Well, if I were to ask you that one notable, obvious, and visible thing that differentiates humans from other animals, then I am pretty sure ‘language’ will be in your top 3 list. This language is a pretty fascinating tool at our disposal, utilizing which we can communicate and convey our thoughts, feelings, and emotions in a rather seamless manner, well at least it was meant to be that way, but we both know it’s hardly the case. ‘Effective Communication Skills’ are what we are gonna dive into today in this article. (And it’s not gonna be just the sleazy quick tips that you can find anywhere else, but also the long and short of it, the fat and thin of it, the ‘reading between the lines’ of it, pretty much the kind of thing you won’t get to read anywhere else.)
Other animals can pretty much do everything we humans do—walking, running, bathing, eating, mating, scratching their head when confused, smiling, being notorious, having fun, and a hundred and twelve other things. But we humans changed the course of civilization by stumbling upon this wonderful tool called ‘language’.
It is this language only that allows us to think the way we do today. This language only has increased our intelligence exponentially, or I should say the ‘potential of intelligence’. But, humans being humans, in spite of having this amenity, it is surely our advanced intelligence only that the magnitude of misconceptions, misinformation, misunderstandings, miscalculations, misinterpretations, misconstruction, and a couple other ‘mis-es’ among humans have seen a humongous upward tick.
It is rather astonishing to witness that the number of misapprehensions among well-spoken humans is much more grandeur than mute animals. You won’t find that many animals fighting or quarreling or participating in verbally pissing contests like some of the homo-sapiens indulge in. Incontrovertibly it points to the fact that we are lacking big time in practicing effective communication skills and it’s imperative we amend this and fill up the hole in the wall.
Need of The Hour—Effective Communication Skills
Whether you are looking for a job or starting your own business, whether you are hanging out with your friends or dating someone special—without knowing how to communicate effectively, you aren’t gonna hold up for long.
Having effective communication skills is the kind of skill that will never go wasted in one’s life. It will surely come in handy in some or the other life situations. So, it’s a no-brainer to have an upper hand on this valuable piece of asset.
First Seek to Understand, then to be Understood
You must have probably heard it a million times before. Any article or video on ‘communication skills’ is incomplete without this little gem of advice. Until and unless you don’t understand the thought process of the person you are talking to—what’s he thinking, how he thinks, what does he want, why does he want what he wants, his intentions, his motives, his desires, his fears—it’s gonna be futile and unavailing to try to make any real connections.
No matter how hard you may try to impress the other person, as long as you are giving the bone to a monkey, and a banana to a dog, they are gonna remain out of your reach. There are no shortcuts to this. It’s pretty straightforward. Needless to say, this is the biggest quality of effective communication skills.
You can use bombastic words, accurate grammar, satisfying analogy, and apt idioms in your speech all you want, but as long as you miss on what it is the person is actually looking for, it will be nothing more than a botched-up deal wrapped in pretty papers. You can scrape the internet endlessly looking for all the fancy techniques and tricks that may give you a shiny and glamorous outer appearance for a short while, but if you lack the quality of deeply understanding the other person, it would all be for nothing.
In fact, the whole charade of developing “effective communication skills” can be simply summarized in just two words: Understanding Others. You will fail miserably as long as you refuse to adopt this basic psyche. One might be a very well-versed communicator in his own head, but all of his accolades and achievements will fall short when he steps into the real world.
Don’t be a Sleazy Salesperson
Let’s take a very basic example of a salesperson who’s the best in his field. He is top-notch when it comes to talking and explanation, he is a master of presenting things, full of confidence, and knows how to sell. But even after all this, he will not be able to make a sale if he sells the wrong product to the wrong customer. His lack of understanding of his customers will become the biggest boulder in his pathway, and he won’t be able to stick around for long.
You are asking for a V-neck T-shirt, and he’s busy presenting a round neck. No matter how brilliant he is in his presentation he is ultimately gonna piss you off. “Understanding” is chapter 101 in perfecting your imperfect communication skills.
