Whether you’re delivering a presentation to a room full of conference attendees or hashing out a disagreement with your partner, many of the skills you need to achieve your goals in these different scenarios will be the same.
To improve your communication techniques, scholars recommend training in the following skills.
Defined as a cognitive attempt to consider another’s viewpoint (Longmire & Harrison, 2018), perspective taking enables us to communicate in a way that is likely to resonate with others in the way we intended.
Perspective taking is often referred to as putting yourself in another’s shoes.
For instance, when preparing a presentation, we can take the perspective of our audience by considering their background knowledge on the subject of our talk. By doing so, we can communicate in a way that will match the listeners’ level of background knowledge, rather than leaving them in the dust.
Likewise, we can be intentional about trying to take our partner’s perspective during a disagreement by imagining how our actions might make them feel or by imagining how we would feel if the roles in the conflict were reversed.
Usually, this involves showing empathy to the person you are speaking to and creating space for their emotions.
Self awareness involves being able to see yourself clearly and objectively through reflection and introspection. It requires you to separate your sense of identity from your thoughts and emotions.
But why is this important?
According to organizational psychologist Tasha Eurich we can only be as good at influence or collaboration (and a range of other skills) as we are at self-awareness. That is to say, if we work to develop our self-awareness, it can have a ripple effect on our ability to communicate, engage, and empathize with others.
In the example of delivering a conference presentation, self-awareness may help us recognize that we appear withdrawn when speaking to a crowd. This awareness then enables us to amend our behavior and style of communication.
Likewise, in the example of the disagreement with a partner, self-awareness might help us recognize our tendency to grow defensive to perceived criticism in a particular area. Self-awareness can counter this, allowing us to remain open minded and curious in such discussions.
In sum, good communication involves balancing our own perspective with that of others to convey a message successfully and accept feedback.
A Take-Home Message
Whether you’re the quietest person at a table or a smooth-talking socialite, the ability to put yourself in the shoes of those with whom you speak is key to effective communication.
Likewise, understanding yourself in terms of your strengths and potential biases when communicating can only serve you as you connect with others. Be sure to check out the resources throughout this post to help you or your clients develop these skills today for better relationships tomorrow.