Effective communication is defined through the internet in many articles, and I will not define it again. Heck, I don’t even believe you need a definition or that you don’t know, instinctively, what it is.
What many of these articles seem to ignore is the fact that people need effective communication for an important purpose.
It is not just to communicate better.
Why do you want to communicate better in the first place?
To get what you want?
Yes, this is a good reason.
Fuck the lone wolf mentality, we are social animals.
Without any further ado, because this is a long, but very useful, article, here are 17 easy tips that you can start applying right now and see results.
Some results can be immediate. Other results can take time, but they are still simple and easy to understand.
They will help you improve all your relationships. From friendships to romantic relationships and also professional relationships.
Let’s dive in…
1)Express your positive needs and use “I”
When people feel attacked and criticized, they will naturally get defensive. Shutdown, even.
It is hard to have any conversation when the person in front of you thinks of you as threatening. They will hardly accept your input, and they will give very little output.
So, we have to do something different.
It is usually about your needs. You are trying to get one of your needs met. Make that the focus: your needs. More specifically, your positive needs. And avoid making the focus the other person’s flaws and mistakes as much as possible.
“I like to spend more time with you.” Instead of “you never have any time for me!”
“I would like to spend some time alone.” Instead of “you always interfere with my own business.”
“I would appreciate if you come on time.” Instead of “you are always late.” Or, worse, “you are such a lazy person! You will never become responsible.”
Use “I” and focus on your positive need. Avoid using “you” and the generalizations such as always and never.
2) Use the “L.U.E”
Here is what that stands for:
Drop everything. Focus. Be mentally present.
The other person has something to say, and they deserve to be heard. You know you feel good when someone listens to you, don’t you?
You listen to understand. You don’t assume you do.
While you are listening, you eliminate the desire to judge, to come up with awesome and clever replies, and to defend yourself (Extremely important, even if the other person sounded threatening).
You listen to understand where they are coming from. Even if you don’t agree with them.
But understanding isn’t always enough. You need to level up and emphasize.
Understanding is intellectual. Emphasizing is emotional.
When you emphasize with someone, you kind of feel what they are feeling. Quite literally. You mirror them in every way that you end up having a clue about what they are feeling, which helps you connect on a deeper level. On an emotional level.
Some people have this natural gift of emphasizing with people. The rest of us have to work on developing it.
When people feel heard, understood both intellectually and emotionally, deeper connections can develop. Deeper than you could imagine.
3) Read the atmosphere before you speak
Here is a pro tip.
Before you speak to a group of people, or to one person, try to gauge what those people are/this person is feeling.
This will help you deliver your message more efficiently.
If you notice that your friend is tired, emotionally drained, or just feeling blue, maybe this is not a good time to tell a joke. Maybe it isn’t a good time to discuss something important.
If you walk into a room and notice that the people there are happy, then maybe it is a good time to ask them for something. Or to discuss something with them.
If you notice that your friend is not quite listening, maybe it is time he went, for he might be late to something. Or just tired.
In short, make sure it is the right time. Do that partly by gauging the general emotions the other person is probably feeling.
Don’t be the creepy guy who cracks a joke at funerals!
4) Say no
When you don’t want to do something, say no.
When it is going to cost you a lot, say no.
If you don’t say no in such situations, you will hurt yourself.
And you are not saying yes because you want to or because you genuinely want to help the other person. You are saying yes because you don’t want to upset that person. So, you upset yourself.
Say yes only when you mean it.
It is not wrong to say no when it is too much. Standing up for yourself is one of the best things you can do.
You can justify why you said no, or you can just leave it like that. But say it. Especially if you are not used to saying it. Especially if you always say yes. Especially if you are resentful and angry toward a lot of things and people.
This will make you a better person because you will treat yourself better. And people respect and trust people who stand up for themselves this way.
5) You are not a victim, so don’t act like one
It is understandable to seek social support when you are down.
But here is something to keep in mind: don’t play the victim role.
Playing the victim role is about refusing to accept the responsibility for your life. Usually by blaming everything around you. And then by going around trying to prove that life is unfair and that every possible solution, offered to you by others, is useless and that you are a hopeless case.
You do that to get sympathy and attention and care. You can do that by complaining. Or dramatic social media posts. Or by being extra pessimistic and cynic. Or by just hopelessly laying there watching your life deteriorating and doing nothing about that.
You can do something. But you don’t. and you know that. And people also know it and see through your excuses. You are after sympathy and someone solving all this shit for you. You don’t want to get your hands dirty.
People will neither trust nor respect you. They will perceive you as weak, and no wonder! You present yourself as a weak person who is oppressed and helpless. You will miss a lot of chances that could help you become better because people won’t offer them to you in the first place because they know you will just whine and get lazy.
Like it or hate it, communicating to people that you are a victim will get you to a worse place.
Resist the urge to be pessimistic and complain. If it is so hard, do it with people you completely trust, and even then, don’t overdo it.
6) Are you an introvert or an extrovert?
