Have you ever been in a meaningful conversation and not known how to continue? Perhaps you dread the first few minutes of a party because you find yourself at a loss for conversation starters. Or the conversation may begin, but soon fizzles out. Maybe others tell you that it feels like you are not listening when you are doing your best to hear what the other person is saying.
Good communication is an important skill for all your relationships. The more comfortable you are with having conversations the more comfortable you will be connecting with others.
Here are six helpful tools that can help you in any of those situations, and anytime you want to communicate. These suggestions can help you start a conversation, keep it going, and have people think that you are a great listener.
Six Tools To Improve Communication
1. Use the scientific method: Questions are a good way to give the person with whom you are speaking a way to into the conversation. Who, what, where, when, why and how, create questions that are open-ended and give room for a response.
Open-ended questions are a good way to help keep the person talking. They are not specific or suggest an answer. “Are you hurt?” can lead to a short one-word answer. “What is going on?” will give the opportunity for more details. In a serious conversation, you could use this skill by asking people to explain how they feel or what the experience was like for them.
2. Go with the flow: Thoughts and ideas will come into your mind. Let them flow out. We often think that if we have an idea we need to say it, but nothing happens if we forget it. If it needs to be a part of the conversation it will come to mind later.
Your experience is not someone else’s experience. Let others tell their stories without interruption. You will get your turn later.
3. Listen with the idea that you have something to learn: Everyone knows something that you do not know, even someone you have known for years.
4. Let there be silence: Attentive silences give time for others to think about what they want to say. Don’t fill all the silences with comments or questions; allow the space for reflection and the addition of information. It gives you time to process their comments and hear what they are saying to you.
5. Listen with the intent to understand: Communication is built on the desire to understand. This is particularly helpful in a weightier conversation. When you hear the words being used as well as the sentiment or emotion behind them, your response comes from a different place and is more likely to speak to the conversation at hand.
6. When you speak, be brief: A thoughtful response does not require many words. Stay out of the weeds, the details are not important. A reflective response, with feeling words if appropriate, lets the person know he or she was heard and understood. It invites a response, allowing the conversation to continue.
When it comes to conversation, we think that we have to say more than is necessary, or be funny and entertaining. What is important is to listen and be engaged. This will help you make a connection and continue that conversation for as long as you would like.