Unless you want to live under a rock in a forgotten place as the only human inhabitant at some point or another you are going to have to communicate with others, the need to communicate is as old as civilisation itself and many many books have been written on the topic, I personally am quite a shy person, I have had a lot of hang ups about my ability at work my physical appearance and my ability to communicate with others in both personal and professional capacities.
The written word seems far easier to control and deliver and is powerful, hugely powerful in fact wars have been started and stopped through the written word and societies changed by adherence to the written rule of law, but behind this and in every case there is people, people to think and then vocalise the thoughts and ideals that we then document to disseminate among the population, through history there have been many documented cases of one person mobilising entire countries through their personality and ability to communicate.
This is not some kind of black magic, and you do not need to rely on hypnotising people to bend them to your will, you simply need to know how to communicate effectively and be likeable, when was the last time you went out of your way for somebody you did not like? we are more likely to put ourselves out or assist complete strangers than somebody who we have actively taken a dislike to.
And the same works in reverse, you are unlikely to be helped up the corporate ladder by somebody that has not “taken to you” and garnering assistance from somebody you do not gel with is almost impossible.
But talking to people is daunting, it can be almost debilitating especially for the first time as the rules of engagement haven’t been set yet, you do not know what type of person you are dealing with, what they think, feel, desire or what they will find funny or insulting, as a demonstration of this I have one friend who considers swearing to be the height of rudeness, as I am sure some of you will, and one that we regularly insult each other with some eye-watering expletives as a matter of course, it is simply the way we communicate, and I have a good relationship with both and have worked very successfully along side them with no trouble at all, simply because I took the time to understand what type of person they were and adjust how I converse with them accordingly, so I have compiled a list of some of the more core rules of communication because it is difficult to make it through life without it and almost impossible to succeed financially or socially without giving consideration to how you communicate with others.
- Smile, A very simple first step is to smile, a smile puts people at ease especially in first meetings because it at least shows you are happy to be in their company or pleased to meet them at least, when I say smile I do not mean a great big wide grin that looks as though you are about to burst into laughter, the best thing to do is to actively think of something pleasant, a situation or a person that naturally makes you happy, as smiling is largely an involuntary response the reaction will be natural and not look forced very important as you do not want their first thought to be that you are false!
- Eye Contact, Often explained away to easily this one and it is really difficult to get right if you are trying to force it, the tendency is to stare at someone intently after being told to maintain eye contact, but this is just intimidating at worst and if you are dealing with a tower of confidence in the other person they will most likely just find it annoying and it could easily turn into a staring contest, again not a good first impression, the best rule of thumb is to concentrate on what the person is saying and get eye contact for around 50 to 60 percent of the conversation, this is engaging but not confrontational.
- Consider the situation, Often overlooked is to consider what kind of meeting this is, and adjust accordingly, for instance in a job interview the interviewer is in a position of power (if you really want the job that is) and you are looking to impress but not dominate, so you would maintain eye-contact at crucial times, when giving answers to questions for instance (looking away when answering tends to suggest that you are searching for the answer) but not overdo it during the more general moments of the interview, if however you are in a position of power and you need to assert authority you would lower your tone and fix the person in your gaze for more of the conversation, this is an instructional position.
- Do not shout, Unless you need to shout because of environmental considerations try not to, shouting is largely the loss of control and unless delivered at exactly the right time tends to erode any authority as you are no longer calm and level headed, a lower quieter tone delivered exactly and firmly making sure not to trail off at the end of words is far more authoritative and will get your message across without annoying the other person, when we get annoyed we stop listening, it is a fact, I am sure that you do the same.
- Dress for success Well actually just dress for the situation you are going to be in, if you are wanting to be taken seriously in the business world, and you are in a traditional type office setting then turning up in trainers jeans and a T-shirt is really only any good for the monthly office picnic, whereas if you are in a more modern setting a three piece suit is probably not going to help you integrate with the environment, to put it in extreme terms don’t expect to be taken seriously at the annual dentists networking convention dressed as Ronald McDonald!
- Try and find Common Ground, Humans are by and large pack animals, we feel most comfortable among people with the same interests and aspirations, by looking for traits in people that you can relate to you can ease most situations and create an environment that is mostly devoid of the deadly silence that exists between people that have no idea what to say to each other, the weather only lasts so long as a conversation but a shared interest in a sport or reading or pogo’ing can last a lifetime of water cooler talk and will most likely create a friendship even if it is at a very low colleague level.
Being socially awkward is not a bad trait and it is not something that you have to change regardless of your need to or not, it is however going to hold you back if you want to make a progression in the business or family life or any social interaction, the world is becoming an increasingly social place, it is a sort of pseudo social to be fair, as it is conducted behind screens and keyboards but millions are made based solely upon personalities of normal people, such is the power of likeability, even if the personality is largely successful through controversy they will still have a following based on a connection through common ground and the people that do not like them will follow them to feed into a common ground that will grow their social circle.
Relationships are reciprocal and when you become friends with people or establish a worth you will find that they will help you as much as they can, and when all it takes is a little consideration to your first meeting and how you appear to people in everyday interactions, it is a small price to pay , believe me whatever you are trying to achieve in life, communication while it may not always be the first key, will always make it easier.
I guess one of the biggest things I am trying to get across is, working situations to your advantage and exerting your will to further your position is not a sinister terrible thing, it is a tool that is used the world over and there is no reason why you shouldn’t utilise everything in your power to succeed, after all that is why we are all here isn’t it?