Extraversion is one of the big five.
The big five is a theory that has five measures for personality. And it is, by far, the most accurate theory (unlike the Myers).
People who are high on extraversion thrive on social interactions. They get their energy from interacting with people. Jobs that tie them to desks and offer minimal social contact can drive them crazy if most of their time is spent there.
People low on extraversion, introverts, get drained from social interactions quite quickly. Their inner world is usually captivating and consumes a lot of their energy. Jobs that require them to interact with people intensely can drive them crazy if they don’t find ways to recharge their energy.
And sure, we have people who don’t score high on either end. They score in between, usually orienting toward one end more than the other.
It is not that extroverts are needy and introverts are antisocial. It is all about energy consumption.
Try to understand where you score on this extraversion measure. Then align your social interactions based on this. This way, you are playing on your strength. And it would be extra nice if you could figure out where do the people you care about the most score, too, so you can interact with them in a way that aligns with their personality.
7) You don’t always have to respond to everything
And you are not obliged to do that.
Pick your battles carefully.
The goal of social interaction is to maximize your well-being and to help you become a better person.
To reach that goal, sometimes, you need to ignore a lot of things. You don’t always have to win arguments, or have your say on everything, or answer every question people ask.
Save your energy for what matters.
8) Don’t insult and/or use sarcasm (unless you need to!)
Sarcasm is scatological humor. I discussed this in my book.
It communicates contempt, resentment, passive aggression, and even disgust.
And no one likes to be called ugly names or be disrespected. People are more sensitive than they appear to be, including you. No one will communicate well when attacked and mocked. You are only building walls between you and hurting the other person in ways that are mean-hearted.
Stop. Don’t do it. And don’t accept this kind of behavior from anyone. Anyone!
Some tips in this article will help you communicate better. Focus on your positive needs, hold people accountable, and say no. Those are better means to get what you want instead of insulting people. And if what you want is insulting people, then I feel sorry for you.
But there are times during which you need to use sarcasm. It is a sword. And sometimes the only way to stop someone who is using a sword is to use your own sword, to defend yourself or someone else. That is not communication; it is just a way to stand up for yourself.
9) Use your eyes
There are two aspects here:
- Proper eye contact.
- Showing positive emotions through the eyes.
Proper eye contact is about having a steady look and spending appropriate time looking directly in the eye. You don’t want to stare, and you don’t want to have a shaky look that lacks focus.
And if you are speaking to a group, make sure you distribute eye contact properly. Generally speaking, divide the audience into groups and spend time looking at every group. Try to explain one idea (sentence) while looking into a group and when you move to the next idea move to the next group.
You need to also realize that the way you look at someone can make a big difference. Just look at how two lovers glance at each other; you can feel their emotions through eye contact alone. Look at how two fighters look at each other before a fight; you can feel the tension and even the hatred burning in their eyes.
In short, eyes can communicate emotions. The way you look can communicate a lot without you saying a word. Pro tip: this can be an excellent way to show love.
Generally speaking, use this to your advantage by summoning positive emotions and looking at someone. Those positive emotions can range from love for this person, love for humans in general, the fact that you want good for this person and so on. Just make sure you stick to proper eye contact so you don’t sound creepy, especially if you don’t know the other person well enough.
This can go a long way.
10) Be slow to judge
Slow down. Don’t assume anything.
Sometimes, our insecurities take over and make us believe that others don’t like us, are plotting against us, are out to get us, and sooner or later they will get rid of us.
Someone doesn’t call you back? They don’t love you. Someone doesn’t reply to you immediately on social media? They hate you and they are not real friends. Someone, even if a dear friend, ignores you? He is a shitty person who got himself new friends and forgot about you. Your boss doesn’t say Hi? He will fire you.
Hey, look at this cat.
Now, relax. Take a deep breath and read on.
You don’t know what is going on inside people’s minds. You don’t know about their insecurities. Plus, the world doesn’t revolve around you.
Take a deep breath again. Believe in yourself. Shut those insecurities down.
When you believe or assume something, your mind will go crazy trying to prove it right. Those assumptions usually come from toxic beliefs you have about yourself and about people.
By not trying to prove those assumption true, you are weakening them and therefore weakening the toxic belief itself. And vice versa. Choose wisely what you feed.
11) Maybe people don’t understand you because you don’t understand yourself
I am talking about self-awareness.
I believe that without some amount of self-awareness, you will find it difficult to communicate with people. You cannot even honestly communicate with yourself. How on earth will you be able to do that with other people?
You are more likely to hide and try to fake who you are, which we will discuss below. And you will not be able to open up about who you are, your motives, and your values because you have no idea what those are.
Last but not least, without self-awareness, you are more likely to avoid accepting responsibility for your own life. This is a trait which will cost you a lot. And it will make communicating with you painful.
Spend time with yourself. Be honest with yourself. Come to peace with yourself. Then have the guts to be yourself and to express it.
12) Learn to write properly
I am not talking about developing your writing skills for written communication purposes.
