2019 is a 3 Universal Year
This means the next 12 brilliant months are going to be characterized by surges of creative energy, the bustle of social activity and enhanced communication all around. This year wants us to share what we know, share what we think and share what we feel.
Sounds easy enough, right?
How easy it’ll be for you to navigate these expressive energies depends very much on the tools and skills you have tucked into your back pocket, when it comes to communicating. Because communicating well isn’t just about saying stuff. It’s not only opening your mouth and letting the words tumble out – skilled communication uses a whole combination of listening, timing, tact, body language, and learned behaviors… before you say your first word!
If you’ve always wanted to be an effective communicator (and therefore, get your voice heard) then this is your year! The overarching energy of the 3 is here to raise you up to become exactly that.
To get you off to a flying start, here are 10 proven tips you can’t do without, to improve your communication skills ready for 2019.
1. Stop what you’re doing
Give the conversation your full attention.
It may even feel a little uncomfortable at first – especially if you’re used to multitasking- to actually be still and fully present while you’re talking to someone. But ridding yourself of distractions, just momentarily, gives you the ability to really focus on what’s being said to you, and what you can say in return. Maintain eye contact. You’ll also get to the crux of what needs to be said much more quickly because the other person will feel sure they’re being heard (and therefore be more likely to hear you).
2. Practice active listening
Better communication means engaging with what’s being said to you, not simply waiting for your turn to speak. How often in conversations are you acting as though you’re listening, when the reality is your mind’s racing ahead or thinking about something else entirely? Not the actions of an effective communicator!
But active listening IS a skill that can be learned. So the next time you’re having a conversation, it could be with a friend, family member or in the workplace, try to make listening a whole body experience. Pay attention, with all of your senses. Listen to the words being spoken, empathize with the feelings being conveyed and try to understand the message being shared. This is also where tapping into nonverbal communication comes in…
3. Become Body language Aware
Look for the non-verbal clues offered by the person you’re speaking to.
- Are they holding eye contact? (Affirming, confident and honest)
- Are they hunching or crossing their limbs over their body? (Defensive and protective)
- Are they gesturing with their arms as they speak? (Excited and positive)
- Are their feet pointing towards you? (Trusting and stable) or away from you? (Looking for a way out)
The face isn’t always the most truthful when it comes to communicating! After all, we’re taught virtually from birth to “smile for the camera” but the rest of the body can be the giveaway when it comes to how people are really feeling.
Getting good at reading the subtle signs isn’t just a skill for better understanding. Body language can be employed to your advantage – if you need someone to trust you, train your own gaze and keep eye contact with them. Need to appear confident? Stand up straight and exaggerate your hand gestures! Practice in front of a mirror (or a good friend) and you’ll see the difference it makes to your own communication skills.
4. Don’t interrupt
You may have something vital to say. Maybe it IS essential that your point is heard. But seriously – avoid butting in when somebody else is talking. Not only is it frustrating to be talked over, but it makes the other person feel devalued. Assertive communication is tactful, interrupting is just plain rude.
5. Stay positive
This isn’t about pretending everything is A-OK if it’s not, or glossing over someone’s feelings if they’re genuinely in a bad way. But being negative and complaining is no good to anybody. Try to make sure your communication style is constructive. Ask questions that will empower, sow seeds of positive intent and suggest helpful action steps.
6. Keep your Focus
If you want to improve your communication skills, then keeping on-topic is one of the best places to start. How many of us, when the going gets tough, resort to dredging up old issues and slinging around old blame?
Effective communication is as much about what you don’t say, as what you do. And if the other person starts playing dirty, don’t rise to it – stay on point, and focus on the outcome you want to achieve from the conversation.
7. Affirm what has been said to you
This is a great little skill that genuinely improves your understanding of others, as well as affirming to them that you’re invested in what they’re saying. You simply need to re-state your interpretation of what’s been said to you. Check you understand correctly. Does it all make sense? Have you missed any details? Good relationships don’t just happen by accident – you have to demonstrate your involvement in the other person’s experiences and this is a really effective way to do just that.
8. Value other people’s opinions
Don’t just put up with other’s viewpoints, whilst secretly believing that they’re wrong and you’re right! Other people’s opinions are a sum of their life experiences and are as valuable as yours. Once you get to this level of respect and learn to express it, it will carry through into your communications with other people and your relationships will improve as a result.
9. Look for the “truth” in what people say
Instead of looking for what’s wrong, incorrect or could be improved, see the truth that they are expressing. This doesn’t mean finding “the truth” – it’s subjective after all. But try to see what’s authentic and honest and where the other person is being vulnerable with you. Acknowledging and affirming this part of their message will give them confidence and instill the trust they have in you – essential for the good communicator.
10. Don’t rush to fill the silence
As humans, we’re not often very good at sitting in the silence, especially when we’re in company. But this space can be a beautiful place to reach mutual understanding and respect – if you’re not rushing to fill it. So don’t fear the silence.
How are you feeling about entering this communication-focused 3 Universal Year?
Are you an effective communicator, or do you have work to do? Share your feelings with us below!