In the present day and age that we live in, despite having so many means of connectivity, studies show that the rates of loneliness and depression are increasing at an alarming rate.
Numerous scientific reports published on publications of repute conclude that conversations have lost their meaning and people are feeling more secluded and isolated, hence loneliness is rising and relationships are lacking.
When you come into contact with such reports, you are bound to question how conversations can be improved and made more meaningful. How can we make our communications meaningful to combat rising feelings of loneliness, so that people are happier and productive?
We often think that due to a surge in new and more efficient means of communication, and availability of hotlines that people can call, conversations would be better. But why is it that interpersonal communication is taking a turn for the worse? Why is it that people are less happy, and feelings of loneliness are increasing?
Researchers have come up with many different explanations why communications nowadays are lacking, but at the core is the fact that computer-mediated communication has made people lose touch with those who are close to them. Social media, for example, has isolated rather than connected us in a sense.
If you want to reverse this trend and improve your communication, including nonverbal, written, and oral communication, there are some things you can do.
Top Tips to Foster Meaningful Communications
Here’re some of the top ways to ensure your conversations and communications are meaningful, and that people don't go away feelings more alienated and secluded than before after talking to you.
1. Give your honest opinion always
With the rise of many platforms to talk to others on, many people talk just to kill time rather than make meaningful connections. That is why, despite talking to so many people, we never feel that the opinion that is being presented is authentic or satisfying.
It seems like there is always a hidden agenda in our communications. Combat this by always giving your honest truth and opinions.
Consciously or unconsciously, every person is aware of their surrounding and the gravity of their situation. The reason they talk to another person is often to get a second truthful opinion. However, we often just tell people what they want to hear in order to get them off our back.
Avoid doing that, because it leads to a rise in feelings of not being truly heard and appreciated, which further aggravates the communication problems in our businesses and society. Speak your truth always to make conversation meaningful.
2. Use endearing phrases and expressions
Use endearing phrases that signal honest feelings and authentic expressions of gratitude and appreciation whenever appropriate. For example, a "thank you, dear” can mean much more to someone than a casual “okay,” or other non-expressive and unsympathetic response.
Sometimes, while talking to people who use a different native language, it can be more meaningful to use words from their language that they have intimate knowledge and understanding of to try and develop closer and richer conversations.
For example, if you have a friend who speaks Spanish, rather than saying “dear” or “sweetheart” you can research common Spanish phrases and say, "Novio," which can help you connect with the person more intimately, leading to more open, fun and memorable conversations.
3. Qualify and authenticate your points
Make sure that you authenticate all your points. While in discussions and communications with other people, base your arguments on facts and figures that prove your point. Or, at least, make it clear that that is your own honest opinion and how you feel about something.
Nowadays, perhaps due to increased internet penetration, people seem to know a little bit about everything, and some even think they are experts on every topic. Communicating from this faulty perception often leads to spread of misinformation, distrust and confusion among people.
Avoid making that mistake because it is easy to detect, and you can lose your credibility. Instead, communicate what you know and can prove is a fact, or make it clear from the outset that that’s your own view of things.
4. Mind your nonverbal communication
As things today become more automated and impersonal, so too do people seem mechanical and impersonal. People are attached to their gadgets and devices that they don’t really pay attention to the real-life people right there with them. And this is reflected in their nonverbal body language and communication cues. At least, this is what has been a general accusation levied against Millennials and people born from the late 90's until now.
We have become used to talking on our devices that our nonverbal communication skills have broken down or been rendered useless. Since we are used to such a mechanical lifestyle, we often forget to express genuine emotions. And that is hurting our businesses and society.
Put the smartphone down and have a real conversation with people. Give people your full attention when speaking to them. And don’t shy away from giving a spontaneous hug to someone who you see needs it. That may be the key that opens doors for more meaningful conversation with them.
5. Use easy-to-understand language
Check that you are interacting with people at their intellectual level. You will meet people with different intellectual abilities and different levels of understanding of the inner workings of your industry. You need to communicate with them at each person's specific level of understanding.
For example, if you are at a conference and the speaker explains a particular topic using complex language and expects everyone to understand, that might not happen. Newbies may not grasp the hard concepts and jargon without explanation. So, make sure you are communicating at people’s level. Employ simple words and phrases that cannot be easily misunderstood.
6. Share personal experiences
Everyone goes through good and bad times in life, and some experiences like loss and sadness are universal. If you want to have more meaningful conversations with people, try sharing your personal experience to develop a common ground.
For example, sharing your experience with loss will surely be more impactful when conversing with someone facing loss, than if you don’t share your personal experience.
7. Be a good listener
There are certain situations when you need to be a good listener rather than an active speaker who keeps interrupting and giving your own unsolicited opinions and advice.
For example, if you had a bad day at work and you called your friend to just rant about your boss, you wouldn’t want your friend to cut you short in the middle of your rant and start presenting any kind of logic that might show or prove that it was your fault and that your boss was right. You would want them to listen to you first and let you rant and get it off your chest. Then, maybe they can tell you where you were wrong.
While saying, "see, I told you so!" might feel good, be patient at times and just be there for those you love. Learn to be more discerning and to listen more. It’s a step in the right direction.
8. Be empathetic
While looking for objectivity and fairness in our interactions, sometimes we fail to be empathetic. Objectivity and fairness is necessary, maybe even imperative, for healthy relationships and co-existence, but sometimes being objective and fair can feel bad and hurt. We need to be aware of this and be more empathetic of the kind of feelings that people can have.
Empathy is a human characteristic that seems to be in short supply nowadays, though. For example, with the rise of ideologies like nationalism, we at times support our views in such a strong way that we are blinded and oblivious to the implications it has on the people on the other side of the divide. We communicate our views and hold conversations without considering the feelings and hurt our words and actions have on others. That only serves to breed more resentment and discord in society and business.
A sad example of a lack of empathy regards recent incidents witnessed in the US of separating illegal immigrant parents from their children, and the subsequent conversations and communication in the media on the matter. I would argue that there were more effective and empathetic ways that could have been used to hold meaningful conversations and address the problem, rather than prying and keeping children away from their parents for so long.
Apply these points and I guarantee you will have better conversations and communications that lead to more meaningful relationships in your business and community.