Look at any successful company. The one thing you will find common in all of them is their ability to understand their customers inside out. Every successful salesperson will be thorough with what his customers are actually looking for. The best employee of the company will be the one who understands what his boss expects from him. And the best blogger will be the one who understands what his users want from him better than anyone else.
Get it through your head, there is no getting around this. You gotta make sure you have this particular quality if you so much as think about having effective communication skills.
Since we lack this basic necessity, it becomes the breeding ground of all the altercations and arguments in the world. Probably the most common phrase during a shouting match that you must have heard is, “Do you even understand what I am talking about? I am saying something else, and you are yelling about something totally different. Gosh! You NEVER REALLY UNDERSTOOD ME.”
We never bother to listen to that, because we ourselves have so much to say. We don’t care about what the other person has to say, our top priority has always been to unleash everything that’s swirling in our minds first, which may or may not be related to the topic of the conversation. And that’s what needs to be corrected. Especially in young couples, you must have observed that they start fighting about how the bf didn’t bring the vegetables, and they end up arguing about how the gf embarrassed the bf’s parents 2 months before.
The more you find yourself arguing, disputing, and squabbling; the weaker is your communication skills. People with effective communication skills would surely have an extraordinary effect on the other person, and any kind of altercations will be dipped to a bare minimum.
The Art of Agreeing in Mastering Communication Skills
The people who acknowledge this art will change the whole course of the discussion by simply agreeing to the other person. Sometimes the best way to win a fight is to lose your armor and show some warmth to the other person. The moment you agree to the other person, she will automatically lay down her weapons. You are essentially taking away the only bullet in their chamber to create a win-win situation.
You know it very well that if you outrightly say it to someone’s face that, “You are totally wrong, and I am absolutely right”, well, then you can be sure of a slanging match for the next half an hour or so. But the minute you say that “Yes, I kinda agree with you”(even if you actually don’t), the other party wouldn’t know what more to say, and it will consequently ease the tension in the room and lower the temperature of the other guy. Then you can actually converse properly, you know like the way humans were actually meant to.
Arguing and quarreling can’t even come under the purview of ‘communication’. It’s more of an ego race, a race to see who can satisfy one’s ego faster than the other. You both will be busy proving your respective point of view endlessly and the end result will be both of you ultimately wasting each other’s time. It’s a testament to what I earlier said, the fact that your communication skills are in a dire need of an upgrade.
So, instead of going down this path and participating in a never-ending pissing contest, you will be better off if you simply say, “Yes, what you are saying is right, and….”. This will change the whole dynamics of the conversation. By saying this, you are letting the other guy know that he is right, and you both are on the same side, so he doesn’t have to be all defensive about proving his point.
Use ‘And’ Instead of ‘But’
This is what effective communication skills are all about. To work together in finding a way out. Converting an argument to a healthy discussion is the go-to way to handle delicate situations. And how do you do that? By adding the conjunction “and”.
“I agree with what you are saying, and it would be even better if you could help me understand your view better”, “You are absolutely right, and I would appreciate it if you could hear my version of the story as well.”
A piece of advice to keep in mind. Don’t use ‘but’ instead of ‘and’. When you are using the word ‘but’ you are actually implying the fact that whatever you said until now is nothing but plain BS. Even John Snow knew this, “Everything said before the word ‘but’ is horseshit.”
Putting in ‘but’ in your statement actually negates the whole thing you said before it or in all possibility makes it even worse. It’s like you are doing some kind of charity and the other person will know it instantly and instead of helping you out, the whole process might blow up in your own face. So, keep this in mind. Once you grasp these small nuances and notions, it will surely help you in improving your communication skills and making it all the more effective.
How to Understand to Communicate Better?
So, we have established this basic understanding that understanding is the apex of possessing effective communication skills. And in order to understand we gotta observe first. So what does observing actually mean? Before you start blabbering without even reading the whole question, take a pause and patiently think about it.
