Communication is possibly the most important life skill. It's how we connect with one another, learn, grown, develop relationships and ultimately thrive. Communicating is what brings ideas to life and emotions and feelings to others. Today we are learning a few ways to exercise our communication muscle.
If you're not familiar with Ted, they are a nonprofit organization dedicated to "ideas worth spreading" in talks 18 minutes or less. This week we are recommending a powerful Ted Talk on ways to have a better conversation.
10 Ways To Have A Better Conversation by Celeste Headlee sums up all the important points to truly engage in a meaningful interaction in just 11 minutes and 36 seconds. Time very well spent. Listen to it here.
"When your job hinges on how well you talk to people, you learn a lot about how to have conversations -- and that most of us don't converse very well." Celeste Headlee has worked as a radio host for decades, and offers the ingredients of a great conversation: Honesty, brevity, clarity and a healthy amount of listening. "Go out, talk to people, listen to people," she says. "And, most importantly, be prepared to be amazed."
While you may think she will bring up the regular advice of eye contact, shaking your head, looking engaged, she says "that's all crap." If you are truly engaged in a conversation, you don't have to pretend to be. The real advice is much more genuine. See our summary below.
1. Don't multitask.
Be present, be in that moment. Don't be thinking about what you are having for dinner or your argument with your boss. If you want to get out of the conversation then get out of the conversation. Don't be half in it and half out.
2. Don't pontificate.
"True listening is setting aside oneself." Enter every conversation assuming you have something to learn. Set aside your personal opinion. "Everyone you will ever meet knows something you don't." - Bill Nye
3. Use open-ended questions.
Start with who, why, what, where, how. Just like a good journalist, ask questions that spur thought and require an interesting response. Simple yes or no questions won't inspire a thought provoking answer.
4. Go with the flow.
Thoughts will come in your mind, let them go out of your mind. Stories and ideas will come to you, let them go. It's not about making this about yourself.
5. If you don't know, say you don't know.
Everyone is an expert these days, but do you really know everything? No, no-one does. Err on the side of caution. Talk should not be cheap.
6. Don't equate your experience with theirs.
If someone lost their job, don't immediately tell them a story of when you lost your job. If someone lost a loved one, don't immediately tell them a story of when you lost a loved one. It is not the same. It is never the same. All experiences are individual. It is not about you. You don't have to prove how awesome, experienced or relatable you are. Conversations are not a promotional opportunity.
7. Try not to repeat yourself.
It's something we all do. It's obnoxious. Don't do it.
8. Stay out of the weeds.
People don't care about all the details you're struggling to remember to tell a story - dates, someones name, the color of the shirt she was wearing. They care about you, not the details. Leave them out.
The most important. If your mouth is open you not learning. We don't listen for many reasons, mostly because we can't control the situation. We also get distracted. "Most of us don't listen with the intent to understand. We listen with the intent to reply." - Stephen Covey
10. Be brief.
Source: tedtalks.com, Celeste Headlee
Communication is beneficial is all aspects of life. Use these activities to teach communication skills for family game night, employee retreats, church activities or even a friend get together.
1. Back-to-Back Drawing
This exercise teaches listening and clarification when communicating.
What you'll need:
- an even number of players
- a pencil and paper for each person
- pieces of paper with "speaker" and "listener" written on them
- cards with geometric shapes
For this activity, each person will pair up with another and sit back-back. Each player is given a pencil and paper. Each player will pull from a jar to determine who is the speaker and who is the listener. The speaker then draws a shape card.
Set a timer for 5 minutes. The speaker will try to describe the shape, and the listener must try to draw based only on the description without looking at the image.
Once the timer is up, the players turn around and compare images.
- What steps did you take to ensure your instructions were clear? How could these be applied in real-life interactions?
- Our intended messages aren’t always interpreted as we mean them to be. While speaking, what could you do to decrease the chance of miscommunication in real-life dialogue?
- What was constructive about your partner’s instructions?
- In what ways might your drawing have turned out differently if you could have communicated with your partner?
2. Let’s Face It
There is no limit to the group size for this game, which requires only enough pens and paper for everybody. It doesn’t take very long, either, and can be played in as little as ten to twenty minutes—perfect for breaking up the day.
Start with groups of between four and ten players; in each of these, someone will need to volunteer as a facilitator. This facilitator simply keeps the game on track and gets the discussion going afterward.
Each player writes down a feeling on a small piece of paper, folds it, then passes it to the volunteer facilitator. From him or her, they take another piece that someone else has written, and tries to act out that feeling to the rest of their group—using only their facial expressions. The other participants try to guess that emotion and this should lead to a talk about the role of expressions. Useful discussion points include:
- What feelings do we understand the easiest, when only facial expressions are used? Why might that be?
- Describe some contexts where facial expressions play a particularly important role in communication?
- In what ways can facial expressions influence our ability to deal with misunderstandings?
3. Crazy Comic
This is a fun game in communication skills that will also give team members some creative freedom. They will need to communicate those creative ideas to one another, but also engage in joint decision-making for the activity to be a success. And that activity is to create a comic together, using their complementary skills and communication to realize a shared vision.
You’ll need more than 9 participants for this activity, as well as paper, drawing, and coloring materials for each colleague. From your larger group of co-workers, let them form smaller groups of about 3-6 participants and tell them their task is to produce a unique comic strip, with one frame from each person. So, a 6-person group will make a 6-frame strip, and so forth.
Between them, they need to decide the plot of the comic, who will be carrying out which tasks, and what the frames will contain. The catch is that they all need to draw at the same time, so they will not be seeing the preceding frame in the strip. Make it extra-hard if you like, by instructing them not to look at one another’s creative progress as they draw, either.
Afterward, trigger some discussion about the way they communicated; some example questions include:
- How critical was communication throughout this exercise?
- What did you find the toughest about this activity?
- Why was it important to make the decisions together?
Source: Buzzfeed Communicator Quiz