There’s a reason professionals point to communication as the key to any relationship. From superiors, colleagues, and team members, to family, partners, and friends, effective communication is transformational. Truth be told, couldn’t we all afford to better ourselves for the sake of bettering our personal and work relationships? If you agree, keep reading.
The single biggest problem in communication is
the illusion that it has taken place.” — George Bernard Shaw
That 👆 is perhaps the most important statement to be made and to remember.
Because we all learned how to communicate from our family, friends, teachers, managers, and so forth. In essence, all the good and bad communication habits we picked up were influenced by the people around us (including ourselves 😕). But that’s what becoming an effective communicator is all about; learning and practicing better habits and new skills.
So, don’t be discouraged if you lack any or all of the skills addressed below. Becoming an effective communicator just takes a little effort! (As cliché as that sounds.)
Start by finishing this article and implementing the techniques we’re about to discuss. Then, buy a book on communicating, take a course, watch a webinar, listen to a podcast . . . just make sure to spend a little bit of time each day reading, learning, or practicing better communication skills. Trust me, you won’t regret it!
Especially in the workplace, effective communication will improve efficiency and productivity:
Source: CRM Learning
In general, effective communication is the cornerstone to building trust, making connections, and overcoming obstacles. So, if you want to fulfill your management role or simply just succeed in life, ensure you have these top 5 communication skills in your repertoire.
In a world of texts, emojis, and social media, our ability to really listen has taken a one-two punch. This should go without saying, but listening is not the same as hearing. On the contrary, listening is not only hearing the words being spoken, but how they’re being spoken (e.g. voice inflections, verbal pauses, body language); and effectively receiving and interpreting those messages. Active listening involves paying close attention, asking clarifying questions, paraphrasing to show understanding, providing verbal affirmations, and waiting for the opportunity to respond appropriately. (That last one is the “kryptonite” to the bad habits of interrupting & listening to respond rather than understand.)
"The art of conversation lies in listening.” — Malcom Forbes
Sure enough, listening is the key to effective communication. So, here’s a powerful way to immediately and significantly improve your listening ability:
Practice empathetic listening. It requires you to pay attention to the other person with empathy (e.g. emotional identification, compassion, open-mindedness, feeling, and insight). In other words, try to feel as that person does. Ask them how they feel about the situation. Connect emotionally with them by reflecting their emotions verbally and with facial expressions. Using your words and body language to express “I understand, I’m interested, you can speak openly.” For instance, you might say “I’m sorry, you seem upset,” or nod and grimace with them. On the positive side, you might get excited with them, smile, or say “you look happy.” Doing this will help you tune into their thoughts and emotions, convey respect, and better receive and interpret their messages. In turn, you can respond appropriately (an integral part of the listening process).
"One of the most sincere forms of respect is actually listening to what another has to say." — Bryant H. McGill
We all “say” these words, with our eyes, our hands, our posture, the tone in our voice. Sometimes our nonverbal communication conveys how we’re feeling better than our verbal communication. Interestingly enough, our face is actually the key determinant of the meaning behind our message. So, make sure to tell your face how you feel 😉
“Where body language conflicts with the words that are being said, the body language will usually be the more ‘truthful’ in the sense of revealing true feelings.” — Glenn Wilson
Though, effective communication means ensuring that your own body language is in harmony with your words. And paying attention to the nonverbal signals of the other person.
There should be some thought that goes into what you want to say before you say it (aka think before you sink). Because effective verbal communication means conveying your message clearly, directly, and in as few words as possible.
“Whatever words we utter should be chosen with care for people will hear them and be influenced by them for good or ill.” — Buddha
Thoughtful feedback is known as the breakfast of champions. It helps you grow both personally and professionally. However, if you’re not approachable and don’t receive feedback with grace and dignity, then people will feel uncomfortable giving you feedback (except your mom 😆). And that’s not good. We should all be able to accept, and even encourage, feedback from others.
When the shoe is on the other foot, and you’re giving the feedback, it too should be done with grace and dignity. Especially, if you’re a manager or an executive, because it’s your job as a leader to continuously look for ways to provide constructive feedback to team members.
“The art of communication is the language of leadership.” — James Humes
At work or at home, you should use positive feedback more than negative feedback. Even simple praise like “thanks for getting that handled so quickly” or “good job on hitting your goal yesterday,” can be meaningful, positive feedback. Just a little conscious effort toward providing more positive feedback will help you make connections and build affinity with others.
1. Comment on behavior NOT character! Do not discuss personality, intelligence, or what you think they believe or value.
2. Make sure your feedback is specific, timely, and suitable for the moment.
3. Research says don’t do the feedback sandwich (positive|negative|positive), employees (and people in general) actually respond better to straightforward honesty.
There’s always more than one way to say it (e.g. email, call, text, in person, social media, a megaphone 😉). No wonder then, a critical communication skill is simply knowing which medium is appropriate for getting your message across the way you intend it.
For instance, serious conversations are almost always best done in person (e.g. performance issues, salary changes, layoffs, disagreements, breakups, concerns). This goes for meaningful messages and complicated ones, too.
Meanwhile, a text or email might save you time if the message isn’t something that’s likely to be misinterpreted without nonverbal and aural cues. But be careful, because the medium can influence how the message is perceived.
“The medium is the message.” — Marshall McLuhan
Improving in just one of these areas can have profound effects on your work and personal life. So, put these techniques into practice and turn them into communication skills you possess!
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