Good communication skills can help you reach your education, work search, and career goals. But how do you communicate authentically? Find out.
We all know that good communication skills mean speaking clearly, listening well, and asking the right questions. But there’s more to effective communication than that. To make sure others understand your message and you understand them, you need to be authentic.
Knowing that you have a right to feel what you feel and ask for what you need will help you be authentic—not aggressive, not “nice”—just direct, honest and respectful. Try these tips:
- Speak clearly and simply. Try to say what you mean. If you think you may have trouble saying something you need to say, write it out or record it and practise saying it.
- Make sure your voice matches what you want to say. Do you sound like you’re joking when you want to be serious? Do you mumble because you think it’s selfish to ask for what you need? When you state a fact, does your voice go up as if you’re asking a question? Practise matching your voice to what you want to say.
- Be aware of your posture. You’ll be able to speak more clearly and authentically when you sit or stand tall.
- Make eye contact. By looking the person you are speaking to in the eyes, you increase your social connection.
- Take full, deep breaths. Is your stomach in knots? Is your heart racing? These physical signals tell you how you’re feeling. Take full, deep breaths to help you relax and stay in touch with your feelings.
- Keep your goals in mind. Being aware of your goals can help you stay in touch with what you need.
- Speak for yourself by using the word “I.” Using the word “you” often means you’re focusing on the other person rather than yourself. The word “I” puts you in touch with your feelings. Instead of “You have no right to say that to me!” say “I feel upset when I hear statements like that!”
Respect yourself and others
When you communicate authentically, you make sure that the other person hears your feelings and needs. But you also listen to the other person’s feelings and needs. These suggestions will help you maintain mutual respect:
- Choose the right time and place to express your feelings and communicate your needs. For example, choose a time when your boss isn’t busy to talk about your own heavy workload.
- Express yourself as clearly as you can.
- Focus on and really listen to other people when they speak.
- Take responsibility for your own feelings. You don’t need to put anyone down to express yourself.
- Ask other people how they feel about what you’ve shared with them. Respond to the feelings they share with you.
Here’s what positive communication sounds like
“I’m very interested in having an interview for this position. I’m looking forward to showing you how I could add value to your company. Unfortunately, I’ll be out of town at the time of the interview. I’d like to schedule another time.”
“I’m confused. Would you please clarify what you want in this assignment?”
“I want this family event to be a success. Can you suggest how we should get started organizing it?”
“I understand the Tuesday deadline is really important. However, as a result of the computer problems, I won’t have it ready on time unless I have some help. Who would be able to work on it with me?”
We normally talk at a speed of about 125 words a minute. Our brains, however, race ahead while we listen, filling in the pauses that a speaker makes. This explains why we hear only about 25% of what is said to us.
Here’s how to be a better listener:
- Make as much eye contact as you feel comfortable with.
- Try not to think of listening as waiting for your turn to speak.
- Listen to understand.
- Try not to interrupt.
- Try to hear the feeling behind what the speaker is saying.
- Ask questions if you don’t understand or if you need to clarify something.
- Listen to the person’s tone of voice to help you understand the message.
Authentic communication strategies make you better at work and life
When you communicate authentically, you bring your whole self—your thoughts, feelings, and experiences—with you. You show others that you respect yourself as well as them. When you’re honest and direct, people pay attention and hear you, which makes you feel more confident.