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11 Secrets People Good At Communication Never Told You

11 Secrets People Good At Communication Never Told You

Communication skills are the ‘secret sauce’ you need to get ahead at work and become a successful leader. Whether you are making a presentation for your co-workers, building a relationship or making a sale, robust communication skills are well worth the effort to develop.

1. They practice important communication before delivery.

Skilled communicators understand that a top notch delivery does not happen by accident. For example, the late Steve Jobs held rehearsals for his legendary Apple product launches.

When all the eyes of the public (or your boss!) are on you, take the time to practice. Visit the presentation location (e.g. the conference room, meeting room or other location) in advance so that you are familiar with the layout and equipment in the room.

2. They practice theatre for important communications.

The speed, tempo and style of your communication plays an important role. For example, Microsoft co-founder Bill Gates releases mosquitoes when he gave a TED Talk on public health.

That move caught the attention of the group and helped them to focus on his presentation. Using visual aids, repeating key points and changing your volume to emphasize certain points are ways to use theatre to improve your communication.

3. They know when to use active listening skills.

Great communications understand that communication involves the speaker and the listener. That’s why they practice active listening skills, especially in conversation.

These skills involve maintaining eye contact and asking good questions about the person. For example, former U.S. President Bill Clinton is known as a great communication because he focuses on one person at a time.

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Tip: There are several ways you can improve your listening skills, start here: 7 Things Truly Amazing Listeners Do Differently.

4. They study great communicators.

The best communicators are lifelong learners. This includes watching speeches and presentations given at conferences such as TED and at political campaigns.

Many public speakers have studied Lincoln’s 19th century speeches (e.g. The Gettysburg Address) as an examples of brief and powerful communication. To begin this study yourself, consider reading books such as Talk Like TED: The 9 Public-Speaking Secrets of the World’s Top Minds by Carmine Gallo or Public Speaking for Success by Dale Carnegie.

Further Reading: 20 Most Inspiring TED Talks of All Time That You Should Not Miss.

5. They take courses to improve their communication skills.

Did you know that Warren Buffet, the legendary billionaire investor, considers communication skills highly valuable? He took the Dale Carnegie Course in his 20s and considers it one of his best investments.

In the ancient world, lawyers and statesman studied the art of public speaking for years in order to become successful. Take a page from their experience and invest time and money in order to reach this skill.

You can start by reading books, but the best way to improve is to practice and get feedback.

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6. They communicate using body language.

The words used by great communicators are important, yet they are only part of the communication picture. For example, resting your head on your hand while listening to someone else speak generally signals a lack of interest.

Psychology Today reports that pointing your finger to emphasize certain topics can be effective. Your hands, your smile and other aspects of your body can help you become a more effective communicator.

Tip: Read Better Body Language in 18 Steps to improve your skills in non-verbal communication.

7. They know when to use humor in communication.

Great communications are skilled at getting a laugh out of an audience. For example, noted African-American author and leader Booker T. Washington (1856-1915) used humor in his speaking.

This approach helped him work through the tension involved in public speaking. Likewise, Nellie McClung (1873-1951) used humor in her advocacy for women’s rights in Canada in the 20th century.

If you are seeking to make a challenging point, take time to learn how to use humor effectively.

Resource: Get started by studying the article, Top 10 Ways to Lead More Effectively with Humor.

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8. They know how to work with different audiences.

Every audience is different and top notch communicators understand how to customize their communication accordingly. If you are speaking to an audience of scientists and engineers, it makes sense to use a lot of technical examples and emphasize proof.

In contrast, communicating with young children requires a different approach. For the best results, take the time to study your audience before you communicate with them.

TED Talks by scientists are a great example of how complex topics can be communicated to the general public effectively.

9. They understand the importance of good timing.

Good communicators understand timing deeply. For example, a good sports coach knows when to deliver a rousing, inspirational speech to lift the spirits of the team.

The best communicators also know the value of responding quickly to a crisis. James Burke of Johnson & Johnson took charge of communicating the corporate response to the Tylenol crisis in the early 1980s. Sometimes, a swift response is the best response.

