How To Talk To People — 19 Vital Tips For Poor Communicators

Being able to talk to people isn’t as simple as it seems, especially if you’re shy, introverted, or just a little socially awkward. That being said, it’s a skill that comes in handy in pretty much every area of life, and figuring out how to do it will go a long way in helping you succeed in your professional life as well as in your personal life.

Below are some tips that should help any poor communicators out there. With enough practice, you can get better!

1. Get your active listening skills on point.

Active listening is a fundamental skill if you want to know how to talk to people. If you’re bad at listening, you won’t go far. It means fully focusing on the speaker and their message. To practice active listening, give the speaker your full attention. Avoid interrupting, and resist the urge to formulate your response while they’re talking. Instead, concentrate on what they’re saying and the emotions they’re conveying. After they finish speaking, respond thoughtfully, summarizing or asking questions to show that you’ve been engaged.

2. Maintain eye contact, however awkward you feel.

Eye contact is a powerful nonverbal cue that communicates your attentiveness and interest. When you maintain eye contact during a conversation, you signal to the speaker that you’re engaged and genuinely listening. However, it’s essential to strike a balance – too much eye contact can be perceived as aggressive or intrusive, while too little can make you seem disinterested. Practice maintaining natural and friendly eye contact to foster better connections in your interactions.

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4. Use open body language.

Open body language is crucial for creating a positive and inviting atmosphere during conversations. Avoid crossing your arms, which can make you appear defensive or disinterested. Instead, keep your arms relaxed at your sides or use open gestures that convey receptiveness. Facing the speaker with an open posture communicates your willingness to engage in the conversation.

5. Speak slowly and clearly.

Clarity in communication is vital. Speaking slowly and clearly ensures that your message is easily understood. When you rush through your words or mumble, it can lead to misinterpretation and frustration for the listener. Practice articulating each word and using pauses for emphasis. This not only enhances comprehension but also conveys confidence and thoughtfulness in your communication.

6. Practice empathy.

Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of others. It plays a pivotal role in effective communication because it allows you to connect on a deeper level with people. To practice empathy, actively put yourself in the speaker’s shoes. Try to understand their perspective, emotions, and experiences. When you respond, acknowledge their feelings and validate their concerns. This empathetic approach fosters trust, rapport, and more meaningful interactions.

7. Minimize distractions.

It’s no surprise that distractions are everywhere, from smartphones to noisy environments. To be a better communicator, make a conscious effort to minimize distractions during conversations. Put away your phone, find a quiet space if possible, and fully engage in the interaction. This not only shows respect for the speaker but also allows you to absorb and process information more effectively.

8. Ask open-ended questions.

One effective way to encourage meaningful dialogue is by asking open-ended questions. These are questions that can’t be answered with a simple “yes” or “no.” Instead, they invite the speaker to share their thoughts, feelings, and experiences more expansively. Open-ended questions often begin with words like “how,” “what,” or “why.” By using them, you prompt deeper and more insightful responses, fostering richer conversations.

9. Give constructive feedback.

Providing feedback is a crucial aspect of communication, but it’s essential to do it constructively. When offering feedback, focus on specific behaviors or actions rather than making personal judgments. Be specific about what you appreciate or what could be improved, and use a positive and non-confrontational tone. Constructive feedback is more likely to be well-received and lead to positive changes.

10. Mirror and match when you talk to people.

Mirroring and matching are techniques that involve subtly imitating the body language, tone, and pace of the person you’re communicating with. This mirroring helps create rapport and a sense of connection. However, it’s essential to use these techniques subtly and authentically. Overdoing it can come across as insincere or manipulative.

11. Practice mindfulness.

Mindfulness is the practice of being fully present and aware in the moment. It’s a valuable tool for improving communication because it helps you stay focused and attentive during conversations. To practice mindfulness, clear your mind of distractions and judgments. Pay close attention to what the speaker is saying and how you’re responding. Mindful communication leads to more genuine interactions and a deeper understanding of others.

12. Be empathetic.

Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of others. It’s a cornerstone of effective communication. To be more empathetic, actively listen to what the other person is saying and try to put yourself in their shoes. Consider their perspective, emotions, and experiences. Demonstrating empathy not only helps you connect with others on a deeper level but also fosters trust and understanding.

13. Avoid interrupting.

Interrupting someone while they’re speaking can be seen as disrespectful and can hinder effective communication. Practice patience and allow the speaker to finish their thoughts before responding. This shows that you value their input and are willing to give them the time and space to express themselves fully.

14. Use nonverbal communication.

Nonverbal cues, such as facial expressions, body language, and gestures, play a significant role in communication. Be mindful of your nonverbal signals, as they can convey messages even more potent than words. Maintain eye contact to show you’re engaged, use open and relaxed body language to appear approachable, and nod or smile to indicate understanding and agreement.

15. Clarify and summarize.

To ensure you’ve understood the speaker correctly, it’s helpful to clarify and summarize their points. You can do this by restating what you’ve heard in your own words and asking if your interpretation aligns with their intended message. This not only confirms your comprehension but also demonstrates active listening and a genuine desire to understand.

16. Manage your emotions.

Effective communication often requires managing your emotions, especially in challenging or conflict-ridden conversations. Practice emotional intelligence by recognizing and regulating your emotions. Take a step back if you feel yourself becoming overly emotional, and return to the conversation when you can engage more calmly and rationally. This approach helps prevent escalations and allows for more productive discussions.

17. Mind your tone of voice.

When trying to figure out how to talk to people, this is vital. The tone of your voice can convey a lot of information beyond the words you speak. It’s important to match your tone to the context of the conversation. For example, in a professional setting, maintain a respectful and even tone, while in a casual conversation, you can be more relaxed. Avoid speaking in a harsh or condescending tone, as it can be off-putting and hinder effective communication.

18. Adapt to your audience.

Not everyone communicates in the same way or responds to the same approach. To be an effective communicator, adapt your style to your audience. Consider their preferences, communication style, and background. Whether you’re talking to colleagues, superiors, friends, or family members, tailoring your communication to suit their needs and expectations can lead to more successful interactions.

19. Be mindful of your body language.

In addition to nonverbal cues like eye contact and gestures, be conscious of your overall body language. Avoid crossing your arms, as it can signal defensiveness. Maintain an open posture, face the person you’re speaking to, and use subtle movements to express engagement, such as nodding when you agree or leaning in slightly to show interest.

20. Seek feedback and self-reflect.

Improving your communication skills is an ongoing process. Seek feedback from others about your communication style. Ask for constructive criticism and be open to making necessary adjustments. Additionally, engage in self-reflection after conversations or interactions. Consider what went well and where you could improve. This self-awareness can lead to continuous growth in your communication abilities.

Sinead Cafferty is a writer who has authored four collections of poetry: "Dust Settling" (2012); "The Space Between" (2014); "Under, Under, Over" (2016); and "What You Can't Have" (2020). She's currently working on her first novel, a dystopian romance set in the 22nd Century, that's due out in 2024.

Sinead has an MFA in creative writing from NYU and has had residencies with the Vermont Studio Center and the National Center for Writing.