Writing can help you learn how to articulate your thoughts and ideas.
The processes of brainstorming, organizing your ideas, defining the purpose of your writing, and choosing the right words can help you become more articulate.
Those are valuable skills which you need when you are communicating. And this is one of the best ways to develop them.
You don’t have to be a world-class writer. Just work on the skills mentioned above and try to produce pieces of writing that are coherent and with ideas presented clearly.
It will take time. And it will help indirectly. But it is fruitful.
13) Acting is exhausting; the truth will always win
People can sense authenticity. And they can sense inauthenticity, too.
When you pretend to be something you are not, you may get away with it for a while. But you cannot pretend forever.
And why are you pretending?
Usually, to hide something. A flaw, usually. But you will fail, and people will see it. And when people see it, they will not like that. Not the flaw. They will not like that you tried to hide it because it indicates weakness and avoidance. And because you are too busy hiding it, you are not working on fixing it, which is making it hell a lot worse.
Don’t you notice that people who embrace who they are, flaws and all, attract people more? Their behavior indicates that they are strong enough to admit their flaws and not be fazed by it. And also, because they admit it, they are now able to work on improving what can be improved.
Don’t hide. People will eventually see your truth. If you are ashamed of it, that is a turn-off. If you are strong enough to embrace it, that is a real demonstration of strong character, and it will manifest itself in your life as self-confidence and resilience.
14) Sometimes, emotions are more important than logic
“You cannot reason yourself out of something you didn’t reason yourself into.”
When faced with a difficult situation, or a difficult person, keep in mind that we are emotional beings. And sometimes, our emotions, quite illogical, guide our behaviors.
To persuade someone, or to get along with someone, using logic isn’t always the best way. Especially if that person is resisting your attempts.
Slow down. Listen. Understand. Emphasize.
Don’t even attempt to change them after that; Don’t fight emotions and don’t deny them; respect and embrace. And realize that sometimes emotions are more important than logic. And that you cannot control people’s reactions and emotions.
This can help you understand the weird shit people do sometimes, including your own weird shit. With this understanding, you may handle it better than trying to reason out of it using logic. Most of the communication is about emotions, not logic.
15) Hold people accountable for their actions
We talked about communicating using the pronoun “I” and focusing on your positive needs.
The structure goes like:
I + your positive needs
Here, we want to hold people responsible for their actions. That may happen because either they refuse to do that or they hurt us in some way.
We will use the same above structure but add more to it. It goes like this:
I + your positive need + specific thing they did + how it made you feel/impacted you
In extreme cases, it can look like this:
I + your positive need + specific thing they did + how it made you feel/impacted you + the consequences of this thing they did on the relationship (in a non-threatening way)
The order doesn’t matter.
This way, it is not criticism and it sounds assertive rather than aggressive.
Here are a few examples:
Between partners: I felt ignored when you weren’t here last night. I would love if you could be here when I really need to talk.
Same example but a bit extreme: I felt ignored when you weren’t here last night. I would love if you could be here when I really need to talk. If this happened more, it would affect my ability to trust you.
To stand up for yourself: I don’t like it when you talk about my friend that way. I would love to spend time with people who respect my friends.
In work: I couldn’t reach home early because of the overtime tasks you assigned me to do. I am afraid I can’t be late for my family again.
Generally, I would use this technique when I am so upset about what the other person did that I need to address it more than my positive needs; this helps me to handle things right away and not grow resentful.
16) Learn how to apologize
I heard a quote that describes apologizing as not just saying sorry, but more as communicating that you regret doing something specific that hurt the person you are dealing with.
When you apologize about something, be specific.
People say that ‘sorry’ isn’t enough sometimes. I would presume that that is because it is given generally without specifying what you are sorry for.
“I am sorry I made you feel this way.” After listening and understanding and emphasizing. This can work like magic given it is genuine.
“I am sorry that I came late and made you wait. That won’t happen again.” And make sure it doesn’t through your actions, which leads me to the second point…
Actions speak louder than words. After you apologize, make sure you not only amend the damage but also make sure you work hard on not repeating the same mistake again.
Let the other person realize you are trying not to repeat that specific thing you apologized about. Sorry means nothing without actions.
17) Recognize when effective communication isn’t useful
Effective communication isn’t magic. It won’t always get you what you want. And it won’t always work with all people.
And it is OK. At least you know that you are being true to yourself.
The last thing I want to say is, pay attention to how people respond to you when you communicate effectively and honestly. Just make sure you are really honest and are communicating as effectively as possible. This is the litmus test.
Those who respond well, communicate well on their turn, understand and empathize, and apologize if needed, and work to make things better, are the ones who are worth your time. Those are the relationships you should be investing in more.
And those who get defensive, attack you, claim you are sensitive, refuse to apologize, claim to understand while it is obvious that they don’t, and show no signs of working to make things better, those are the ones you should cut off. Immediately. Without regrets.
They are not mature enough to handle effective communication and therefore not mature enough to handle healthy relationships.