We hear a lot about communication and, according to research, most of us think we communicate better than we actually do. To test this, for many years I've been asking my audiences at conferences and seminars how many of them consider themselves to be good at communicating.
Routinely, over half the hands in the room go up. When I then ask how many of these 'good communicators' have got through the past two weeks without an argument or disagreement upsetting them, most of the hands go down. Truly good communicators don't avoid disagreements, but they navigate them with skill and respect so that nobody needs to get upset.
Engage with others
Effective communication is about more than just delivering information. Making yourself understood, engaging with others, and hearing their needs are critical life skills, and communicating well is the foundation of healthy and productive relationships.
At work, employers want their staff to be good communicators and the same skills are just as valuable in our private lives. When you consider how widespread social discord and family arguments are, it's easy to see why.
Listening well, and voicing your needs and wishes, are essential for healthy bonds with others. Effective communication is a requirement if you want respect, trust, and stable relationships. It's almost a cliché that effective relationships need good communication.
Avoiding the pitfalls
To come back to disagreement for a moment; it happens, and conflict is part of life. Whether at work or home, the people who stand out as happiest and most successful are the ones who express themselves well. Not with fancy language, but with the subtle influence that persuades others to stay with the conversation, and even to like them.
Not just words
Effective communication doesn't mean using fancy words to dominate a conversation. When someone communicates well their words have influence and impact, sure, but they 'hit the spot' because they are also good at:
- Engaged listening
- Nonverbal communication
- Managing their emotions
- Building trust and respect.
Effective communicators don't need to impose; their impact is in their understanding of how to build rapport, listen, and then frame their message so that it is heard and understood. Typically, they recognise the needs of the person they are in contact with, before they push their own.
It's unfortunate that so many of us over-estimate our communication skills. When someone is good at communicating they are also adept and managing relationships and fostering harmony. Given the levels of strife and unhappiness in the world, the more people there are who can do that, the better.
We can all develop habits of thinking and speaking that will make a huge difference to how well and how much we have to speak to get our message across and to understand ourselves and our fellow men and women. More importantly, effective communication contributes to personal success, fulfilment and overall happiness with life.
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