By this time in your personal and career development, you likely learned quite a bit. A lot of it is undoubtedly about communication techniques. Without communication, you cannot have teamwork. Or leadership. Or any sort of cooperation, to be precise.
Improving communication is at the core of organizational development. Anything you can do to improve communication will benefit your organization in all sorts of ways. Hence, it makes perfect sense to train teams into using effective communication techniques. Yet oftentimes, a few very effective ones go overlooked.
Here are 7 highly effective communication techniques that are often overlooked. Try them out and see what happens.
#1 Approach listening as a 3-course meal
It’s trendy to tell people they should listen more. However, few actually do it. Even though it’s one of the most overlooked communication techniques.
Listening allows for complete comprehension. Yet, most people listen the wrong way. This is furthered by classes teaching us how to become effective listeners. They perpetuate this notion that you should try to spot the key item of the communication. And purge it out in the open.
As communication techniques go, listening is essential. But when you listen intently, trying to track the valuable item, you fail to listen. In fact, listening should be practiced from “the big picture” to “the focused item”, and not the other way around. Hunting the “key information” in what someone else says is the wrong type of listening. Why? Because it’s one step away from assuming what the key item is.
And there are many things to be said about assumptions. For example, even when your assumptions prove to be right, you should ignore them. It doesn’t mean you should ignore your intuition. It just stands to say that, when you truly listen, you actually let the other person treat you to a 3 course meal.
- The first course is the big picture.
- The second is something of an identifier.
- The third is your role in it all. Or even the purpose of the communication.
- Sometimes you even get the dessert, that is enjoying the process.
Granted, being an effective listener is not bad. Yet, it just trains you for the second course, not the first. So don’t rush it and listen. Other communication techniques are sub-par to mere listening the right way.
The takeaway here is to listen in order to understand. Most people tend to listen in order to reply. They wait for their turn in the conversation – that break in which they can say something.
#2 Embrace and practice empathy
Being emotionally in tune with oneself is often overlooked. Most of our culture is built around not expressing emotions. Almost as if being emotional equates into being weak. What’s worse is that most people fail to get in tune with how they feel.
We expect people to be a certain way. Not to express how they feel. And not to understand how we feel. We expect them to be disconnected from everything other than business. “Be professional”. Or “be a man”.
Yet, expectations breed negative behavior. People get angry, sad and depressed. They get frustrated when their expectations are not met. And sometimes they get frustrated with their expectations being met. Because they feel there’s nothing left to do. Instead of feeling satisfied, they feel disengaged.
In any communication situation, you can disarm expectations with empathy. Being emotionally aware makes you capable of managing your expectations. It makes you take things as they are, helping you feel calm, posed, balanced. Open and ready to listen. Other than that, emotional awareness also helps others communicate with you.
Because you signal your expectations. Not directly, but rather indirectly. Body language. Tone. Something, anything that can be misread. Communication is so much more than an exchange of words.
Last but not least, empathy helps you read people. Know and understand how they feel. You will be able to know how to approach the communication context. Think about it for a moment. People’s postures speak out volumes.
In fact, showing empathy might be as simple as postural reflection. Leveling with people works this way. Ultimately, empathy means that you care.
#3 Try silence – it’s the pearl of communication techniques
Also known as keep quiet, keep your cool, keep it to yourself. Might even go as far as silence speaks for itself. Only that you don’t want silence to speak for itself. You want to use silence to communicate.
Communication isn’t all about talking. Speaking out is often the wrong thing to do. Sure, you can be excellent when speaking. But communication is not just conveying a message. In fact, it’s all about receiving messages. This way you can adapt what you want to say.
By the way, silence is not listening. Sure, you can use silence to listen. But it is silence in itself that does the job. And, in a sense, it is about listening. Silence shows thinking and feeling. Real people do that. Some of your favorite scenes in movies also use that to great effect.
Silence is about creating a space in which people can feel alive. Sure, creating this space is difficult. Our first instinct is to fill silence with anything. Almost as if we’re afraid of silence.
Yet, silence is precisely what you want to begin with. Set the tone of your conversation with silence; it will be appreciated. Set the tone of your answer with silence; it will be invaluable.
Ultimately, cultivating silence is also a personal endeavor. More and more people try to develop silence on a personal level. They attempt to silence their minds with meditation. Or silence the chaos in their lives with routine and structure. In this enriched sense, silence is telling other people that you are equipped for understanding.
#4 Ask the right questions
A mind that learns wonders. Meanwhile, a mind that’s unfocused wanders off. When you wonder, you learn. You don’t need to wonder about something truly great. Just wonder about the tiny things. The simple way of wondering is asking questions.
To be able to ask questions, you need to be comfortable with appearances. You might think that you appear unknowledgeable or insecure. This couldn’t be further from the truth. However, asking the right questions makes you come across as focused and intelligent. It means you’re following what’s going on.
