Brian Richardson

Written by: 
Erin Cristales
Brian Richardson
Brian Richardson

How can I be a more effective communicator?

Several years ago, when group text first became popular, Brian Richardson -- chair of UNT's Department of Communication Studies -- would respond to friends with his trademark dry humor.

Their response? Radio silence.

"Finally, I asked one of my friends, 'Why don't you ever laugh?' And he said, 'Why are you always so serious?' Clearly, the message wasn't carrying well," Richardson says.

And while in recent years, many have mastered the nuances of digital communication -- often with the help of a strategically placed emoji -- there's still plenty to learn about interpersonal communication. Richardson, who joined the UNT faculty in 2001, says his biggest piece of advice is a deceptively simple one: listen, whether online or in-person.

"We really can't communicate effectively unless we know where other people are coming from," he says, "and we can't know where they're coming from if we don't listen."

How can people learn to more easily talk with others, particularly face-to-face?

If you're not good at a particular skill, like eye contact, you're going to have to -- just like riding a bike -- get on it and fall off. Treat it like you're a kid learning the skill for the first time. Practice it until it feels natural.

How important is it to be aware of body language?

It's said that about 93 percent of what we communicate is through nonverbal communication -- facial expressions, gestures, and the tone and pace of voice. Your movements, facial expressions, vocal qualities and gestures should all have purpose -- they are carrying a lot of the weight of your message.

Are there good icebreakers to help people start conversations?

People love to talk about themselves. Ask them lots of questions. Always think about where you're going and who's going to be there, and do a little research. Be observant -- pay attention to the things that seem important to them and ask about those.

Continue Reading