COUNSELLING BLOG

Posts tagged communication skills

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How to Start a Conversation When You Have Nothing to Talk About

Starting a conversation to get to know someone or breaking an awkward silence can be very stressful. To start a conversation when you have nothing to talk about, use these guidelines.
1. Introduce yourself if necessary. If you don’t know the person, breaking the ice is very simple: look approachable, tell the new person your name, offer your hand to shake, and smile.
2. Remark on the location or occasion. Look around and see if there is anything worth pointing out. Examples of location or occasion comments include: “This is a gorgeous room!”, or “Great dog!”
3. Ask an open-ended question. Most people love to talk about themselves, and open questions can help with this. These require an explanation for an answer rather than just a simple yes or no. Open questions tend to begin with who, when, what, why, where, and how.
4. Keep the conversation going with small talk. This keeps the conversation light and simple, and helps to establish similarities.
5. Synchronize. Once the other person has started talking, follow his or her cues to keep the conversation going smoothly. Use active listening to reflect what they’re saying and, perhaps, feeling.
6. Helpful techniques and cues to convey your interest include: Say the other person’s name from time to time; give encouraging feedback (by nodding, saying “ah-ha”, “wow’, “oh” “That’s amazing!”, etc.); keep your body language open and welcoming; and make comfortable, genuine eye contact with the person.
7. Be aware of your internal monologue. When you suddenly feel that you’re not able to engage in conversation with someone else, it’s likely that you’re saying negative things to yourself. For example, you may be worrying that you’re boring, not good enough, too unimportant, intruding, wasting their time, and so on. Try to keep in mind that everyone has these self-doubts from time to time.
8. Respond thoughtfully to someone who remains awkward or uncomfortable. If he or she appears withdrawn and uninterested, don’t persist for too long. Try a bit more, and then make the decision to move on and talk to somebody else. Also, be careful not to ask too many questions as they may feel shy discussing themselves.
Source: http://www.wikihow.com/Start-a-Conversation-When-You-Have-Nothing-to-Talk-About (Adapted)

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How to Come Across as being Friendly

1. Smile and laugh (to try to put others as ease)
2. Avoid distractions (like constantly checking your phone)
3. Keep your body language open (so you seem approachable)
4. Ask open questions about the other person
5. Listen properly, and show an interest in what’s said
6. Maintain a comfortable level of eye contact
7. Practice making small talk (and stick to positive topics)
8. Compliment others and comment on their strengths.

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Tips for Making Small Talk

Being good at making small talk is a crucial life skill, and is key for making a positive impression. Some tips to help you with this include:

1. Go prepared when you’re meeting new people, or when you have to attend a social event. Think about some topics you can talk about with others (and that will depend on the people you are meeting). Prepare some general questions to get others talking (For example, what are they doing for the holidays; or what good movies have they seen recently?) Also, if you’ve met some of the people at a previous event, try to remember a few things about them (such as what are their main interests, or where do they work?)
2. Most people feel uncomfortable when meeting someone new so be the first person to say “hello.” If you’re not sure if the person will remember you, help put them at their ease by saying who you are.
3. Don’t rush introductions. Focus hard on remembering the names of those you meet, and use them often to fix them in your mind.
4. Help the other person talk by opening up the conversation with open-ended questions that asks for more details. For example, “Isn’t this a great party! How do you know (the host)?”
5. Pay careful attention to what the person’s saying; don’t allow your mind to drift or to start to wander off. Eye contact should be steady – so don’t glance to the side.
6. Make sure you listen more than you talk to someone new.
7. Work on having something relevant and interesting to say. Know what’s going on and making headlines in the news. These can help to open up a conversation. (For example, you can lead with a comment like “What do you think about…?” Have you heard…?” What is your take on…?”
8. Avoid controversial and negative topics; also, refrain from boring stories that have too many details. It’s meant to be a casual, light and easy conversation.
9. Pay attention to your body language. If you act as if you’re comfortable and confident, that will put the people around you at ease, too. However, if you look shy, awkward and uncomfortable, that will rub off on the people you are socialising with.
10. Before you join a conversation that’s already in progress, first stand on the sidelines and listen carefully. Don’t squeeze your way in with a badly-timed remark.