Asking questions is one of the most neglected communication techniques, because it’s counterintuitive. What it actually does is calibrate the conversation. It ensures that the message, once received, was understood.
That’s why in meetings you should ask for prepared questions. This way you will keep people engaged and focused throughout the meeting. Questions are an opportunity for convergence: everyone focuses on the same thing, at the same time.
Sure, learning might be a bit too much. After all, you deal with so much every day, there’s hardly any need to remember it all. Yet, this might actually be the root the problem. The fact that you often remember that there is a problem. Yet, you often don’t remember enough to fix the problem. Asking the right questions and learning are communication techniques. They enable you to follow patterns and become more effective.
The takeaway here is simple. Just remember the last really good question you were asked. How did it make you feel? Now, imagine offering a similar experience in one of your work conversations. It’s like checksum – it shows your communication went flawlessly.
#5 Offer and request feedback
Might be surprising, but it’s true. Both were taken out of context and over-exemplified. So much so that they became a thing in itself. Everyone’s heard about feedback, yet it’s often overlooked. At best, people can give you a sandwich feedback.
And when poorly done, feedback is noise. That’s because at its core, feedback is noise. It’s what you get when your microphone is too close to an amplified speaker. It’s a sound loop forever aggravating itself. Up to the point it becomes unintelligible.
It makes little sense to offer people something they don’t understand. Even when what you’re offering is a context that benefits growth.
Feedback is telling people stuff about what they did. And sharing that in a way they can connect to what you’re saying. A way that allows them to integrate your experience. A way to settle with what you share and grow as a result.
Giving and requesting feedback are ways to encourage actual growth. And the secret is not in how you give feedback. You can learn that likely you’ve covered the subject in trainings upon trainings. What you need to remind yourself is WHY you give or receive feedback.
Because most often than not, people discard feedback. Even when it’s based on facts. We tend to prefer our own interpretation even when it’s confronted by facts. And feedback isn’t even facts.
Knowing why you offer feedback gives you peace of mind. Figuring out what’s important and what’s useless. And using that as tissue you consolidate the good or sandpaper the bad. Knowing why gives you the power to control the outcome.
#6 Get better at writing
Apparently, email is not dead. And it won’t be for quite some time now. But it’s not just the email. Communication extends to include writing. After all, if communication incorporates your body language, written language qualifies too. Yet, most communication techniques stay away from the written language. Indeed, where’s the public speaking seminar for proper writing? To be fair, they’re different challenges.
Speaking out in public is tough on several accounts. There’s the message, but also being nervous in front of an audience. How you convey meaning and emotion. Charisma. The list goes on.
However, writing is seldom as forgiving as public speaking. Firstly, what you write stays written. Secondly, you don’t get a chance to clarify as quickly as with spoken language. Lastly, most of us call it a day when a paragraph speaks to us. Hence, we wouldn’t even bother to check what others think.
To be better at writing, you need two things. Practice and feedback. And while practice makes perfect is a cliché, feedback is underrated. That’s likely because most people won’t know what to criticize about your writing. A great solution is to simply go ahead and figure out what you like to read. Try and see why you like it, and change your writing accordingly.
Indeed, reading will improve your writing. All it takes is perseverance. Last but not least, do remember that your writing will have context and an audience. Hence, it’s appropriate to style your writing accordingly.
But most of all, what’s truly amazing is that writing better means you communicate better. It’s one improvement that affects everything else. Become better at writing and you’ll easily be better at any type of communication. Why? Because writing is a scale-model of communication techniques. It’s like the face to the whole body.
#7 Vaccinate yourself against work-related stress
We include these among communication techniques, even though they’re technically communication barriers. Stress and work pressure can have horrible effects on people; from causing depression and anxiety to actual burn-outs and even worse.
The main issue with both work stress and work pressure is that they’re often neglected. People seem to ignore work pressure and stress even though it hurts them. We’ve covered both in detail with the eliminate work pressure series.
It’s time, however, to explain how they’re obstacles to proper communication. First of all, communication in itself is stressful. With few exceptions, most people find it stressful to communicate. Granted, few people are natural-born communicators. And even so, they may encounter difficult situations.
But inherent work pressure can affect your ability to communicate. A worried mind will find it difficult to structure information. And even more difficult to empathize with an audience. Stress often overlaps with low energy. And communication has a lot to do with having the right energy.
Moreover, stress guarantees you make more mistakes. And, in some roles, communication mistakes are very costly. Executive communications, for example. Miscommunication can cost you a lawsuit or even a public scandal.
Worst of all, stress is contagious. And communicating while stressed makes others feel stressed. Your anxiety becomes everyone’s anxiety. Hence, you have an issue. You can cut down on your own stress and let everyone else simply be productive.
Communication is the effective channel through which you can inspire and motivate. Or demotivate and increase anxiety. Overall, it’s best if you keep your stress levels in check. There are so many options out there. From breathing exercises and mindfulness meditation to yoga to qigong; from having a hobby to therapy. Pick one and just do it.