What is the first thing that comes to your mind when you hear the word: communication?
Is it a conversation? A message? Exchange of information?
Although words are incredibly important and play a significant role in communication, there are other even more important factors that contribute to this much needed skill.
You might be surprised to hear that the words we use cover only 7% of the total communication. 38% of messages are conveyed by the tone of our voice and at least 55% is done by our body language. Taking in the consideration the statistics above, the way you speak to someone might be more meaningful than the words you use.
Here are a few basic steps you can take to make your communication more positive and effective.
1. Make eye contact.
When you speak to someone in person, make sure you give him/her your full attention. By making eye contact you are showing the other person your genuine interest and respect. Eye contact also helps to connect on a deeper level and lets the other person know you are fully engaged in the conversation.
Don't let distractions like the phone or TV interrupt your communication, especially when you discuss an important or
2. Pay attention to your voice.
In most cases you know what words might sound hurtful to the person you speak with. However avoiding these words are not the only thing you need to take in consideration. As I mentioned before, your body language and tone of your voice speak as loudly as your words. Pay attention to the tone of your voice. Speaking loud versus quiet, fast versus slow, and using inflections, conveys very different messages to your listeners. Speaking with an angry, dominant or irritated tone can come across as an attack or defensiveness even when you don't use hurtful words.
Communication is not only about speaking. It's also about listening. Good communicators know that the main purpose of listening is not to reply but to understand the other person. When another person talks, focus not only on words but also on nonverbal clues to truly understand the person's position. Listening might help you to expand your viewpoint and see things from other perspective. Wait with your response until the speaker is finished. Sometimes it can be hard not to interrupt when we disagree or have an idea or advice for the person. In those situations remember that listening to the end will give you more insight about the other person and issue discuss. And this might lead you to a different (and often a better)response.
4. Watch your gestures.
Most of us use some gestures every day without even thinking about them. Waving, pointing or using hand gestures are some of the most common ones. By using certain gesture we communicate to others how passionate we are about the topic. We may also use them to supplement or complement our verbal message. It's important however to remember that the gestures can be easily misinterpreted as they have a different meaning in different parts of the world.
5. Respect personal space.
Maintaining a comfortable physical space is essential while communicating with others. Be conscious about the message you send when getting too close or moving away. Depending on the relationship you have with the other person, and on the topic discussed, choose the most appropriate distance. Also, keep in mind cultural differences. If you are not sure if your listener is comfortable with the physical space, look for his /hers nonverbal clues. These say more than words alone.
Nonverbal communication plays an important role in our daily communication. You can choose the words you say, but nonverbal language is hard to hide and it can't be faked. It's our body's spontaneous response to our feelings and thoughts. An effective communicator is a person whose nonverbal language matches their words. Make sure that the tone of your voice, posture and gestures don't contradict the message you try to convey. Start with the 5 steps listed above and be mindful of not only what but how things are being said. And remember that the real communication goes far beyond the words.