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Some Tips for Being a Better Conversationalist

1. Be bold. For example, don’t be afraid to tell someone what you like about their work, or to comment on something they do well. We usually like people who pay us compliments!
2. Remember that we always have something in common –even if it is just the weather, or a class we are taking. It is better to say something than nothing at all. Hopefully, the other person will respond to your lead.
3. Ask people about their interests or hobbies … and when they respond ask some open questions to keep the conversation going.
4. If you are introverted and find talking to others very difficult, try and prepare a bit in advance. For example, think of some things that might interest others (popular movies, groups or singers, the latest games etc.) Think about how you could use these in a conversation with someone you don’t know.
5. Do your best to act relaxed (even if you feel uncomfortable inside.)
6. Try to sound confident when you talk to other people. For example, don’t mumble, maintain steady but comfortable eye contact, and smile a lot.
7. Make a mental note of some amusing things that you saw or heard. For example, something funny someone said, a fun activity you did with your friends … or anything you think might be of interest to that person.
8. Watch other people who are confident and seem to find chatting with others very easy. Notice what they do – and then learn from them.

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How to Start a Conversation

1. Comment on the location, occasion or event. For example, look around and see if there is anything you could talk about. Examples are something like: “Isn’t this such an incredible view!”, or “Isn’t that a really cute dog!”
2. Ask open-ended questions. Most people love to talk about themselves. An open question requires a more detailed response. That is, something more than of just a simple yes or no. Open questions tend to begin with who, when, what, why, where, and how.
3. Ask the person about their pets. This is a great way start a conversation as people are usually very fond of their pets.
4. Talk about some current events. You’ll need to read or watch the news to help you with this.
5. If you have met the person before, draw on any previous conversations you’ve had. This not only gives you something to talk about, but it also shows that you paid attention when you talked to them before.
6. Try and stick to questions that are easy to answer as that makes the conversation easier for the person. An example might be “what are you doing during the holiday?”
7. Be sensitive about the kinds of questions you ask. They mustn’t be too personal or sensitive in nature. Also, avoid touchy topics, and try to keep things light.

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7 Simple Ways To Say “No”

1. “I can’t commit to this as I have other priorities at the moment.” This lets the person know your plate is full at the moment.
2. “Now’s not a good time as I’m in the middle of something. How about we reconnect at X time?” This lets the person know it’s not a good time. However, you also convey your desire to help by suggesting another time (at your convenience). This way, the person doesn’t feel blown off.
3. “I’d love to do this, but …” This is a gentle way of saying no. It’s encouraging as it lets the person know you like the idea but I can’t take part due to other reasons, such as prior commitments.
4. “Let me think about it first and I’ll get back to you.”
This is more like a “Maybe” than a straight out “No”. If you are interested but you don’t want to say ‘yes’ just yet, use this.
5. “This doesn’t fit with what I’m looking for now - but I’ll keep you in mind.” Sometimes it is just best to turn the person/ offer down. Otherwise, the discussion can drag on and on.
6. “I’m not the best person to help on this. Why don’t you try X?” Again, sometimes it is best to say you’re the wrong person to help etc. If possible, refer them to a lead they can follow-up on instead.
7. “No, I can’t.” The simplest and most direct way to say no.
Source: http://zenhabits.net/say-no/ (Abridged)

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Successful Interview Tips

1. Before applying for a job, find out as much as you can about it – and make sure it’s something you want to do!

2. Also, find out what you can about the interviewers. For example, what are their names and job titles? What other jobs have they done in the past? You can often uncover a lot of information by simply googling peoples’ names and positions.

3. Try and find out about the company’s normal interviewing style. For example, is it likely to be one-on-one interview, or will you be interviewed by a couple of people, or will there be an interview panel? Also, will you be required to sit any kinds of test (general knowledge, case studies, IQ tests etc.)?

4. If possible, connect with others who have undergone a similar interview. Ask them for tips and ideas – or things to watch out for, or how best to prepare.

5. Research the company. It’s important to know as much as possible about the company’s history, what is does now, it’s plans for the future – and the expectations associated with the job.

6. Be clear about what you have to offer the company. It’s important that you match their needs to your experience, abilities and personality. Practise selling yourself to them!

