By Alex Perdikis
Communication is one of the keys to a fulfilling life. The lack of communication and the ensuing misunderstandings cause a tremendous amount of strife both at work and at home. Communication skills come naturally to some people, but others struggle with finding the right words and articulating their thoughts.
If you struggle with turning your thoughts into words, you’re not alone. But, you can learn to communicate effectively and in a positive way that brings out the best in others. Follow these tips to learn how to communicate better in every aspect of your life.
1. Listen to others. The most important skill a great communicator has is not a way with words, but the ability to listen. To listen doesn’t mean you’re thinking about what you want to say as soon as the person you’re talking to takes a breath. It means letting the speaker finish and understanding what the speaker said.
“It’s OK to say nothing while you take a few moments to think. If you don’t understand something, ask.” — Alex Perdikis
If you’re not sure you understood, repeat in your own words what you heard and ask for verification. At this point, it doesn’t matter if you agree or disagree. Understanding the other person is the first step to opening the doors of communication.
2. Learn to read people. Words aren’t the only form of communication. Pay close attention to the body language and overall demeanor of the speaker. If someone says they’re fine as they nervously tap their pencil on the table, they probably are not fine. They could be nervous or upset, but it’s likely they’re troubled about something. Learn to see the person as a whole and learn to read signs beyond the spoken word.
3. Observe how others communicate. You’ve known some great communicators. They’re the people who know how to say it, when to say it, when to listen and how to respond. Observe how those great communicators handle different situations and learn from them.
4. Heed the “silence is golden” rule. Communication doesn’t mean there has to be a constant barrage of back and forth chatter. Moments of silence during a conversation give participants time to reflect on and absorb what’s been said and serve to calm if the exchange became heated.
5. Find common ground. If a conversation becomes heated, diffuse the situation by agreeing with an aspect of what the other person said, if possible. At the very least, let them know you understand they’re upset and open to discussing possibilities.
6. Genuinely care about others. If your co-workers and staff know you genuinely care about them as people, you’ll find the lines of communication open wider. Honor the feelings of those around you and treat them with respect.
7. Take deep breaths before responding to an upsetting email or text message. Written communication is often much trickier than face-to-face communication. When you speak with a person in front of you, you have the added benefit of hearing the tone of voice, seeing the expression and observing the body language. You have none of those advantages with email or text messages.
Before you respond to what appears to be an upsetting email or text message, take a few deep breaths. Is it possible you misread the meaning behind the message? Don’t shoot off a response immediately. Once it’s gone, you can’t take it back.
Alex Perdikis, Koons of Silver Spring general manager and owner, lives in Chevy Chase with his wife and daughters.