It can seem like some individuals are simply born with the gift of the gab.
While that may be true, there are also specific skills you can learn to become an effective and clear conversationalist.
Let’s dig right into it and answer the question: what makes somebody a good communicator?
1) Active listening
Conversation truly is an art. There is a balance that can be found between listening and speaking.
But it’s not just about shutting up or letting others talk.
It’s about being an active listener and truly absorbing what’s being said.
You use your actual energy and attention to what somebody else is saying and think about statements they are making which may be confusing or unclear to you.
You ask for clarification if necessary.
What this means also, is that even if you love or hate what’s being said, you continue listening past your initial reaction.
So you disagree? Fine. You hear the person out in order to actually understand the scope of what they’re saying and be able to effectively respond.
Which brings us to point two.
2) Authentic responses
In addition to actively listening, the other crucial component when it comes to traits of a polished and engaged communicator is authentic responses.
“Uh huh,” “guess so,” “could be,” and “yeah, maybe” are nowhere to be found.
If you don’t know what to say, you’re most likely going to admit “I don’t know what to say,” or say you will think about it.
An authentic response means respecting the other participant in a conversation enough to be honest.
It means you don’t pretend to care a lot if you don’t, or know all the answers if you don’t.
But it also means you weigh in and offer your view and your experiences whenever you feel able and called to do so.
As an effective communicator, you say what you want to say even if it’s not always politically correct.
You speak with tact when necessary, but you respond in a way that’s absolutely true to who you are and what you actually intend to say.
3) Concise, coherent sentences
Next up in the traits of a polished and engaged communicator is speaking in short and coherent sentences.
Organizing your thoughts isn’t always an easy task, but the effective communicator does so by knowing what he or she will say first and then chopping it up into smaller bits.
Instead of a long series of flowery statements, they speak briefly and in ways that are easy to understand.
There are some subjects and conversations that get more in-depth and have more complex sentences and ways of expressing yourself, of course.
But as much as possible, the engaging communicator divides their speech into smaller sentences that are easy to understand and engage with.
4) Enunciation and clarity
In addition to using fairly short and understandable sentences, the effective communicator enunciates his or her words.
This means shaping the vowels and speaking the consonants enough to be well heard and well understood.
Speaking clearly is something many of us take for granted, and often we may not respond positively to somebody pointing out that we mumble or are hard to understand.
But the truth is that almost all of us can do with some improvement in the realm of enunciation and speaking clearly.
There’s nothing wrong with that and it’s no massive critique, more of a point at which you can begin to actively improve the efficacy and impact of your conversational skills.
5) Emphasis of key words and moments
You’ll notice that effective communicators have a common trait of speaking with emphasis on certain words and key moments.
This can be observed from great public speakers all the way down to people who are engaging and fascinating to talk to.
The effective speaker will put weight and elongate words in order to draw the listener in more fully.
For example, a mid-range conversationalist may say the following sentence in a fairly neutral tone of voice without any special emphasis.
“This World Cup game means a lot to me and my family. The loss last year was devastating. The referees were incredibly biased against us.”
The polished and engaging communicator, by contrast, would deliver the above sentence more along the following lines with a few added words and phonetic elongations:
“This World Cup game means soo much… to me and my family. The loss last year was just… incredibly dehhh-vastating…! The referees were so unbelieeevably biased against us.”
How do you master this? Practice! And self-confidence in what you are saying and what part of it is most important to you that you want to get across to the listener…
6) Mastering immediacy
Another of the key traits of a polished and engaged communicator is immediacy.
What is it?
Simply speaking, immediacy is speaking and interacting with your listener in an authentic way in terms of body language and speech.
I mentioned earlier speaking in shorter sentences and speaking clearly, both of which are extremely important.
However, speaking too perfectly can actually alienate the listener and make the conversation feel like a speech or lecture.
Instead, speaking genuinely including the occasional pause and admitting when you are searching for words, for example, shows the other conversation member that you are genuine and in the present moment with them rather than delivering pre-rehearsed lines or not listening.
“Immediacy is a term coined in the late 1960’s by psychology professor Albert Meharabian to represent the many verbal and nonverbal behaviors people exhibit to build emotional connections.”
7) Willing to share
Another of the important traits of a polished and engaged communicator is being willing to share.
Many times our conversations are like mirrors.
You get out what you put in. If you’re willing to share then the other person or people involved in the conversation will be more likely to share as well.
This is why being willing to share is a crucial trait if you want to communicate well and engage people.
Just remember to always know the dividing line between opening up and over-sharing.
“My divorce taught me a lot about what can go wrong in a relationship, so I know what you mean,” may be an intimate and important detail you are willing to share in a conversation.
“My divorce actually started when my ex husband started arguing about which high school our son should go to and then I finally opened up to him about how uncomfortable I was with his friendship with his secretary and the religious views he’d always been trying to push on me.
“Then when he told me he knew I’d been reconnecting with my old friend George I just felt like…” (for twenty minutes more) would fall more under the category of over-sharing.
Next up in the key traits of a polished and engaged communicator is being open to learn.
When I mentioned active learning earlier, this is a big part of it:
Being genuinely open to learning new information, points of view, perspectives and experiences.
When you are open to truly learning and hearing what somebody else is saying, they trust you more and are more interested in speaking to you.
If you’re not open to learning or keeping an open mind, many conversations will just become a rehash of old information and won’t actually lead anywhere nor be interesting or engaging.
You may not change your mind, and you may not learn! But be open to it, even from unexpected sources.
9) Empathy for others
Empathy is a really important quality in life and especially in conversation.
Even if you’re speaking to someone who’s from a very different walk of life with you or who you strongly disagree with, empathy comes into play in many ways.
For one thing, it’s about relating even unfamiliar experiences to something you’ve been through.
Empathy is about understanding as much as you can and also admitting when you just wouldn’t be able to understand on an emotional level.
“I can’t imagine what you’re going through,” doesn’t have to just be a cliche.
It can be a way to truly tell someone you can’t imagine the pain they are going through because you haven’t been through something like that.
Empathy doesn’t always mean you’re able to truly understand, but it means even if you don’t know you always recognize when somebody is going through a hard time or finds something very important to them, even if you can’t fully grasp it.
10) Genuine interest in others
The effective and polished communicator has a genuine interest in others.
You ask how a hotel concierge’s day is going because you actually care.
You talk to a family at the local restaurant about what they recommend on the menu and get into a talk about Mexican cuisine because you actually find it interesting (and delicious!)
An effective and compelling communicator is somebody who really finds other people interesting and is able to find something worth talking about with almost everyone.
Am I getting through to you?
The above traits of a polished and engaged communicator are all centered around three key things:
Authenticity, clarity and engagement.
If you want to be an excellent communicator who people love to speak to and who succeeds in your personal and professional life, follow the ACE formula:
Be authentic: mean what you say.
Be clear: speak with short sentences and enunciate your words.
Be engaging: show interest in who you’re talking to and present relevant information to them in terms of what you’re speaking about.