Wouldn’t it be amazing if you could instantly connect with anyone you wanted to? Just imagine how much your life would improve. You’d have no problem asking your boss for a rise. You’d bond immediately with a first date. Family problems would be solved. You’d have a superpower!
I might be exaggerating slightly, but there’s a good reason why we should improve our communication techniques.
“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” – George Bernard Shaw
Whether you find it easy to connect with people or you are the master of small talk, it doesn’t matter if building instant rapport with others comes naturally to you or not. You might be a natural raconteur or you could find it excruciatingly difficult to communicate with others. Whatever your situation, we know that connecting with others is essential for our mental wellbeing.
But if you cannot communicate effectively, you won’t be able to connect; it’s that simple. So with this in mind, I wanted to explore some scientific communication techniques.
Here are 11 easy-to-follow steps to better communication.
11 Science-Backed Communication Techniques
1. Appear non-threatening
Humans are biologically programmed to be wary of strangers. As such, we are always looking out for signs that the person is non-threatening. We like people who like us.
Before you even open your mouth or get introduced, lower your chin (high chins indicate aggression), tilt your head and smile and stand or sit with your body slightly at an angle.
2. Make eye contact
I don’t know about you, but I find it difficult to make eye contact while I’m talking to someone. I can do it when I’m listening no problem. The thing is, it’s important to maintain eye contact to connect with people.
So I aim to look at a person for a couple of seconds in every sentence. I find that easier and it is also considered less threatening than staring.
3. Call them by their name
When meeting a new person, learn their name and pepper it throughout the conversation. By doing this, you are instantly creating a personal bond. Even if you don’t get a chance to say their name during the conversation, remember to use it as you say goodbye to them.
4. Use similar language
Listen to the style and types of words the person is using. The aim is to match their speech pattern. You want to get on their wavelength, and a quick way of doing this is to mimic the way they speak. This implies you are from the same tribe and are friendly.
5. Mirror their body language
Copying the other person’s body language is one of the most proven science-backed communication techniques. We unconsciously mirror the behaviour of people we like. By mirroring a person we don’t know that well, we can subconsciously connect with them. It goes back to those survival instincts ingrained in humans.
6. Let them tell their story
“Silence is only frightening to people who are compulsively verbalizing.” – William S. Burroughs
Conversations are like transactions; one person says their piece and the other waits for their turn. Too often, however, the person waiting is not listening but forming their story, which they hope will be a better and more interesting one.
Suspend your ego for a change and let the person tell their story without you stealing their thunder.
7. Be an intuitive listener
“We never listen when we are eager to speak.” – Francois de la Rochefoucauld
We all know we should be good listeners, but what does that mean? Staying silent while the other person is talking? Not interrupting? Letting them tell their story as I previously said? Well, all of the above and more.
Good listening skills are all about actively taking in what the person is saying and intuiting whether they want to expand on that subject or move on.
8. Don’t pretend that you know what they’re talking about
I was chatting to a guy I hadn’t seen for ages. I told him I was a writer and was, at the time, working on a project about the HAARP Institute. Oh yes, he said. I was surprised. Had he heard of it? Yes, he said, his eyes glazed over. I knew he hadn’t, not many had and I didn’t expect him to. He knew and I knew.
It would have been less embarrassing if he had said no and asked me about it.
9. Don’t assume they have the same knowledge as you
“To effectively communicate, we must realize that we are all different in the way we perceive the world and use this understanding as a guide to our communication with others.” – Anthony Robbins
We walk around in our bubbles of information, in our spheres of reality and we assume that everyone else has the same knowledge as we do. This is not the case. People have different backgrounds, educations, social groups, ideologies and are from different races and cultures.
We are all individuals with our own unique perspectives. Try putting yourself in the other person’s shoes.
10. Be genuinely curious
Humans need to feel unique and special. Why do you think so many people post selfies for likes on social media? So, isn’t it lovely when a friend genuinely wants to know what you’ve been doing? You have centre stage for a few minutes and the spotlight is all yours.
We all love talking about ourselves, I know I am my own favourite subject! Give someone the spotlight, but ask questions that you genuinely want the answers to.
11. Acknowledge and give feedback
“I began noting where the audience laughed or clapped or paid closest attention. I came to realize that a good speech is not a soliloquy but a dialogue.” – Sarah Ferguson, Duchess of York
How can you tell if a loved one or your boss is truly connecting with you? It is when they acknowledge what you’ve said and provide feedback. For instance; you may recall a story of bad customer service to a friend and instead of answering ‘uh huh’, the friend says ‘That assistant was so rude, I’m not surprised you felt irritated.’
It doesn’t matter whether you are the head of a multi-million dollar enterprise or married with kids. Good communication techniques not only enable us to get our message across but to fully understand theirs too.
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