Did you know that the words we speak account for only a very small percentage, just 7%, of what people actually ‘hear’ from us? The vast majority of our communication is based on our tone (38%) and our body language (55%). So it seems we need to pay attention to far more than our words if we want to improve how come across.
As communication is one of the most valuable skills we can develop, both personally and professionally, let’s take a look at how to do that:
Watch your tone
The same words can come across completely differently depending on how they’re said. In fact it’s our underlying emotions that subconsciously affect our tone, so try to be aware of how you feel and consciously adapt your voice. For example, when we’re upset, we tend to speak loudly and fast so focus on speaking more slowly and quietly; and when we’re feeling unsure, we often speak in a small voice so focus on speaking up in a confident way.
Check your body language
When we’re feeling negative or closed to something, we tend to lean back and cross our arms and legs. To help you really hear what is being said, try leaning forward, opening your body (and your mind) by uncrossing everything and keeping a relaxed expression on your face.
Try to really listen to what the other person is saying, rather than thinking about what you want to say in return. That way you have a better chance of noticing their tone and body language, which as we’ve now established may be telling you even more than or something different from what they’re saying.
Respond, don’t react
Once you have heard and hopefully understood what’s being said, before you speak, take a moment to think about what the most constructive response would be. Of course your response should be truthful and authentic too, not just what they want to hear. Then invite their response again in return.
At first, approaching communication this way might seem like a lot of work, but the more you practice it, the easier it gets. Eventually it becomes a powerful habit that not only improves every interaction you have but also gets you noticed and recognised as someone with excellent people skills.