BY JEN OLENICZAK BROWN
Interpersonal communication can be the absolute best part of your day or the absolute worst. Since it’s simply the exchange of information between two or more people, it’s often overlooked when it comes to professional development training. A master class in conversation? Nah.
Truth be told, we’re not great at this, and people are getting worse. Blame social media, busy schedules, whatever – people are not getting better at exchanging information. Between misreading emails, misunderstanding conversations and just not listening to people’s body language, we’re missing a lot, and not always thinking about the message we’re sending to another person. Here are three quick ways to start working on your interpersonal communication:
Everything is moving 100 miles per hour and will only get faster as we speed towards the holidays. Between parties and networking and travel and dinners – we need to slow it down and take a breath. Whether we are speaking, reading, listening, or writing, slowing down will only allow you the time to not only proofread (or think about what you’re saying!), it will also allow you to be more thoughtful in your communication.
When you’re moving too fast, you miss information, say things incorrectly and fail to fully process what’s happening around you. By simply taking a moment and a breath for yourself, you get rid of some of that nervous energy that crops up when we are trying to do far too much. The less nervous energy in your communication, the more someone will want to listen to you.
Think About Your Audience
Who are you talking to? If you are giving the same message to everyone in the same way with the same tone, cadence, and vocabulary, chances are you might be missing some of the meaning and connection. Would you talk to a first-grader in the same way you’d talk to a high school student? Same difference.
Consider your audience when you’re communicating. What’s going on in their lives? What do they need out of this communication, and how can you best reach them? If that’s adding some small talk moments at the beginning of a big ask, then talk about the weather, the family, a snack, or plants. If they are as busy as you might be, don’t be afraid to cut to the chase to be mindful of their time. Consider who you’re talking to and what they might need or want out of the communication. You’ll get a better result if you’re not just talking at someone – be sure you’re talking to someone and someone specific.
Think About Your Message
What are you saying? Remember that whole “slow it down” point? The person you’re communicating with is probably busy, too, with a million things happening this season, so think about making your message as tight as possible. When you think about what you want out of communication or conversation, you end up at the point that much faster. Even if all you want is to catch up with another person, you then have a goal for your message and conversation. When you have a goal, you can measure success.
If you’re not just chatting to catch up with someone, this is the most important of all three tips. We’ve all been in that conversation where the other person is going so far off track (and maybe even been the other person!), and you have no idea why this person is even talking to you – and BAM! Suddenly they hit you with an ask or information that seems to come out of nowhere.
Don’t blindside people. Think about your message before you run so far from it that getting back on track feels like a sudden impact.
Start using these three ideas in your next interaction, digital or in person, and start leveling up your interpersonal communication skills.