What you speak says a lot about who you are. On numerous occasions, you might have ended up saying something stupid, mean, or completely out of place. People around you might seem like they didn’t mind but the fact is that people are constantly judging you and forming opinions, sometimes even subconsciously.
What you say and how you say it projects an image which shapes your personality in the minds of other people. And even if you pay no heed to what others think of you, giving a bit of thought to what you’re going to say has the potential to make things work in your favor. While you can’t change the things you have said in the past, developing a few simple habits can help you communicate more effectively. Here are 5 ways to do it.
1. Focus On The Outcome You Desire
There is a reason why so many philosophers and great men and women across history have emphasized on the power of words. Every conversation has a certain outcome and once you realize the power of words, you also realize that what you speak has an influence on the outcome.
In an interview, for example, instead of saying that you need to get paid a certain amount because of the number of years of experience you’ve had, explain why you would be a valuable employee and how you would fit into their culture. This conversation has a far better chance of landing you the job with a pay that you want.
2. Questions Are Your Friends
Unless you’re talking to a complete stranger, the fact is that you assume several details even before you get into a conversation. The only saving grace is that the other party also has the same assumptions as you, but that’s not always the case.
Let’s say your manager is giving you a project; she is assuming you have the knowledge and resources to complete it. Don’t be a yes-man and agree to everything that comes your way. Ask questions and probe to find out more information before taking matters forward. It will save you and everyone around you a great deal of time and energy.
3. Understand The Situation
Saying the right things at the right time needs a careful assessment of the situation. Most cases of foot-in-mouth involve people saying the wrong things at the wrong time. While it’s good to speak your mind when given the opportunity, cultivating a level of sensitivity to a situation can help you keep your foot where it should be.
If your client is panicking about you falling behind on delivery schedules, don’t work up a sweat just because the person at the other end of the line is losing it. Maybe the work was delayed for no fault of yours. So calmly tell the client when the work will be done and render a sincere apology. There’s really nothing more you can do in this situation but a calm and confident demeanor will help you do what’s needed in any given situation.
4. Practice Empathy
Empathy is a powerful quality that can help you deal with people and situations in the most humane way possible while also helping you make stronger connections. Before you criticize, appreciate, or pass judgment on someone, take a moment to put yourself in their shoes.
When empathy becomes a part of the way you communicate with people, compassion and understanding follow. If someone has failed to meet your expectations, try to find out why. Maybe your expectations were too high, maybe that person did not have the resources, or maybe he was going through a crisis in his personal life. When you empathize, you also find ways to collaborate and find solutions instead of pointing fingers.
5. Take Your Time
When someone asks you a question, there may be a sudden obligation to give an immediate answer. But whether it’s an interview or an unexpected marriage proposal, tell yourself that you have the right to take the time to respond. It could be just a moment, a few hours, or a few days.
If you need to respond to something that you think is important, take the time. That does not mean you postpone the conversation for when it’s convenient for you. The idea is to gauge the possible outcomes and do what you think is best for you and everyone concerned. Don’t react. Instead, focus on responding within a negotiated time frame.
You might think that all the above tips are easier said than done. And yes, awkward situations have a way of popping up when you least expect them. However, once you start applying a short pause to think before spelling things out, you will eventually realize that you are more in control than you initially thought. With time, this control will automate itself to everything you do. So give it a thought, will you?