good active listener, one should let others speak without interrupting. Interruption not only avoids the possibility of someone expressing their thoughts in full, but it may also disrupt mutual understanding.

Reflect and rephrase others

To exercise active listening, you may participate in the conversation actively. Reflecting and rephrasing the other person’s words implies that you are attentive and positively interpret their words. For example, you may say: “So what I hear is…”. .

Ask questions

If you need to clarify what another person says, you may ask questions. These questions should be open and invite the other person to speak more. The best way is to avoid questions which might be answered with a simple “yes” or “no”.

Example

Imagine you were at a meeting with the rest of your team, and you were discussing a new campaign for the product. Your colleague was talking about their ideas for the campaign when you were practicing to use active listening. You concentrated on your participation in the meeting, and you were not distracted by your phone. You were very interested in what your colleague was saying, so you were nodding and said “Wow, it may be a very persuasive idea” from time to time. You did not interrupt or ask questions while your colleague was speaking. Finally, you said: “So what I hear is that we want to use social media influencers to extend our audience and improve brand recognition – did I get it right?” Then you asked: “Can you tell us more about what our target audience is like?”.

Body Language

Noting that body language speaks louder than words, it may be suggested that mastering the art of understanding and using body language to communicate will be a valuable skill. Thus, the following steps may be taken to work on interpreting and utilizing body language more effectively:

  • Observe . Pay close attention to non-verbal cues to stay ahead in your conversations. Some examples of these cues are facial expressions, gestures, posture, and eye contact. For instance, when a person crosses their arms, they may be feeling defensive or disagreeing, while leaning forward can signify that the person is interested.

  • Mirror and match . If you subtly mirror the body language of the person you are speaking with and match micro-expressions, you can create a bond of empathy between you and establish rapport or trust. However, it is crucial to remember to be natural and avoid trying too hard to act as I another person’s bad mimic.

  • Regulate . Be aware of your body language because you are being judged already. Ensure that your body language is open, apply eye contact, and maintain expressive gestures. Avoid, for example, playings with hair, slouching, or making nervously gestures with hands, as it undercut my message and damage my status.

  • Observe cultural differences . Since the personal space and touching preferences, as well as the meaning of gestures and physical activities, may differ significantly from each culture, adjust appropriated behavior for people from diverse cultures.

  • Listening . Master active listening skills, noting that the mind must process about 450 words and 700 non-verbal cues per minute.

It is possible to provide an example of such a situation. In an interview, you may notice the interviewer leaning backward in the chair or having crossed arms, making a few eye contacts . In that case, if you master the skill of determining that such an expression means skepticism, you may sidle, maintain a better posture to lean slightly forward to show engagement and interest, and make some eye contacts to convey the impression of integrity and confidence.

Ask Questions and Provide Feedback

Questions, as well as feedback, are an integral part of communication. Asking the right questions improves the quality of information received, which, in turn, increases the quality of communication. Moreover, questions are very important for checking if the message was clearly understood. Here are several ways to improve your communication using this technique:

Ask open-ended questions. Open-ended questions are those ones that do not allow a simple yes or no answer, and they usually begin with “what”, “how”, “why”. These questions help to encourage more detailed responses, thus creating better communication . Instead of direct: “Did you like that speech?”… an open-ended question like: “What impressed you most during that speech?” will give much more required information…

Practice active listening. Concentrate on the speaker, rather than thinking of your response or judging. Maintain eye contact, and demonstrate that you understand “notice and comment”. Do not interrupt. Paraphrase the speaker’s feelings or words, and test your understanding by stating your interpretation.

Ask for clarification. If you are not sure that you understand something, it is much better to ask for clarification. It shows the other party that you are interested in his point of view. This means you should not ask close-ended questions, but rather plan those to probe a certain point deeper, or to ask about the reasoning behind the other part’s actions or opinions.

Provide feedback . It is very important not just to provide feedback for any sake, but to make this feedback helpful, neutral and behavioral, rather than a mere judgment that sounds like a causative attribution . You can apply the “sandwich approach” — firstly give positive feedback; then criticize; then give another dose of constructive criticism. For example: “Thank you very much for completing this task in time. However, I still see some room for improvement, especially in…”

Follow Up

Post a question or provide feedback, ensure to follow up with the other party. This will show an extra commitment toward effective communication and will confirm your readiness to work collaboratively. You might ask the other party something like the following: “Does that make sense?” or “Do you have any questions or comments for me?”