10. They know how to use their personality profile

Knowing yourself matters in effective leadership and communication. If you are a person who connects well with people, then it makes sense to focus on that strength.

However, if you are weak in managing details, consider following President Reagan’s examples and working with a strong team of researchers and speechwriters. In fact, Reagan may never have achieved praise as “The Great Communicator” without partnering with writer Peggy Noonan.

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Top communicators need not always write their own speeches if they bring other strengths to the table.

11. They know how to use different communication methods

Knowing the difference between a live speech, a TV interview and a written report are some of the distinctions that great communicators have mastered. For example, some communicators have specialized in the art of copywriting – selling ideas and products through words.

Copywriting expert Neville Medhora explains how to write an effective “cold email” and get in touch with potential customers and other important people.

Tip: Keep growing your communication skills in business by reading: 12 Tips for Better Business Writing.

Featured photo credit: Microphone / Goranmx via pixabay.com

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Bruce Harpham

Bruce Harpham is a Project Management Professional and Founder and CEO of Project Management Hacks.

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Last Updated on January 15, 2019

What Are Interpersonal Skills? Master Them for Better Relationships

What Are Interpersonal Skills? Master Them for Better Relationships

When I wrote my book Extraordinary PR, Ordinary Budget: A Strategy Guide, I was surprised at the various layers of review and editing necessary to get the book to publication. Before I ever submitted the manuscript, I enlisted a former colleague to read and copy edit my work. Then, I submitted my work to an editor at the publisher’s house, and once she approved it, she sent it to her colleagues and then her company’s editorial board.

Upon editorial board approval of my book, my editor sent my work to reviewers in my field, then a developmental editor, then a designer and layout team and, finally, another copy editor. There were a host of personalities with whom I needed to interact along the way.

It turns out that getting a publishing contract was just the beginning – a lot happens between developing a concept, writing the book, finding an agent and publisher, and getting the book on bookshelves or on Audible or Kindle. Through every milestone of the publishing process, my ability to interact with others was crucial. This underscored for me that no matter what or how much a person accomplishes, you never do it alone – everyone needs assistance from others.

While I conceived of the book and wrote the manuscript, there is no way my book could have hit booksellers’ shelves without the dozens of people who were involved in the publishing process. Further, interpersonal skills can propel or stonewall success.

Even as someone who has written hundreds of essays, press releases, pitch notes and other correspondence, writing itself is not a solitary endeavor. Sure, I may write in solitude, but the moment I am finished writing, there are always clients, colleagues, partners, peers and others who review my content.

What is more, even as a published author and contributor for this platform, I try to never submit final copy (content) that has not been copy edited. I send everything to my copy editor, whom I pay out of my own pocket, for her review, edits and approval. Once she has reviewed my work, caught unbeknownst-to-me errors, I am much more confident putting my work out in the world.

How Interpersonal Skills Affect Relationships

It is clearer to me now more than ever before that interpersonal skills are needed in every profession and every trade.

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People don’t elect leaders because the leaders are smart. Individuals are motivated to vote when they have a hero and when they feel they have something to lose. If they seriously dislike the other candidate, they are much more likely vote according to a 2000 Ohio State University study:

“A disliked candidate is seen as a threat, and that will be motivation to go to the polls. But a threat alone isn’t enough – people need to have a hero to vote for, too, in order to inspire them to turn out on Election Day.”

In a work setting, interpersonal skills impact every facet of your development and success. Trainers must collaborate with a design team or the company hiring them to facilitate the training. During the training itself, the facilitators must connect with the audience and establish a rapport that supports vulnerability and openness. If the trainers interact poorly with the trainees, they are unlikely to be invited back. If they are invited back, they may be unlikely to inspire cooperation or growth in their trainees.

Solopreneurs interactions with clients and subcontractors, and those interactions will, in part, support or adversely impact their business. If you enjoy a career as an acclaimed surgeon or respected lawyer, your interactions with patients, clients, health insurance agencies and a team of other practitioners – many of whom are shielded from public view – will improve or decimate your practice.

