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9 Tips to Improve Your Communication Skills

9 Tips to Improve Your Communication Skills

Communication is an essential part of work and home life. Understanding how to be a good communicator can be an important productivity tool, one that’s frequently neglected. Poor communication can often have disastrous results; lost time, injured feelings, frustration, ineffective meetings, unproductive teamwork, resulting in a general lack of career advancement and goal achievement. To become effective communicators we need to be aware of a few fundamental tips we can use in our work and life interactions. Regardless of the situation, the same rules apply.

9 Easy Tips to Improve Communication Skills

Show Appreciation

Prior to getting into the meat of your conversation, be sure to express your thanks for the other individual’s time. Time is an extremely precious resource, and it important to be respectful and considerate of that. Also, complement or recognize any positive contribution they are making. Appreciation and praise can go a long way towards building good rapport.

Connect

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Connect on a personal level if possible. Look for places where interests overlap if any exist. Even in a professional situation, there may be some personal interests in common, hobbies, sports, children, etc. Take care to avoid such controversial topics as political leanings or religious beliefs. A real sense of connection makes a difference in the tone and outcome of the current conversation and most likely future communications as well.

Stay positive

Maintaining a positive attitude is crucial to productive communications. Be constructive rather than negative or complaining. People shut down, effectively ending any real communication when they feel attacked or criticized. Be encouraging and kind even when expressing concerns or displeasure.

Watch tone

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While it’s sometimes necessary to be assertive in order to make your point, don’t be aggressive. There is a fine line between the two. Try not to cross it. An adversarial tone is not in any way productive. Be confident and direct, while still adopting a calm, cooperative tone.

Focus on the result

It’s important to figure out what result you are after before you start the conversation. Knowing your objective helps you to direct the conversation and to remain on point. What are you hoping to accomplish? Are you trying to give help, resolve a conflict, or collaborate on a project or issue? Are you seeking advice or trying to influence behavior? Your desired outcome helps to determine the flow of communication.

Listen

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Eye contact is crucial. Be polite and don’t interrupt. No one likes being interrupted and though it’s natural to want to rush in to make your point, it’s very disrespectful of the other person’s thoughts. Try to understand the other person’s perspective. Maintain an open mind. Learning how to value different viewpoints can be an important communication tool.

Notice non-verbal cues

Watch body language. Lack of eye contact, distraction, or fidgeting are often signs of restlessness or impatience. Yawning or sighing are usually signs of mental or physical fatigue. When you notice these types of non-verbal signals, it’s a sign that this conversation is not going to be a productive one. Quickly wrap up the conversation, postpone the conversation, or inquire about the discomfort if your relationship allows.

Request feedback

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Confirm that you have a mutual understanding of what’s being communicated. We often think that we’ve reached a resolution and come to an understanding, only to find out that we have completely misunderstood the other person’s thoughts. Ask for input and feedback. This not only confirms that you have successfully communicated; it also makes the other person feel that they have been heard and understood.

Follow-up

Be clear about what actions will be taken and establish accountability. Confirm deadlines, responsibility, and expectations. If relevant, document any agreements in writing. A clear understanding of what is supposed to happen next can help avoid a conflict later on.

Always try to end your communication in a friendly manner. Reiterate your thanks and try to leave the other individual feeling understood and valued. Productive communication involves respect, consideration, awareness, and clarity. It is possible to be both direct and kind and still get the results you want.

Featured photo credit:  Smiling woman talking to telephone via Shutterstock

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Royale Scuderi

A creative strategist, consultant and writer who specializes in cultivating human potential for happiness, health and fulfillment.

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Last Updated on February 21, 2019

The Secret to Effective Conflict Resolution: The IBR Approach

The Secret to Effective Conflict Resolution: The IBR Approach

In business, in social relationships, in family… In whatever context conflict is always inevitable, especially when you are in the leader role. This role equals “make decisions for the best of majority” and the remaining are not amused. Conflicts arise.

Conflicts arise when we want to push for a better quality work but some members want to take a break from work.

Conflicts arise when we as citizens want more recreational facilities but the Government has to balance the needs to maintain tourism growth.

Conflicts are literally everywhere.

Avoiding Conflicts a No-No and Resolving Conflicts a Win-Win

Avoiding conflicts seem to be a viable option for us. The cruel fact is, it isn’t. Conflicts won’t walk away by themselves. They will, instead, escalate and haunt you back even more when we finally realize that’s no way we can let it be.

Moreover, avoiding conflicts will eventually intensify the misunderstanding among the involved parties. And the misunderstanding severely hinders open communication which later on the parties tend to keep things secret. This is obviously detrimental to teamwork.

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Some may view conflicts as the last step before arguments. And they thus leave it aside as if they never happen. This is not true.

