Have you ever gotten your “wires crossed” with someone or had a miscommunication? Maybe there was a time you wished someone had communicated better with you? Communication is a huge part of our everyday lives. The #1 thing that can cause us stress, anxiety, or frustration typically circles back to communication or lack of communication. If we were all better at communicating, we could avoid many issues. Different cultures, genders, and generations all communicate differently which can lead to miscommunications. Although, there are steps you can take to improve your communication skills. You will see positive changes in your life if you are good at communicating. It may take a little time, practice and some effort, but here are 10 surefire ways to become a better communicator.
1. Plan to Be a Good Communicator
Communication is everywhere and you have to plan to be a good communicator. It doesn’t just happen on its own. You need to plan when, where and how to get your message across. Luckily these days there are multiple ways to easily communicate between phone, text, email, chat, Facebook, Snapchat, instagram, in person, etc. There really are no shortage of communication platforms. Pick the platform that works for you and that works best for those you are communicating with. If you reach out to someone and don’t get a response try another method. If you really want others to hear your message, you need to plan it out.
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2. Communicate in Advance
Be proactive with your communication to avoid extra stress and frustration. For example, if you have a haircut and need to make sure your partner is home to be with the kids, communicate that information at least a week or two in advance. This way they can plan for it, and add it to their schedule. However, if you wait until the night before to tell them, they may already have other plans or have another agenda which can cause stress and frustration between you two.
As a person you like to know what is going on and what to expect, right? So reciprocate the same to others and be a good planning communicator too. Don’t wait until the last minute to communicate with people.
3. Be an Active Listener
One way to improve your communication skills quickly is to become a good listener. Part of being a good communicator is being a good listener. We have 2 ears and 1 mouth for a reason. We should be listening at least twice as much as we are communicating because listening to those around us helps us know what and when to communicate. Being an active listener means focusing on the person speaking/writing to us, seeking first to understand, keeping an open mind and asking questions. You can learn a lot by being an active listener and this typically makes your communication much easier as well.
4. Be Respectful of Others
Be respectful of others and communicate carefully. Think about what you are communicating before you do it and put yourself in the other person’s shoes. How will they receive this information? You don’t know what kind of day this person has already had before you communicate with them. Their head space might not be able to process or understand your communication because they had a bad day at work or school, they were in a car accident or found out they have an illness. If someone does not respond the way you expect them to, don’t take it personally, it could be totally about something else they have going on in the current moment. Always assume the best with others and be respectful in every situation.
On another level, we all come from different walks of life, have different pasts and different perspectives on topics. How one person reacts to your communication could be totally different from the next. Often we do not mean to offend others when we communicate, but it can happen without careful thought and preparation. If you do offend someone, do not get angry or defensive. Instead apologize, seek to understand and ask questions so you don’t make the same mistake again.
5. Know Your Audience
To go along with respect, know the audience with which you are communicating. If you want to get a point across, plan your communication according to who you are speaking to. I speak very differently to my 2 year old than I do to my co-workers. Use their language and their communication platform. Take note of non-verbals, body language, and their response as you communicate. Figure out what kind of communication channel works the best for your audience. Is it best to call, text, email, chat in person, snapchat, facebook, instagram, etc.
Know when and where it is best to communicate with a particular audience. For your partner is it best to go over important details at night before bed, in the morning before work, or at the dinner table? For your kids do they listen best at the dinner table, while brushing their teeth, before bedtime, in the car, or when they are sitting on your lap? Figure out what works and do the most important communicating at that time or at that place.
6. Communicate in Multiple Ways
Another way to be a good communicator is to say your message multiple ways. My work mentor once told me that a good communicator always communicates the same things at least 3 different ways: in person, email, and a hard copy. Which today could translate to many other forms of communication as well since there are lots of ways to communicate with others. His point was, that the more ways you communicate something, the better chance of people receiving your communication. Of course we would all love to say something just once and have everyone know and remember what we said, but unfortunately that is not how it works. So communicate multiple ways to set up your audience for success to “hear” your message.
7. Be Clear & Concise
When you communicate with others, be clear with what you are saying. Be easy for people to comprehend and understand. People don’t like wishy-washy communicators or ones that change their mind all the time.
One quality of a good communicator is honesty. Don’t tell one person one thing and another something different. Even if they don’t like the communication, people would rather know the truth than to find out something different later on. Sometimes if you are unsure say you don’t know or don’t say something about the topic at all. Usually, saying less is better for everyone.
In addition, be concise with your communication. Being a good communicator doesn’t mean talking the most or writing the longest email or post. Actually it is the exact opposite. Limit your words, but make them to the point and meaningful. If you can get your point across in a sentence or two do that instead of 5 paragraphs because otherwise you will lose people. As humans our attention span is short. We don’t have time or want to listen to someone for 5 minutes when it actually could have been explained in 20 seconds.
8. Be a Kind Communicator
Another quality of a good communicator is kindness. People don’t like to listen to boisterous, negative, or rough communicators. Be engaging, positive, easy to listen to and follow. If you have to share bad news try to sandwich it between 2 positive things. Good communication takes practice and experience to be someone people want to listen to. As humans we are naturally selfish and usually thinking “what is in this for me.” So put others first in your communication and make it beneficial to them.
9. Communicate Often
Do you ever feel like you are telling your kids the same thing over and over again? It is probably because you are! It’s not only kids, but adults need repetition too. Sometimes we have to say things 5 times because people are not listening or they are distracted.
So plan to over communicate. Plan to say things multiple ways and multiple times. Things don’t always register, people don’t always understand right away, or they forget. It’s usually not that people are purposely not listening, it’s that they have other priorities. What is your #1 priority might be priority #20 on someone else’s list. What is urgent to you may not be urgent to someone else. So sometimes we need to say things multiple times and multiple ways to help others.
10. Write Things Down – Take Notes on What You Want to Communicate
Have you ever had it where you were with someone and as soon as you left you remembered something you had wanted to tell them? It happens all the time! If there is something you need to tell others, make a note of it. Write it down or put a reminder in your phone for the next time you see them. If it is something more urgent, call, text, or email them instead of letting it slip your mind. Sometimes you think of something to tell someone, but you can’t right at the moment or it wouldn’t be appropriate right then and there. Make a note of it and do it when it works best.
Then, on the flip slide, if necessary, after communicating with someone, take notes on what they said or how they responded, so you know how to better communicate with them in the future. There are many benefits to good note taking.
Using this note strategy works well for meetings (work and personal). Come with a list of items or topics you want to talk about or cover in your time together. If you do not have things written down, chances are you will forget something.
Final Thoughts on the Qualities of a Good Communicator
Communication isn’t always easy or doesn’t always come naturally. It is something you have to think about and work at. You can’t run a successful household without organized communication. One of the top priorities for a successful marriage is communication. A strong and smooth relationship with your kids starts with communication. A good job or to move up in a career requires good communication skills. A main quality of a good leader is to be a good communicator. Communication really is the backbone to so many parts of our lives.
So to recap – here is the list of 10 ways to become a better communicator:
- Plan to be a good communicator
- Communicate in advance
- Be an active listener
- Be respectful
- Know your audience
- Communicate multiple ways
- Be Clear & Concise
- Be a kind communicator
- Communicate often
- Write things down – take notes
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