Effective communication is a skill that is underrated yet highly impactful in our daily interactions.
It is a challenging skill to master, especially for an introvert like myself. It requires study and intentional practice. I’ve read many books that cover this topic to better communicate in business.
I have the chance to speak to many people and groups of people daily as a leader in tech companies, and I still feel like a beginner.
I recently came across a great Ted Talk by Celeste Headlee, which was full of practical tips to improve our conversations. I highly recommend you watch it. From that speech, I want to highlight three tips that I believe are crucial to communicating effectively with other people.
Our brains are terrible at multitasking. Everyone’s brain; yours is not an exception!
Have you ever been asked in a meeting or during a class, “What do you think?” but you were in another world and had no idea what were they talking about? I’ve been there, too; it is horrible. We feel miserable, lose respect, and make people mad at us.
To make the most of your conversations, avoid distractions and avoid half-hearted participation. Focus on the person or group you are communicating with. You will have more meaningful interactions and will also get the respect and interest of others.
Admit when you don’t know
Be careful about what you claim to be an expert in and what you claim to know for sure.
Have you ever talked to someone who assures you they know something you are confident is wrong, but they don’t accept “losing” the argument? And does this behavior repeat? In the end, the person loses credibility. You never know if you can trust the person, and it is exhausting, if possible, to prove they are wrong when the stakes are high.
Be humble in your conversations. You learn more and build trust by openly admitting you don’t know or are unsure of something.
Last but not least, listening is the most important skill to develop for effective communication. Listening improves communication in many ways.
Paying attention and showing appreciation make conversations more pleasant and exciting for the other person. Everyone wins. I first learned this lesson from Dale Carnegie in How to Win Friends and Influence People when he says: “You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.”
Be aware if you are genuinely listening to the other person. Another great lesson comes from Stephen Covey in The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People: “Most of us don’t listen with the intent to understand. We listen with the intent to reply”. Focus on understanding the other person, not on answering quickly to look smart.
And finally, interacting with other people is a learning experience. Learn from what the other person has to say. Remember what Buddha once said: “If your mouth is open, you’re not learning.”
When we practice active listening, we improve learning, strengthen relationships, and engage with other people in a more meaningful way.