Communication is an ever-evolving skill set that impacts every facet of our lives. Now, with social networking, texting, and the Internet at the thumbs of millions, the act of communication has transformed into a more casual practice. If you are looking to understand on how to improve communication skills, read on to learn the practical steps you can take to get better.
The evolution—and de-evolution—of communication has blurred the lines of what constitutes as formal and everyday speech. This shift influences how younger generations interact with seasoned veterans in our professional arenas, where different styles of communication often conflict.
How To Improve Communication Skills
Practice Active Listening
Most people don’t listen very well. Especially in the workplace. In a survey of modern professionals by Fierce Conversations and Quantum Workplace, over 80 percent of 1,300 employees indicated that miscommunications tend to occur often in their local place of employment.
Also, 43 percent of respondents blame technology and interpersonal interactions for those miscommunications. There is a listening gap among employees of all levels.
You can show people that you appreciate what they are saying to you, and retain more information, by active listening. Active listening means to listen to understand, not look to respond, and to ask for clarity—no matter how "dumb" you feel your question may be. The goal: You must sincerely try to focus on each bit of information that the other person is saying.
At best, human beings process information in an organized fashion. That’s why it’s also important to only conduct one conversation at any given time. Multi-tasking such as answering emails or texting while you’re on the phone can result in low-quality communication or confusion.
Know Your Audience
People from different backgrounds, time periods, or professional areas communicate differently. Younger employees often use more acronyms, abbreviated slang when referring to each other; Effective communicators can learn to read their audience before speaking to them, then detect their communication style, and proactively tailor their message based on their attendance at the time.
Body Language Is Important
Body language communicates so much more, especially in meetings, video conference calls, and presentations.
Always Read That Email Before You Click Send
Emails are not first-draft send-alls. You'll need to read that composed email not only for grammar and context, but to make sure its contents align with proper professional speech, mainly if the recipients are your superiors.
Use Your Time Wisely, Be Specific
Another method to improve your communication skills is to be as specific as possible, especially for any written or verbal communication, but also brief. You want to help your recipient understand precisely what you are communicating.
Write All Information Down
Always take notes. No exceptions. Note-taking is imperative for any modern professional. You shouldn't leave it up to chance. Also, if you need clarity, send a few follow-up emails to understand what was being communicated during the meeting.
Rely On Old Faithful: The Telephone
Sometimes, the phone is your very best—and easiest—option to connect with another colleague if you have a lot to say. Emails are best used when they are brief and to the point. Meetings can be time-consuming and arduous for everyone's schedules. Phone calls are an efficient use of time, cost nothing, and can earn you answers in half the time as other options.
Be Mindful Before You Speak.
Yes, your mother was correct. Always think before you speak! Like when writing emails, the first thing to come to your mind is usually not the exact message you want to present to the world.
Take a moment to collect your thoughts, reframe them for the audience, and then say things the way you desire. This bit of patience strengthens your communication and also saves you from possible embarrassment.
Treat People Fairly
Everyone deserves respect and fair treatment, regardless of their position in your company. If you are in a place of leadership, broaden the scope of your communications by involving everyone that could benefit from your message not just your immediate team.
You can start by sharing useful information as a mass email rather than sending it to one team leader, who then sends it down to their team, and so on. Also, allow others to share the spotlight and express their thoughts; these employees will appreciate you providing them a platform, but more so they will understand that you are listening to them.
Engage Everyone In Discussion
All audiences have one thing in common: They all possess a limited attention span. So to be a strong, effective communicator, you should aspire to make any of your presentations and discussions interactive.
The more you engage, the more people will share their thoughts and ideas. Ask your audience hypothetical questions, icebreakers, or thoughtful challenges to get them chatting.
Record Important Audio and Video Opportunities
Save yourself the arduous note-taking and use a digital recorder to save an important presentation, speech, or meetings. Recordings are ideal tools that allow you to focus on the subject at hand.
Instead of taking notes and working to keep up, you can glean deeper insights from your meeting and engage with those in attendance. Afterward, your recordings can be repurposed into company onboardings, to present as lessons to cross-functional staff, or to save the information for sharing at a later time.
Purpose, Importance, Preview - The PIP Approach
Business leaders like to use the PIP approach when in a presentation. This method calls for the speaker to do the following:
By reviewing the key steps first, you provide your audience a clear understanding of your presentation and overall defining message.
Request Honest Feedback From Your Peers
Feedback is priceless to a great communicator. Constructive criticism helps you sharpen your verbal and nonverbal skills. Inquire to your colleagues, managers, and friends to rate you in those specific areas and to provide any advice to help you improve. You may receive feedback that alerts you to an area that you overlooked.
Be Positive and Smile
Like a purposeful walk, eye contact, or firm handshake, a warm, cheerful attitude and smile are a powerful tool for any communicator. A confident person brings an infectious attitude of joy to any environment.
Their smile is disarming enough to break down any barrier—all before any words. Whether you are in person or on the phone, a positive attitude will shine through any medium and directly impact the receiver. So adopt a warm countenance to maximize your communication skills, and reap the benefits of a positive attitude; people will respond to you.
Improve Your Communication Skills Today
Great communicators are viewed as leaders for their skill, enjoy stronger relationships, and can adapt their message to professionals of all levels. Communication is also teachable; anyone can improve their speaking, writing, or the nonverbal cues they send.
Start to hone your communication skills today with the skills listed above. Select several that you could improve on and commit to implementing these at your professional job.
Also, monitor your verbal and nonverbal behavior. Are there any ways you can improve? What can be adjusted? Or, if you already are a seasoned communicator, enlist the efforts of a colleague to rate you appropriately. Find out what your blind spots are. Then work to elevate those into strengths. Then repeat.