Conflicts are the intersect point between different individuals with different opinions. And this does not necessarily lead to argument.

Instead, proper handling of conflicts can actually result in a win-win situation – both parties are pleased and allies are gained. A better understanding between each other and future conflicts are less likely to happen.

The IBR Approach to Resolve Conflicts

Here, we introduce to you an effective approach to resolve conflicts – the Interest-Based Relational (IBR) approach. The IBR approach was developed by Roger Fisher and William Ury in their 1981 book Getting to Yes. It stresses the importance of the separation between people and their emotions from the problem. Another focus of the approach is to build mutual understanding and respect as they strengthen bonds among parties and can ultimately help resolve conflicts in a harmonious way. The approach suggests a 6-step procedure for conflict resolution:

Step 1: Prioritize Good Relationships

How? Before addressing the problem or even starting the discussion, make it clear the conflict can result in a mutual trouble and through subsequent respectful negotiation the conflict can be resolved peacefully. And that brings the best outcome to the whole team by working together.

Why? It is easy to overlook own cause of the conflict and point the finger to the members with different opinions. With such a mindset, it is likely to blame rather than to listen to the others and fail to acknowledge the problem completely. Such a discussion manner will undermine the good relationships among the members and aggravate the problem.

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Example: Before discussion, stress that the problem is never one’s complete fault. Everyone is responsible for it. Then, it is important to point out our own involvement in the problem and state clearly we are here to listen to everyone’s opinions rather than accusing others.

Step 2: People Are NOT the Cause of Problem

How? State clearly the problem is never one-sided. Collaborative effort is needed. More importantly, note the problem should not be taken personally. We are not making accusations on persons but addressing the problem itself.

Why? Once things taken personally, everything will go out of control. People will become irrational and neglect others’ opinions. We are then unable to address the problem properly because we cannot grasp a fuller and clearer picture of the problem due to presumption.

Example: In spite of the confronting opinions, we have to emphasize that the problem is not a result of the persons but probably the different perspectives to view it. So, if we try to look at the problem from the other’s perspective, we may understand why there are varied opinions.

Step 3: Listen From ALL Stances

How? Do NOT blame others. It is of utmost importance. Ask for everyone’s opinions. It is important to let everyone feel that they contribute to the discussion. Tell them their involvement is essential to solve the problem and their effort is very much appreciated.

Why? None wants to be ignored. If one feels neglected, it is very likely for he/she to be aggressive. It is definitely not what we hope to see in a discussion. Acknowledging and being acknowledged are equally important. So, make sure everyone has equal opportunity to express their views. Also, realizing their opinions are not neglected, they will be more receptive to other opinions.

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Example: A little trick can played here: Invite others to talk first. It is an easy way to let others feel involved and ,more importantly, know their voices are heard. Also, we can show that we are actively listening to them by giving direct eye-contact and nodding. One important to note is that never interrupt anyone. Always let them finish first beforeanother one begins.

Step 4: Listen Comes First, Talk Follows

How? Ensure everyone has listened to one another points of view. It can be done by taking turn to speak and leaving the discussion part at last. State once again the problem is nothing personal and no accusation should be made.

Why? By turn-taking, everyone can finish talking and voices of all sides can be heard indiscriminantly. This can promote willingness to listen to opposing opinions.

Example: We can prepare pieces of paper with different numbers written on them. Then, ask different members to pick one and talk according to the sequence of the number. After everyone’s finished, advise everyone to use “I” more than “You” in the discussion period to avoid others thinking that it is an accusation.

Step 5: Understand the Facts, Then Address the Problem

How? List out ALL the facts first. Ask everyone to tell what they know about the problems.

Why? Sometimes your facts are unknown to the others while they may know something we don’t. Missing out on these facts could possibly lead to inaccurate capture of the problem. Also, different known facts can lead to different perception of the matter. It also helps everyone better understand the problem and can eventually help reach a solution.

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Example: While everyone is expressing their own views, ask them to write down everything they know that is true to the problem. As soon as everyone has finished, all facts can be noted and everyone’s understanding of the problem is raised.

Step 6: Solve the Problem Together

How? Knowing what everyone’s thinking, it is now time to resolve the conflict. Up to this point, everyone should have understood the problem better. So, it is everyone’s time to suggest some solutions. It is important not to have one giving all the solutions.

Why? Having everyone suggesting their solutions is important as they will not feel excluded and their opinions are considered. Besides, it may also generate more solutions that can better resolve the conflicts. Everyone will more likely be satisfied with the result.

Example: After discussion, ask all members to suggest any possible solutions and stress that all solutions are welcomed. State clearly that we are looking for the best outcomes for everyone’s sake rather than battling to win over one another. Then, evaluate all the solutions and pick the one that is in favor of everyone.

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