Writers know that words can be as powerful as actions. “How you communicate represents who you are to others and informs what you think about yourself,” says Cynthia Kane, author of the recently published book, How to Communicate Like a Buddhist. Her website offers tips and quizzes designed to help readers identify their communications styles and act accordingly. Kane recommends meditation as a way to tap into our best selves.
Conversation can be difficult and unfulfilling if you are not mindful of what is working and what isn’t. Kane recommends focusing on four fundamentals:
1. Be respectful.
2. Be kind.
3. Be gentle.
4. Be helpful.
If you pay attention to the words you use and the reactions they elicit, you can by trial and error develop your own style of communication that can be adapted for various ‘audiences.’ Look for common themes; remain present in the moment; keep your mind quiet; and practice actively engaging with those you meet.
Kane says effective communicators speak consciously, concisely and clearly. They refrain from gossip and exaggeration by being honest and helpful. While many of us avoid silence because we feel awkward, silence can also be a way to promote intimacy and compassion. It can be your best tool during difficult conversations because it leaves time and space for the other person to speak.
Silence can offer you time to consider:
- Am I being kind?
- Is the language I’m using helpful?
- Am I taking the conversation in the right direction?
- Am I considering my responses before speaking?
Still, even the most outgoing individuals will face situations where the conversation is inherently difficult. You want to impress the CEO when you run into each other on the elevator. You hope to reassure the new hire that the work environment is friendly. You want to engage smoothly with the company’s most important donor.
Stacey Gawronski, senior editor/writer of The Muse, offers a few simple ways to communicate with different audiences.
- Open-ended questions can lead to surprising responses and make you memorable to busy people.
- Getting the conversation rolling with a new or shy workers is easier when you exude friendliness and approachability.
- Engaging people by asking for their advice shows that you appreciate their expertise and welcome their ideas.
Learning to talk your way through any situation means letting go of over-thinking. All the same, it’s smart to arm yourself with a back pocket full of simple ways to initiate and sustain effective conversations. Be prepared, be thoughtful, put others at ease. You may find that as you communicate better and more efficiently, you begin to enjoy it almost as much as finding the right words when you compose your next assignment.