Is just looking at the other person, observation? Is only listening to what he has to say the real observation? You might be looking at the person with the perfect eye contact, and are even listening to each and every word of his, but at the back of your mind, you are constantly being nagged about something or the other. And that’s not a real observation.
Your mind needs to be active and completely at the moment, and not preoccupied with some other occupations, to be eligible to be counted as observation. But who am I kidding? We all know that most of the time, it’s not the case. We might be looking and listening to some rather genuine career advice being given to us by our bosses, but our minds might be hijacked imagining how you ruined your date last night.
If your mind is not fully available to you, then you won’t be able to observe carefully; if you don’t observe correctly, then you won’t be able to understand aptly, and if you don’t understand, well, then you can kiss goodbye to your dream of having ‘effective communication skills’.
Then sometimes we are too quick to judge which again impairs our observation powers. You might be reading this blog or seeking advice from someone else but in your head, you may be thinking, “What he’s saying makes sense but he doesn’t know how my life is making me dance” and things like this. Well, if this is what’s going on in your head, then why even bother wasting your time listening or reading any of this. You aren’t gonna learn anything out of it anyway with that kind of headspace.
Good Observation is Paramount for Good Communication Skills
Good observation involves being completely impartial and unbiased and seeing things as it is. The way a scientist looks at a problem without any biases or prejudice, and without any personal attachment, is how you also need to start noticing things, accounting for all the variables in a particular situation.
Great observation also involves—not just listening to the words of the speaker but figuring out the hidden meaning behind those words—not just seeing the facial expressions of the person but trying to analyze the real context of the same—not simply staring at the body language of the other party but understanding what’s going on in his mind.
Effective communication skills are not just limited to responding to what you see and hear, but more to responding to what you don’t see and hear directly. You have to listen to the words he didn’t speak, look at the direction his eyes didn’t point at, and catch the signals his body didn’t make.
A very common example of this can be understood by a rather popular meme that you must have come across on the internet, which states that “If your gf/wife is pissed at you and asks you to leave her alone, you should never leave her alone.” And that’s what I am emphasizing here. She’s saying something else but wants you to understand something entirely else. That’s part of enhancing your communication skills.
And of course, JB also popularly sang, “What do you mean? First you nod your head yes but you wanna say no, What do you mean? When you don’t want me to move but you tell me to go.” Well, that’s where the whole game of communication revolves around, deciphering, “What the hell do you actually mean!!”
You can forget about shoving in your own thoughts and ideas without first successfully passing this road bump. Well, you can technically skip this bump, but it would be for nothing and you would be just wasting your energy, time, and resources. So, better do it the right way.
That’s what all the big players in the market play around when it comes to making a deal. You might be ready to sell your company for $1M at the back of your mind, but you are saying $5M out loud. Now if the buyer doesn’t understand this game, he would probably end up overpaying. One better brushes up his communication skills to bring up his A-Game or be ready to get slaughtered in this blood market.
Right Questioning Elevates The Context of Your Conversation
The gateway to enter the mind of the person you are conversing with—whether it’s between a father and son, two friends, gf-bf, husband-wife, two colleagues, clients, and investor—is by asking questions, the right kind of questions. There is no sixth sense, magical, or superficial way to understand what the other person is saying.
It’s only by asking questions, that you gradually find the missing pieces of the puzzle to make it whole. Asking questions will kill all of your preconceived notions, beliefs, judgments, and assumptions you have made without proper due diligence—which is precisely the need of the hour.
We have grown so impatient that nobody seems to be wanting to know and understand the whole truth, and are happy and comfortable living in the dark. This kind of laziness and unwilling attitude to learning is the root cause of the majority of family disputes, misunderstandings between couples, and mismanagement in companies.
Asking questions to the other person, with a pinch of interest and curiosity with a smile on your face would make the guy like you all the more. Now even questioning can be intimidating at times, but you have to act in such a way to make it look like you are actually giving power and a sense of authority to the other party, and everybody loves to be in a position of control. Keep in mind that you don’t wanna irritate or nag them with your never-ending streak of pain in the ass questions as it can backfire pretty badly.
