It’s important to have clear communication in your personal and professional life. No matter your current position, you will interact with co-workers, colleagues, friends or family on a regular basis. Making a genuine connection is just as helpful as networking events. Much like a first date, having a friendly conversation can transform an annual review into a courteous and professional chat. Communication requires three pieces to be successful and these are a messenger, a message, and a receiver. Today, we’re sharing seven tips that will help you improve your communication skills for personal and professional growth.
1) Don’t Take the Spotlight
Everyone has experienced a one-sided conversation at some point in their life and it’s important to be considerate of everyone involved in a discussion. If you are naturally well-spoken and outgoing, you can bring others into the conversation by asking for their opinions. Asking for the opinion of someone who might not otherwise speak up can improve your relationship with that person. Conversely, if you notice that you have been talking the most, it may be time to summarize your thoughts and allow others to speak.
2) Listen for Understanding
Listening for understanding may be different from the type of “listening” that some of us practice. Often times, we may have ideas, statements or opinions that we want to express, but sometimes it can lead to interruption or absent-minded audio processing. If you’re hearing someone talk and you are only thinking about yourself or your ideas, you may miss out on details that are important to the other person. Try not to focus on your response. You may find that you can respond more readily after listening intently!
3) Know Your Audience
Have you ever been busy and someone interrupts you with something that they need? Inside an office, each worker has assigned roles and knowing the best time to approach your boss or colleague can make a huge difference in their response. Human beings are complex and it’s important to realize that sometimes they may have current circumstances, past experiences or busy schedules that can alter their reception of what you are trying to communicate. If someone is explaining something complex, don’t be afraid to paraphrase their message to encourage understanding and empathy.
4) Communication is More Than Words
Make sure that you are acknowledging nonverbal communication and body language. If your arms are crossed or if you are making poor eye contact, you may seem disinterested and aloof. Simple gestures like nodding to show that you are actively listening or smiling when meeting someone new can make a difference. For electronic forms of communication, remember that your message may not be received as expected without body language and nonverbal cues. Be especially careful with humor or when discussing sensitive matters.
5) Choose Words Carefully
Be concise and leave out unnecessary details or anecdotes. Keep the most important information at the beginning of a conversation and gradually disclose examples as necessary. Clearly address the topic within the first few sentences of any email or message. Journalists call this concept the “inverted pyramid”, where the most pertinent facts are included at the top so that readers can scan news stories swiftly. Use the inverted pyramid to organize information in a message or give listeners a roadmap to follow when public speaking.
6) Practice Public Speaking
Public speaking is challenging and people often list it as one of their greatest fears. However, public speaking sharpens communication skills with feedback from a wide audience. You can practice in front of friends, family or even a cell phone camera to analyze the content and delivery of your speech. Addressing a group is different from speaking with an individual but with a little practice you can make a presentation feel like a conversation where everyone is involved.
7) Ask for Feedback
If you’ve recently completed a project or had a meaningful conversation with someone, don’t be afraid to ask for feedback. Everyone has room to grow and the opportunity to discuss effective, as well as ineffective communication methods can help a team in the future. If you’re responsible for employees or clients, finding the language and communication mediums that are most effective may be an individual case for each person.
Bonus Communication Skills Tip #8 and Conclusion
Use transition words to organize information and summarize the important points. As a great listener, clear speaker and conscientious communicator, you’ll set yourself apart in job interviews, work projects, meetings and presentations. Hopefully you’ve learned a few tips for improving your communication skills that can help you in your business, at work or home.