Example Scenario: Client Consultation Meeting

During a client consultation meeting, you engage in asking questions and in providing feedback: Asking Questions: To inquire about your client’s expectations, you initiate the meeting by asking open-ended questions, such as “What are your priorities for this project?” and “How do you think we should proceed with our collaboration?” Providing Feedback: Once your client shares your ideas, make sure that you provide feedback that contains recognition and a criticism sandwich. Specifically, say, “I am glad that you have some innovative ideas for the project. I think, however, that we can work more on drafting the strategy so that it represents your ideas better.” Seeking Clarification: Do not hesitate to clarify facts and details by your client to make sure that you have mutually shared knowledge. You can ask, “Can you please tell me more about what you expect for the project’s timeline?” or “Who do you think makes up the target audience that we should focus on?” Following Up: Once more, before finishing the meeting, make sure to follow up with the client and address any remaining questions or concerns. Specifically, say, “Before we wrap up our meeting, shall we go over the next steps for the project as we agreed?”

Project Management

Content should be clear and to the point

Clarity and conciseness are key to effective communication. Firstly, when your message is clear, there is no room left for ambiguity. Secondly, conciseness is important for excluding information addressing the discussion’s off-focus points. Here are some strategies for providing clear and concise communication:

  • Defining Your Objective: Before drafting your content, explain to yourself what exactly you want to convey. This will remove off-focus points and irrelevant details from your writing.

  • Organizing Your Thoughts: To effectively deliver your message in a structured order, place your points in a 1-2-3 hierarchy or list them as bullet points.

  • Using Simple Language: Do not try to sound too sophisticated if the people you wish to address would not appreciate your intent. Remove any jargon, industry or company-specific terminology, as well as atypical and too complex words.

  • Eliminating Redundancies: Be as cruel to your text as possible. If a word or a group of words does not contribute to your content’s message, eliminate them.

  • Getting to the Point: The core of your message should be delivered from the very start. Do not waste the recipient’s time with lots of gentle words, explaining why you have written to them.

For example, writing an email, you need to be both clear and succinct

  • Define Objective: Is your objective providing an update, request, or solicitation? Who will be your audience?

  • Organize Your Thoughts: Be logical. Start with a well-drawn subject line to provide enough context. An introduction should be brief and concise, providing enough substance to be attention-grabbing. The main body can be divided into 2-3 points drawing a clear picture. A conclusion can contain a forced conclusion, if any, and a polite ending.

  • Use Simple Language: Ensure that your correspondents can understand you. Do not overpopulate your message with make-sense openings and official service vocabulary.

  • Eliminate Redundancies: Write in a clear and concise manner. If possible, consider extracting two sentences into one.

  • Getting to the Point: Introduce the purpose of the email in the main body, make no turnarounds and do not introduce any previously unmentioned information.

Take notes

One of the most valuable skills that can contribute to your communication effectiveness is taking notes. Anytime you attend a meeting, lecture, or participate in a test, efficient note-taking is critical to ensuring you record essential details and can refer to them later if necessary. Here is how you can improve your note-taking:

Use Abbreviations and Symbols

Create your list of abbreviations and commonly used symbols to speed up your writing process. This way, you can write down the necessary information quickly while maintaining its accuracy. For instance, you can use ‘w/’ for ‘with,’ ‘&’ for ‘and,’ or ‘*’ to signify critical points.

Focus on Key Points

Do not try to write down every detail you hear and instead concentrate on the primary points. Listen actively to the speaker, teacher, or other people and determine what is being said. Look for significant details, memorable ideas, and to-do things. Additionally, since you might not fully understand some of the complex notions, it may be helpful to summarize them in your own words to improve your comprehension.

Organize Your Notes

Think of a proper way of organizing your notes so that they are easy to review later. You may use different color pens to sort them out into categories or levels of importance. You can also underline or use highlighters for the most significant pieces of information. Your list should be well-structured and may include headings, bullet points, and indented text.

Review and Revise

It is critical to consider reviewing your notes on a regular basis to solidify the learned concepts and ensure their accuracy. You can condense some of the information and fill in the details that you might have missed. Be sure to clarify any ambiguous information, get some context if necessary, and perhaps rewrite or type it to make your notes more organized.

Apply Active Listening

To ensure your participation in the writing process, combine it with some of the active listener’s techniques. You can do that by sustaining the eye contact with the speaker, nodding, asking questions where necessary, and participating in discussions.

Scenario: Lecture Note-Taking

When you are participating in a college lecture, efficient note-taking is essential for maximized retention:

  1. Using Abbreviations: ‘ex’ for ‘example,’ ‘def’ for ‘definition,’ or ‘q’ for ‘question’.

  2. Focusing on Key Points: listen to the main ideas and details, writing down explanations and examples to understand the information better.

  3. Organizing Notes: create headings for topics and subtopics, and use bullets for specific key details.

  4. Review and Revise: after the lecture, fill in the missing information and clarify incomprehensible ideas from the textbooks, peers, etc.

  5. Applying Active Listening: stay engaged and listen actively, ask questions to clarify the concepts, or participate in the discussion.

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