As a hiring manager, one of the things I consider when interviewing candidates is their interpersonal skills. I assess the interpersonal skills they display in their content and face-to-face presentation. I ask probing questions to learn how they interact with others, manage conflict and contribute to a team atmosphere.

When candidates say things like, “I prefer to work alone” or “I can hit the ground running without assistance,” I bristle. When candidates appear to know everything and everyone, I wonder if they will be receptive to learning or open to feedback. Could these statements be indications that these individuals lack interpersonal skills?

It stands to reason, then, that interpersonal skills are among the most valuable and the bedrock of all talents and skills.

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What are Interpersonal Skills?

Interpersonal skills range from emotional intelligence, empathy, oral and written communication to leadership to collaboration and teamwork.

In sum, interpersonal skills are skills that enable you to interact well with others. They include teachability and receptiveness to feedback, active or mindful listening, self-confidence and conflict resolution.

From a communications standpoint, interpersonal skills are about understanding how colleagues prefer to communicate and then using the appropriate mediums to meet respective needs. It is about understanding how to communicate in a way to get the most out of different people.

For instance, in my career as a public relations practitioner, part of what I am constantly evaluating is which colleagues, clients and members of the media prefer email, text or phone calls. I am assessing how much frill to use with each person depending on what has worked in the past and depending on what I know about the person with whom I am interacting.

Making these decisions and being disciplined enough to follow each person’s known preferences helps me better connect with the various individuals in my orbit. Is this tiring at times? Yes. Is it necessary? Absolutely.

How to Improve Interpersonal Skills

There are tons of resources to teach interpersonal skills. I love books such as Leadership Presence by Belle Linda Halpern and Kathy Lubar, and The 5 Love Languages by Gary Chapman.

There are also a host of books and articles on emotional intelligence, which is the ability to manage one’s emotions and perceive and adapt to others’ emotions. Emotional intelligence is likewise a critical component of positive interpersonal relations. You can learn more about it in this article: What Is Emotional Intelligence and Why It Is Important

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Active and mindful listening also support improved interpersonal skills. I recommend you take a look at this piece: Active Listening – A Skill That Everyone Should Master

I have further found that humility helps a ton with interpersonal skills. It takes humility to admit you have more to learn and that you can learn from the people around you. In fact, everyone with whom you interact has a lesson to teach you. And employers are increasingly looking for team members who are lifelong learners, meaning they believe there is always room for growth and professional and personal development.

Forbes contributor Kevin H. Johnson noted in a July 2018 article,

“That’s why, when anyone asks what the next ‘hot’ skill will be, I say it’s the same skill that will serve people today, tomorrow, and far into the future—the ability to learn.”

Don’t overlook introspection.

While interpersonal skills may seem simple enough, introspection is critical to learning where and in what ways you need to grow.

Through introspection and observation, I have learned that my interpersonal skills suffer when I am sleep deprived, because then I am short-tempered and irritable. I’ve observed this connection over a significant period in my life. Unsurprisingly, it is also true of others. Fellow LifeHack contributor, health coach and personal trainer Jamie Logie noted:

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When you are chronically sleep deprived, it really does a number on you. A lack of sleep can keep your body in a constant state of stress and over time this can get pretty ugly. Elevated stress hormones can be involved in creating a bunch of pretty nasty conditions including anxiety, headaches and dizziness, weight gain, depression, stroke, hypertension, digestive disorders, immune system dysfunction, irritability.

Additionally, the Eunice Kennedy Shriver National Institute of Child Health and Human Development reported,

“Sleep deprivation can noticeably affect people’s performance, including their ability to think clearly, react quickly, and form memories. Sleep deprivation also affects mood, leading to irritability; problems with relationships, especially for children and teenagers; and depression. Sleep deprivation can also increase anxiety.”

The point is, even as you are identifying ways to improve interpersonal skills, think about what is getting in the way. While sleep deprivation is a trigger for me, your stumbling block may be different.

The Bottom Line

You cannot fix what you do not know is broken. Even as you work to understand and apply interpersonal skills, spend some time in mindful meditation to get clear on what is holding you back from developing solid relationships.

Featured photo credit: Austin Distel via unsplash.com

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