Among business leaders, it is no secret that good communication is key to the success of any business. Effective verbal communication supports a work environment where employees are engaged in problem-solving, team members work together efficiently, and coworkers trust one another implicitly. Because employees and ideas thrive in this environment, many business leaders highly value these skills in their employees. Recruiting firms actively seek out candidates who communicate well during interviews and other interactions.
While many feel they are communicating well with others, we all fall short of the mark from time to time. Fortunately, communication skills can be learned or improved. The first step is identifying which skills lead to excellent communication and then practicing them regularly.
Here are seven skills that can improve your communication with coworkers and clients.
1. Say More Not Less
As human beings, we are all prone to making assumptions about those with whom we are speaking, especially if we are well-acquainted. You may believe that you are on the same page or possess the same basic knowledge about a topic. However, experience tells a different story. Miscommunication and misunderstandings are commonplace. When embarking on a new topic, be sure to give enough background information that you and the listener begin the conversation from the same point.
As you share your thoughts and ideas, realize that they are your own. These fully-formed ideas in your mind, often take longer to explain to someone to whom you are introducing the idea. Take your time explaining yourself. Watch the facial expressions of your audience for cues they are following your train of thought. If they seem confused, solicit questions from your listeners to fill the gaps in their understanding.
2. Learn Nonverbal Cues
Nonverbal cues account for a large percentage of the messages that we communicate to others. Your facial expressions, body language, tone of voice, and hand gestures tell others how you feel about a conversation. Understanding what you are communicating without your words is just as important as the words you choose.
Good posture, consistent eye contact, and occasional nods of agreement let colleagues know that you are engaged in the conversation and are interested in their point of view. Similarly, slouching, folding your arms, and fidgeting while others are talking can indicate that you are disinterested.
3. Be in Tune
Skilled orators are successful when they are aware of and respond to the unique preferences of their audience. Relying on verbal and nonverbal cues, they steer the conversation to topics that the audience finds most interesting. In the moment, they discover points of interest that can be reinforced by elaborating on a topic.
Adapting your message to your audience cannot be done effectively if you plan your presentation word for word. Instead, try creating an outline of topics you can use to guide your audience through the presentation. Be prepared to address each topic, but be flexible in your delivery approach, spending more time on some and glossing over others.
4. Engage With Your Audience
There are appropriate times and settings for lectures. However, in business interactions, there are ample opportunities to involve your audience in discussions. Engaging with listeners while you deliver your message provides a host of benefits over simply presenting to them, including the following:
- Engaging people with different learning styles
- Overcoming the short attention span of individuals
- Revealing the audience’s grasp of ideas
- Reiterating points in a new way
- Soliciting audience input and ideas
5. Earn Their Respect
Delivering a presentation to your boss or a sales pitch to a potential client can be stressful. Relieving the tension by making light of the situation may win you a few chuckles, but it is less likely to instill confidence in your understanding of the topic at hand. While a tasteful joke can be a great way to break the ice, the bulk of your presentation should focus on your skills and knowledge. Those listening will respect you for your abilities and be more likely to seek out your expertise in the future.
6. Record Yourself
Presentations such as hiring or onboarding videos are given multiple times each year to many employees. Recording these presentations not only saves time in delivering them but also allows you the opportunity to fine-tune your communication skills. You are likely your own worst critic. You can learn how to improve your communication by observing yourself and making changes to your style or delivery.
Most experts would agree that communicating and connecting with others is more than half listening. Listening begins with allowing others time to express themselves. However, being a good listener requires actively engaging in hearing the words they are saying and understanding their thoughts. Do not simply sit quietly and wait for your turn to speak, or worse yet interrupt someone else. Maintain eye contact and ask questions to understand their point of view. Listening well will enable you to provide thoughtful solutions to problems and questions that arise.
Be willing to listen to feedback from others about yourself. It can be challenging to hear another person’s opinions about our performance. However, if you want to improve your communication skills, you should seek out feedback. Ask coworkers what they thought of the meeting or your presentation. Remember that feedback is not criticism. Rather, it is meant to help you further develop your skills.
Improving your communication can be one of the best ways to propel your career forward, making you a valuable asset to any team. Investing time and effort into developing this vital skill in yourself and your employees will pay you back dividends in the coming years.