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12 Ways to Be a Better Communicator

Amanda Page Feb 27th, 2013 (updated Jan 7th, 2014)
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What is it about communicating with other people that can be so stressful? For those with social anxiety disorder, basic interpersonal communication is enough to induce an anxiety attack. But, even for those without an anxiety disorder, communication is an acquired skill. Learning to be an effective communicator, however, is a valuable tool both personally and professionally. Here are some ways to enhance your communication skills.

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Be specific
Be specific

Specificity is usually better than ambiguity. How can others understand what you are trying to saying if you can’t express yourself clearly? Before you engage a conversation, think about what it is you want to achieve, and how you can say it clearly and concisely. The goal should be to weed out redundancies and make all of your words count.

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Read your emotions
Read your emotions

Mentally sift through the emotions that are driving your thoughts. Sometimes feeling down or anxious can lead us to seek false truths from others in an attempt to boost our mood.  Communication is more effective if we understand what we are seeking from others first. This step will help you avoid unnecessary or negative interaction.   

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Remove the earwax
Remove the earwax

Communication works best as a discussion and not a lecture. Moving your lips can only get across what you already know, but listening can teach you something new. Make sure you are allowing enough time to listen so the other person has the chance speak up.

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Is it a good time?
Is it a good time?

Communicating at an inopportune time could negatively affect the outcome of the conversation. Taking the time to consider the emotions that are driving you to communicate could help you better address the situation at a mutually productive time, when both parties are willing to discuss the matter. 

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Speak for yourself
Speak for yourself

Using “I” statements instead of “you” statements can prevent an accusatory tone, while staying on point. For instance, say “I want to be more involved,” instead of “you are leaving me out.” Keeping the situation progressive and less confrontational is always a better option.   

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Avoid assumptions
Avoid assumptions

Try sticking to facts rather than assumptions, anecdotes, or interpretations. It’s easy to invent hypothetical reasons for why someone did something. But making assumptions can harm your credibility, which is a valuable communication trait that shouldn’t be sacrificed for the sake of drama.

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Be thoughtful
Be thoughtful

If you listened well and gained an understanding of the situation, then your questions should further the discussion. If you did not listen, your input could end up derailing the discussion or forcing others to repeat information. A question should not be asked merely to prove you were listening either, but to share your perspective or enhance clarity.  

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Don't take it personally
Don't take it personally

Remember that each conversation varies based on the personality and communication skills of the individual(s) involved. Even if you did something wrong doesn’t mean you deserve to be treated rudely. Abrasive people tend to harm communication, no matter how proficient they may be.  

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Take responsibility
Take responsibility

Go into a conversation with an open mind and be willing to alter your message. Remember that in order for successful communication to occur, your objective needs to be aligned with whom you are communicating. Humor, analogies, stories, relevant data, and questions are great methods to engage others when things aren’t going as smoothly as intended or you aren’t receiving the feedback you desire.  

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Be confident
Be confident

Be clear about what you want or need and be willing to negotiate. Anticipate a yes, or a no, and how you can work around either response. No matter what the outcome, there is no need to avoid practicing respectful communication. The more you work at it, the more comfortable you will become with yourself and expressing your needs.

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Stay on subject
Stay on subject

Sticking to the primary subject can be tricky since conversations often give way to tangents or changing of subjects. As respectfully as possible, nudge the focus back to the primary topic and agree to work out other issues later.  

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Ditch the ego
Ditch the ego

People are motivated to pay attention to a speaker less for their knowledge than for their passion. Care about what you are saying and personalize your message. Good things happen when communication is driven with empathy and care. Practicing this principle can turn rage into respect and skepticism into trust.