Have you ever felt like your lack of communication skills puts you at a disadvantage?
Imagine all those times you missed the opportunity to speak your mind, ask your teacher or lecturer questions about a topic you’re unsure of or even initiate a conversation with your crush — just because you’re not good at communicating.
Wondering if there’s a way for you to boost your communication skills as well as your confidence? Well, you’re in luck — here are 5 tips that’ll help you converse better with others!
#1. Invite them to share more about themselves
If you find it hard to start a conversation with new people because you have no clue what to say, why not ask them to share something about themselves. For example, you could ask “What made you pursue this degree?” or “I’ve never been to Penang. What is it like to grow up there?”. Usually, most people are excited to talk about their lives — unless they are a private person.
Starting a conversation by complimenting the other person also helps break the ice (because everyone secretly loves being complimented). You can say “I love your dress! Where did you get it from?” or “Your presentation was great! Do you have any tips you can share?”.
But, make sure that you don’t appear to be too nosy or overwhelming. If the person you’re conversing with shows signs of being uncomfortable or they avoid answering certain questions, change the subject or end the conversation.
#2. Maintain eye contact
If you don’t look at the person you’re talking to or if you look elsewhere (or worse, check your phone) when someone is talking to you, it gives the impression that you’re not really interested in having a conversation with this person. It is also very disrespectful to the other person.
According to a 2010 study by psychologist James Wirth, when you avoid someone’s gaze for even a short period of time, they may feel excluded and have negative feelings towards you. Therefore, be sure to maintain eye contact when someone is talking to you so that they know they have your full attention.
#3. Show interest by listening
In addition to maintaining eye contact, it’s important to actually pay attention when someone is talking to you. You should listen carefully to the person conversing with you regardless if they are making small talk or talking about something serious.
Imagine if an acquaintance was talking to you about something for a few minutes and then asked you what you thought about the subject. If you have no idea what to say because you weren’t paying attention, not only would it be embarrassing for you, but it would also upset the person speaking to you. They would feel unappreciated and would most likely not want to speak to you again.
#4. Ask open-ended questions
If you intend to keep a conversation going longer, ask open-ended questions as they go beyond a yes-or-no answer. Open-ended questions are the type of questions where you usually start with “who”, “what”, “where”, “when”, “how” or “why”.
These questions will invite people to share detailed information and it’ll help you learn more about someone you’re trying to get to know. For example “Where did you grow up?” or “What are your favourite TV shows?”. But, don’t forget to give your opinions as well so that different perspectives about a topic can be gained. For example, you could say “I enjoy Korean movies because..”
Avoid questions that start with “would”, “should”, “is”, “are” and “do you think” because these would usually make the interaction shorter and limited, leading to a mundane conversation.
#5. Wait for your turn to talk
Imagine you were engrossed in telling someone a story and they suddenly cut you off, wanting to talk — isn’t that annoying?
Exactly! It is. Interrupting someone while they’re talking is the easiest and quickest way to shut down a conversation. Aside from that, the person you cut off will feel like their opinions don’t matter and they will think that you don’t value them. So, be sure to be more considerate when someone else is talking by listening to them carefully and waiting for your turn to talk.
However, at the same time, the person speaking should not dominate the conversation. They should know when to stop so that others can have their say and share their thoughts about the story.
Now that you know these hacks to improve your communication skills, there’s no need to feel nervous about starting a conversation or engaging in one. Don’t doubt yourself anymore and feel free to share your thoughts and opinions. After all, what’s the worst that can happen?