Everybody wants better communication skills. No matter what kind of goals you’ve got, job you’ve got, or interests you’ve got, you’ll be able to make more, do more, and enjoy more when you can more effectively interact with others.
You can be the smartest guy in the room, but if you can’t get that across during a regular conversation, you may as well go home. It’s like Mark Twain said:
The difference between somebody who CAN read and somebody who WON’T read?
So it goes with communication skills. Unless you can get those valuable ideas out from inside you head and into the heads of others, you are going to have some frustrations in life. Luckily, developing some incredibly effective communication skills are a lot easier than most people think.
One of the barriers to getting out there and talking to as many people as possible is a lot of us don’t like having attention on yourselves. Public speaking is a fear worse than death for many people. Standing around talking while a crowd gathers to listen to you can be a pretty terrifying idea.
What if you run out of things to say? What if you approach somebody and they look at you funny? What if you make a suggestion and get rejected?
These are all common fears, and are largely imaginary. Luckily, there’s some simple things you can practice that will help make them vanish, and become a world class communicator in the process.
Communication Skills – Body Language
Reading body language is crucial. The difficult part is not learning how, as it’s pretty intuitive. The difficult part is remembering to pay attention to it.
When somebody is facing you, and their not crossing their body with their arms or their legs, that’s a good sign. If they are facing away from you, or crossing themselves, that’s a bad sign. If this happens, back up a bit.
You can either back up physically, or back up conversationally. Dial down whatever you were talking about and talk about something safer or less controversial.
Give yourself something to recall from time to time, so you’ll remember to check body language. Every time somebody coughs, or clears their throat, for example, that would be a good time to quickly check everybody’s body language.
Communication Skills – Conversation Topics
If you are talking in a general social function, the best topic is always the other person. Forget about coming up with all kinds of amazing stories about yourself or your history.
Simply find out things about the person you are talking to. Ask open ended, follow up questions regarding things they seem to enjoy talking about. A good clue to things they like talking about are things that cause them to open up their body language.
Of course, you may run into somebody who’s just as interested in you as you are in them. This is a good thing! Talk about yourself, and don’t be shy.
One way to significantly increase their “response potential” is to place pauses strategically in your sentences.
Most people put pauses where the periods would go in a sentence. But if you put pauses in the middle of a sentence, people will be hanging on the edge of their seat.
For example, say the following sentences out lout (except where it says, “pause.”)
The other day I went fishing and caught a bass. (pause) Then I cooked it and ate it with some potatoes. (pause) It was very delicious. (pause)
Sounds pretty boring, right?
Now try this:
The other day, I went (pause) fishing and caught a (pause) bass. Then I cooked it and ate it with (pause) some potatoes. It was very (pause) delicious.
Same sentence, but much more intriguing!
If you’re talking to a group of people, be sure to use the pauses to make eye contact with a few of them.
Here’s a trick that will take your communication skills to entirely new levels of influence and persuasion.
It’s about managing threads, or the conversation topics. A lot of people, when they’re talking about a topic, will talk about the same topic until it runs its course, and then they’ll switch topics.
This is fine, but it can get pretty boring if somebody doesn’t happen to share your enthusiasm with the particular thread you are talking about.
Instead, consider this strategy.
Start talking about a topic, or a conversational thread. Once it starts getting good, and you notice others are paying closer and closer attention, simply switch threads.
Say something like:
“OH! This reminds me of…”
“It’s kind of like when…”
“This is like….”
And just start the next thread. This takes some practice, but if you can juggle three or four threads are once, and keep coming back and touching on various elements of them, you’ll be an incredibly magnetic conversationalist.
Even more powerful is when you can incorporate threads started by others, so you’re not only juggling your own conversational topics, but others as well.
This way, everybody will feel involved.
The most important thing is that each and every conversation you have with somebody (unless of course your on trial for you life and you’re under oath) think of it as having two simultaneous meanings.
Meaning one is to simply relax, have fun, and get to know the people you’re speaking with.
Meaning two is to practice, so you’ll have just a little bit more skills, techniques and confidence when the next conversational topic rolls around.
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