It’s often said that the words we use form only 7% of our communication with other people.
This comes from a study by Albert Mehrabian 197. He looked at the importance of non-verbal communication in a face-to-face situation. He concluded that the tone and body language has a higher significance (38% and 55% respectively) than the words used when conveying a message face to face.
However, I want to share some observations and thoughts on communication beyond these elements.
Communication Is An Exchange Of Energy
As well as an exchange of information, I believe that communicating with another person, or any number of people, is about an exchange of energy.
If you’re not sure what i mean by energy, think of it in terms of ‘attention’.
Have you ever had a conversation with someone whose attention was elsewhere?
Either they were thinking about something else, or were actively looking over your shoulder (or at their phone) while you were trying to have a conversation. Annoying isn’t it? Their energy / attention is elsewhere.
Did you ever stop talking, or say something utterly ridiculous? If you stop talking, the chances are they won’t even notice. If you say something ridiculous, sometimes, because the energy you are now directing towards them is increased, they can snap their attention right back to you. It’s as though they aren’t getting enough energy or attention from you so they are seeking it elsewhere.
Have you ever got bored or annoyed by the person talking to you, or by what they are saying and switched off from the conversation?
Interesting things can happen when you do this. Usually only one of these occur:
- The person talking can get more animated, louder, or more aggressive in their language. I believe this is because, as I mentioned before, they sense your energy / attention is not coming their way, so they are trying to pull or demand it from you.
- Or they talk the subject to death. You can almost hear desperation in their voice for you to understand or acknowledge what they’re saying. What I think they’re actually doing, is pleading for more energy or attention from you.
- Alternatively they shut down. They lose their momentum, can’t remember what they were going t say, or change the subject on to something else entirely. Again, these seem to be ways of engaging you back in to the conversation so they can have your energy / attention once more.
How To Improve Your Communication Skills
If you would like to improve your communication skills, and your experiences when communicating with others there a few simple steps you can take.
Whether talking or listening make sure you do these things:
- Use eye contact as much as possible.
- Stand square on to the person you are in conversation with. If this isn’t possible, make sure you angle your body as much towards them as possible. If you’re seated, avoid turning your legs away from them.
- Smile. Even if you’re concentrating try to smile at the same time (this comes with practice).
- Ground your own energy. This will help you t feel really connected to the spot that you’re standing in. In turn you will feel really present in the moment, and the other person will be able to sense this.
- Imagine that you are a lightbulb and that you are giving off light to everyone else around you. You can do this as a visualisation before you go in to the situation if you don’t feel you can sustain this image in your mind and listen.
- Really look at the person that you’re engaged with. When you do this, especially with all other other steps on this list you can start to see the real person. It’s almost as though you can start to see their soul, or inner beauty. This is just as rewarding for both of you as you will feel that you have truly connected.
- Thank the person for the time you’ve spent with them. Appreciate them but don’t make promises you ave no intention of keeping. If you start pretending they’re your new best mate, or that you simply must do lunch, if you don’t mean it, it will make you seem false. Keep it real and genuine. A simple thank you is more rewarding than a false overly-enthusiastic suggestion of meeting up again.
If you’re listening:
- Ask questions. Seek to be interested, not interesting. Most people only listen for a gap in the conversation in order that they can start to speak. Allow the other person to be heard.
- If you don’t understand something, tell them. Ask them to explain things in a different way if this is appropriate.
If you’re talking:
- Be concise. If you aren’t giving a talk but are in a more social situation, don’t be tempted to hold court and continue with story after story. Ask questions of others around you and allow them their time to speak too.
I find that when I use these simple techniques I have a very different experience. I come away from conversations feeling more positive. I also believe that the person I have spoken, or listened to feels heard and validated too. Give them a go and see what a difference it makes in your interactions with others