When was the last time you switched off your phone and other devices, and communicated with someone? Like really communicated. Not just a quick tweet, text or status update but real human connection.
Been a while? You are not alone.
As we become increasingly tethered to our smartphones and online platforms, interpersonal or “soft” skills are becoming more difficult to master. Here are my 5 tips to speaking to anyone and everyone:
1) Listen (and then listen some more).
To truly connect with people, we need to be present in the conversation. Listening is not just telling someone you heard them. It is also about the non-verbal cues that indicate genuine engagement and interest: eye contact, body language, and—yes—switching off that phone. Don’t be afraid of silence. Silence can be an important part of human communication. Allow space for the other person to speak. Don’t jump in because you are uncomfortable with silence. Remember great communication is more of a tango rather than a sprint.
2) Be empathetic.
Put yourself in the shoes of the person you are speaking to. How might they be feeling? Happy, sad, angry, frustrated? Acknowledge this in a genuine way. Be kind and compassionate. Smile. Learn people’s names and call them by their name, even if it difficult to pronounce. People appreciate this and it helps to build trust over time.
3) Share something about yourself.
Find points of commonality with the person that you are speaking with. This could start off with benign topics like the weather or traffic, then develop into something deeper. People love talking about their families, pets and travel. Get them started on these topics and they usually can’t stop!
4) Read widely and daily.
In today’s social media world and the advent of algorithms we are often in a “filter” bubble. Pop the bubble and actively seek information about different topics and cultures. Being a lifelong learner helps to connect you to people with whom your paths might not organically cross. In conversations I am often asked, “How do you know about that?” Simple. I am interested in people and places and it shows.
Walk away from conversations and think about how the interaction went. Did you actively listen to the other person? Were you able to establish a common bond? What do you think the other person felt? What did they say verbally and through body language? Take these learnings and apply them to the next conversation you have.
# # #
Nidia Raya Martinez is a Communications Consultant and Academic. If you’d like to add that “soft people” touch to your organisation, please contact Nidia on LinkedIn.