No matter your industry, good communication skills are vital if you want to make it to the top of your chosen career path. Strong communication skills can help you navigate the twists and turns of human interaction more confidently. You can translate technical concepts into something everyone can understand. Learn to do that, and you’ll stand a much better chance of getting the promotion you’ve been hoping for.
Some individuals excel at communication without even trying. They can tailor their tone, message, and language to their audience and get their opinion or point across in a way that is heard. Such individuals also pick up the context of the messages conveyed to them quickly, understanding both what is important, and what is not.
Although this sounds effortless, the chances are that they have spent many hours honing their communication skills, and you can hone yours, too. With communication skills taking the number one spot in the list of competencies employers seek in new candidates, working on your communication can pay dividends in both the present and the future.
Here are some tips to help you become a better communicator:
1. Streamline your communications
It’s crucial to be clear and coherent with your thoughts so that people can follow where you are leading. In the interest of being understood, many people say the same thing in a dozen different ways, boring their readers in the process. Make your meaning clear from the start, avoid rambling or repeating, and move on with clear transitions to fresh, new ideas.
2. Improve your body language
Your body language plays a critical role in communications. Keeping it open and approachable is key to making the other person feel at ease. And again, if you’re communicating remotely, your body language over video conferencing is just as vital. Below are a few tips to help you communicate with a positive physical presence:
- Keep an upright posture to demonstrate your engagement
- Maintain eye contact to indicate you’re listening
- Uncross your arms – crossing them can make you look smug or defensive
- Smile – it signals your friendliness and openness to engage
3. Keep your emotions in check
An overflow of emotions often makes us exaggerate. Words like “never” and “most definitely” come out of our mouths when we feel disappointed or excited in a situation. This can leave a bad impression on the other person, making them feel that we can’t handle our emotions. The best way to avoid this is to put aside your feelings for a moment and respond smartly. You can buy time by requesting clarification. You should also make a habit of validating the other party first so that they’ll be more open. Try saying, “I understand where you’re coming from, but have you ever considered…?” And if you feel emotions overwhelming you, you can always say, “I’d like to think this through so that I can respond appropriately. Can we come back to this issue later?”
4. Put the spotlight on them
Empathy is a fantastic skill. It can help you avoid the trap of becoming self-centered when someone is telling you a problem. Although you might feel like you’re on the same wavelength as the other individual, refrain from comparing yourself to them. For example, when a friend tells you that they’ve been unable to land a job despite giving multiple interviews, just listen instead of bringing up your own issues. The famous adage “people have two ears and one mouth for a reason” fits here perfectly.
5. Find a connection
Try to make a personal connection with the person/people you are speaking to. See if there is common ground where your interests intersect. Bring up the news, sports, weather, hobbies, etc. You can also talk about projects, family or causes that are interesting for the other party to discuss. Make sure to ask plenty of questions. After all, people love to talk about themselves. Don’t shy away from giving them a sincere compliment if you like something about them (watch, tie, earrings, office décor, etc.).
6. Listen actively
Think about the folks with whom you open up and share thoughts and ideas comfortably. What is it that makes you so comfortable disclosing information to them that you won’t typically relay to others? Perhaps they always maintain good eye contact with you or make you feel like they are giving you their complete and undivided attention. Or maybe they use more than words to show their openness. Their faces have a smile when you discuss something that you are excited about and a sad expression when you share something bad. If you can emulate all of these things in a natural way when you listen to other people, you will make them open up to you and share things that you’d have a hard time discovering otherwise.
7. Practice mindfulness
This is one of the best ways to enhance your communication skills. Mindfulness helps us to be in control of all of our senses. It helps ensure that you’re not only listening to the other person’s words but also focusing on their tone and body language (wandering eyes or fidgeting are signs of impatience or restlessness. Sighs or yawns suggest fatigue). This can give you a better understanding of what the other person is attempting to convey. Mindfulness can help direct the flow of a conversation subtly.
8. Remember to pace yourself
Notice how quickly you’re talking and whether the other person can process your information with ease. You may need to slow down or vary the rhythm and volume of your dialogue to keep their attention. Intentionally repeating the critical points a couple of times is also a good technique to ensure the listener hears what you’re saying. You don’t want to violate tip #1 above, but a small amount of repetition for emphasis has its place.
There you have it – eight ways to improve your communication skills. By implementing these exercises, you will become a more thoughtful communicator, increasing your esteem in the eyes of everyone, whether you’re seeking work from an employment recruiter or working to inspire others once you’re on the job.