7. If possible, rehearse the interview with a friend.

8. Pay attention to your appearance. Dress appropriately (err on the side of dressing conservatively); make sure you look tidy and smart; brush your hair and teeth; wear perfume or aftershave (but not so much that it’s overpowering).

9. Check out the direction is advance (if necessary drive there the day before to ensure you don’t get lost). Arrive 5 minutes early for the interview.

10. Be confident, respectful, polite, truthful, positive and enthusiastic. Think carefully before you respond – use proper grammar, and don’t speak too quickly.

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Tips for Making Small Talk

Being good at making small talk is a crucial life skill, and is key for making a positive impression. Some tips to help you with this include:

1. Go prepared when you’re meeting new people, or when you have to attend a social event. Think about some topics you can talk about with others (and that will depend on the people you are meeting). Prepare some general questions to get others talking (For example, what are they doing for the holidays; or what good movies have they seen recently?) Also, if you’ve met some of the people at a previous event, try to remember a few things about them (such as what are their main interests, or where do they work?)
2. Most people feel uncomfortable when meeting someone new so be the first person to say “hello.” If you’re not sure if the person will remember you, help put them at their ease by saying who you are.
3. Don’t rush introductions. Focus hard on remembering the names of those you meet, and use them often to fix them in your mind.
4. Help the other person talk by opening up the conversation with open-ended questions that asks for more details. For example, “Isn’t this a great party! How do you know (the host)?”
5. Pay careful attention to what the person’s saying; don’t allow your mind to drift or to start to wander off. Eye contact should be steady – so don’t glance to the side.
6. Make sure you listen more than you talk to someone new.
7. Work on having something relevant and interesting to say. Know what’s going on and making headlines in the news. These can help to open up a conversation. (For example, you can lead with a comment like “What do you think about…?” Have you heard…?” What is your take on…?”
8. Avoid controversial and negative topics; also, refrain from boring stories that have too many details. It’s meant to be a casual, light and easy conversation.
9. Pay attention to your body language. If you act as if you’re comfortable and confident, that will put the people around you at ease, too. However, if you look shy, awkward and uncomfortable, that will rub off on the people you are socialising with.
10. Before you join a conversation that’s already in progress, first stand on the sidelines and listen carefully. Don’t squeeze your way in with a badly-timed remark.

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Some Keys to Successful Relationships

We all want our close relationships to work – and it’s not just a matter of chance or luck. The 6 steps below are designed to assist you in creating successful relationships:

1. Make quality time a priority. You need to carve out some time just for you – without other friends or people around. It’s a time to exclusively focus on each other, and remember the things you both love and enjoy.

2. You both need to feel secure and comfortable. You need to be able to be open and real about the things you enjoy - and the things that bother you. You also need to be able to compromise at times, and to give for the sake of the relationship.

3. Learn how to balance independence and dependence. Remember to share how much you need each other and the ways the other person enriches your life. At the same, don’t be clingy or expect your partner to meet all your needs, or simply be a clone of you. That is, we all need to be free to be our unique selves, and to have other interests and friends as well.

4. Be attentive, listen well, and show an interest in your partner – and the kinds of things that interest him or her. Also, respect their need for silence and some time on their own. This demonstrates respect and true concern for them.  

5. Be affirming and warm. Make a conscious effort to make your partner smile, and to send the message that you think that they are great. For at times we all feel bad about some aspect of ourselves - and it can really make a difference if our partner’s on our side.

6. Learn to love (or tolerate!) their little quirks. Those cute little quirks that seemed appealing at first can annoy your later on, and be a source of contention. But all of us have irritating traits and habits, so learn to ignore them as they’re really not important! 

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8 Tools for Managing Your Anger

1. Learn to recognize when you are feeling stressed – This will help you to reduce your stress before it is expressed as destructive anger.

2. Work on developing your empathy – Trying to see things from another’s perspective often helps to dissipate intense emotions.

3. Decide to respond instead of react – Although the way we react often feels automatic, we can actually choose how we’ll think, feel and respond. This is empowering, and the road to freedom.

4. Change your self talk - Listen to the conversation in your head and learn to modify extreme, unbalanced thoughts. Look for exceptions to “you always” thinking, and reframe “you must” or “you should” demands.