This will only work when you are genuinely interested in the conversation and have the intention to actually grow and learn. Only then you can ask interesting and bang-on questions to enhance your understanding of what the person is all about to have a one-of-a-kind conversation.
You need to Calm Down
So often, we are set with our own bazooka of witty comebacks and illogical replies, ever-ready to start firing on the other person at the slightest hint of hostility. There will be times when you gotta step down that high horse of yours you are riding on, show your vulnerability, and actually listen to the harsh truths and realities with an open and enthusiastic mind. This itself is a part of exercising effective communication skills.
Sometimes listening to the naysayers and haters give you more room to improve on and to widen your potential. It simply gives you more data points to act and upgrade oneself on, provided you don’t let such advice get to your head. This kind of open-mindedness and acting while being impervious(at the personal level) is a killer quality to develop.
In fact, come to think of it, at times, listening to your haters or simply put, people who are not exactly in ‘awe’ of you might be the ones who end up giving you the best advice. As they are not afraid of hurting your fragile heart, they may end up giving you the cold hard truths, the drawbacks, the loopholes, the criticism. And any intelligent will know that that’s actually a goldmine, as one can extract a ton of value from it if he wants to. So, keep your calm.
People Love when they are Heard
I know, right? We all love that one friend of ours who can listen to our bullshit for 2 straight hours without flinching. But nowadays, we all have become our own salesman, selling our own ideas, thoughts, ideologies, beliefs, and points of view all the time. The demand is shrinking and the supply is increasing like crazy.
Everywhere you go, you will just notice people wanting others to buy into their own bullshit. It’s kinda what I am doing as well, but, uh, well, never mind.
Ohh, so where was I? Yeah, this is a huge mistake we make which needs to be remedied to possess effective communication skills. You gotta take a pause, and instead of selling nonstop maybe you should buy sometimes. This gives the expression that you are actually intaking what the other person is saying. If you don’t get it in the first blow, take a pause and ask the other person, “Would you mind extending on what you actually mean to say?” That’s how you roll into effectively conversing with others, and the people will love you seeing that there is someone who actually listens to what they have to say.
Understand Yourself to Understand Others
The best way to understand others is to understand yourself in and out. What you like in others, is exactly what the others are looking for in you.
Do you like to talk to people who always have a nice sweet smile on their faces? Would you prefer soft-spoken or harsh-spoken people? You like talking to your friends who actually understand you and talk to you in the language you are comfortable in. Your preference would be to choose the people who listen to you more than those who just know how to shoot bullets from their mouths. People who take interest in your talk, who match your energy, complement your mood, and replicate your body language, would always be at the top of your ‘my-favs’ chart.
See, you already have all the answers in front of you. Now, simply reiterate what you learned from yourself with others and you are good to go. What more do you need to learn? No amount of videos, books, podcasts, or audios can help you learn more than you can just by observing yourself calmly and patiently.
Ultimately everybody wants to have a positive feeling after talking to you, a mild rejuvenation, a declutter point. And if you can give it to them, then I suppose congratulations are in order, you have effective communication skills, if not, well, don’t settle just yet.
Now, on an endnote, I feel I must set the records straight. If you are learning all these nuances and the nitty-gritty details of communication skills to cheat, fraud, or screw people over, sorry to break it to you, it isn’t gonna be enough.
You can try anything and everything, read endless books and articles, but if your intentions and motives aren’t healthy and uplifting you aren’t gonna reach anywhere, instead, you will just keep on falling down endlessly in a bottomless pit. Don’t underestimate the power of people, they are smart enough to eventually figure out what kind of a person you are. Your vibes don’t lie. As long as you are honest, genuine, and helpful, your energy and vibration will get transferred and the other party will notice it too, sooner than later. Don’t compromise on this aspect to be a dishonest and backstabbing human being. Be good, do good.