So many of life’s outcomes, achievements in particular, depend on clear, confident communication. Whether it’s a presentation to colleagues at work, settling a disagreement with your spouse or making weekend plans with friends, communication plays a key role. However, a large majority of individuals don’t consider themselves to be great conversationalists. Still, the act of learning how to be a good communicator is an endeavour that’s frequently undervalued and neglected.

Even if it doesn’t come naturally, there are many ways to enhance your speaking abilities, often that have nothing to do with verbal communication at all. When we become stronger communicators, we undoubtedly become stronger in other aspects of our life. We become stronger partners, friends, parents, coworkers, leaders and beyond. There are actually thousands of fantastic reasons as to why you should sharpen up your communication skills, without a single good reason not to.

So, whether you’d like to become more persuasive in the boardroom or simply have more engaged conversations, here are 6 ways to become a better communicator:

Keep your focus

Between the scramble to get ahead and the technology-driven world we live in, we’ve become the generation of multitasking. You can’t communicate effectively when your mind is elsewhere, however. If your focus is another place you’re likely to miss important details that might make all the difference between a successful or unsuccessful conversation. Besides, when do people ever want just your divided attention? Whether you’re participating in a group discussion or having a one-on-one conversation always be fully present.

Learn to listen

This ties in with staying focused and is probably the most important piece of advice, as listening is the foundation of all good communication. It’s makes sense. If you don’t know what others are saying (or not saying), it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to adequately respond or relate to them. But listen to understand, not to merely reply. This type of active listening will allow you to read between the spoken lines. So, never go into a conversation with the sole objective to speak.

Ask questions

Effective communication is not a one-way street. No matter the audience size, great communicators always ask questions. This tactic has two benefits. First, it helps speakers clarify their thoughts and feelings. Second, it provides the listener with even more information and ideas to reflect upon. Successful communicators also question their audience to confirm that their point has been understood. Open-ended questions, as opposed to ‘yes’ and ‘no’ questions, are always more valuable.

Practice better body language

Body language has a major impact on the way people speak to and read one another. The more you’re able to develop a keener awareness of these visual signals while communicating, the easier it will become for you to understand your audience. Remember, too, that your own body language will say more than words. For instance, positive body language is more likely to encourage an open flow of communication with others. Try to keep an upright posture, steady eye contact and use affirmative movements (nodding, hand gestures, etc.) when appropriate.

Don’t be afraid of a bit of silence

Occasional lags in conversation are natural and often expected. Don’t be too hard on yourself. As a matter of fact, silence can actually be one of the most effective strategies for communication. How? Silence can raise your perceived authority as well encourage others to speak up. Practice using clean, fitting pauses and see what happens. It may take a bit of practice to thoroughly master, but the results can be well worth the effort.

And finally, critique yourself

Even if you think you’re doing a superb job at communicating, there’s always going to be room for improvement. Consider recording yourself speaking publicly or in an everyday conversation to listen back to. Maybe you talk too fast or use words such as “um” or “like” too many times? Once you find areas you’d like to improve upon, work through each one individually. It’s also a good idea to continuously invest in improving your communications skills through various books, workshops and generally just stepping outside of your comfort zone.

Choosing to advance your communication skills is one of the best investments you can make. Each of these tips will help to ensure that you say what you mean and hear what is intended. Great communication opens up ideas, thoughts, feelings and doors to so many possibilities. Start today to become a better communicator.

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