5. Learn to be assertive – Honest and open communication about your wishes, needs and preferences can stop resentment building – so it doesn’t turn to anger.

6. Adjust your expectations – Often anger is triggered by a difference between our expectations and what we actually get. Thus, sometimes it is better to adjust our expectations so they’re more in line with reality.

7. Forgiving doesn’t also mean forgetting – Although it is healthy to sometimes let things go, that doesn’t mean we weren’t hurt, upset or offended. The difference is we’re choosing to move on with our lives, and we’re not being controlled by external events.

8. Remove yourself from the situation – Retreating temporarily or “taking time-out” provides some space to think about the “best thing to do”. Thus you maintain control of yourself and circumstances.

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How to Give Great Compliments

1. To be accepted as being genuine, the compliment must sound sincere. Don’t offer a compliment if you don’t actually mean it. Your tone of voice or body language will give you away.

2. Everyone has something worthwhile that you can comment on. Often it’s just a case of getting into the habit of noticing what is special, or a strength, in that individual. Make it your practice to consciously look for things to compliment.

3. Be specific. For example, say something like “You look great in that shirt. It really is your colour.” That shows that you’ve noticed something about the person themselves, and are not just trying to be friendly or nice.

4. Add a question after paying a compliment. For example, after commenting on the person’s shirt you could say “Is it new?” or “Did you buy it to match those pants – they look great together?”

5. Don’t use comparisons when you are giving compliments. For example, don’t say something like “You did so much better than Keira and Sam. Let the compliment stand in its own right. That way, it’s actually more powerful.

6. Compliment areas that are important to the person. Those are more personal and more meaningful to them.    

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Want to Improve your Communication Skills?

1. Listen carefully when others are speaking. Keep your mouth shut – and focus totally on them.

2. Never, ever talk over other people. This is disrespectful – and a real turn off.

3. Even if the person leaves an hour between each word, resist the temptation to complete their sentence for them.

4. Don’t interrupt - let the other person finish. Then, acknowledge what they’ve shared before adding your own thoughts.

5. Paraphrase or summarise what’s just been shared. It shows that you have listened – and are keen to understand.

6. Maintain good eye contact as this says you’re interested, and the speaker and their story are important to you.

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How to be social when you don’t feel like it

1. Give your energy level a boost. It’s hard to be friendly, and to focus on others, if you’re feeling really tired and would rather be in bed. To keep going, grab some coffee or a bite to eat, or go outside for a few minutes, and get some cool, fresh air.

2. Have some tactics at the ready if you don’t know the people – or if you have to be with people you would rather avoid. For example, if you don’t like the people, ask a friend to go with you … and have a great excuse for leaving once you’ve done the minimum.   

3. Plan ahead to avoid conflict. Aim to stay in control of your reactions and emotions – and resist the pressure to take part in arguments.

4. Control your contribution. If you’re quiet and introverted then value you who you are. Don’t expect yourself to be a party animal. Show respect for yourself by taking time out if you need to, and only talk to people that you want to be around.

5. See it as a chance to practices a few social skills. Take the pressure off yourself by practising your social skills. For example, ask a few open questions, and keep the focus on the speaker. Try and come across as friendly through your use of body language – like making good eye contact and smiling while you talk.

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How to Create a Positive Impression

1. Smile: People who smile are viewed as being warmer and friendlier individuals.

2. Be easy to impress, or to make laugh and smile:  Others also worry about how people see them. If they think that they’re succeeding, then they’ll like you even more.

3. Show interest and liking through your use of body language: Face the person, look them in the eye when you’re talking, and show you are friendly through your open body stance (uncrossed arms and legs etc.)

4. Remember the power of transfer traits: Basically, that means that if you say nice things about other people, they assume you’ll say nice things about them, too … Or if you criticise others, then you’ll criticise them, too.

5. Poke fun at yourself: It makes you seem more human and approachable.

6. Remember the power of emotional contagion: That means that others tend to pick up the emotions we project. So, if you seem laid back, warm, happy and relaxed then those you are with will start to feel the same way, too.

7. Remember the name and few basic facts about the person you are talking to: Such as their job, college major, favourite hobby, favourite food, places they have been to or awards they have received.

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