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How You Can be a Better Communicator

How You Can be a Better Communicator

    Communication is an integral part of any work or life situation. Learning to be an effective communicator is a valuable productivity tool, one that is unfortunately commonly overlooked. The consequences of poor communication can be disastrous; wasted time, hurt feelings, misunderstandings, unproductive meetings, ineffective teamwork, and lack of progress towards goals. In order to be successful communicators we need to keep in mind some basic guidelines that are applicable in most instances of work, social or home environments.

    Thank you first

    Before you delve into the substance of your intended communication, express your appreciation for the other person’s (or people’s) time. Time is a very valuable commodity, and it is important to be respectful of that. In addition, offer thanks for the contribution the person is making or the work they are already doing. A little praise goes a long way toward building a good rapport.

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    Build a connection

    Develop a personal connection. Find some common ground where interests intersect if possible, weather, sports, news, hobbies, etc. One word of caution, avoid controversial topics, such as politics or religion. Show interest in family, projects or organizations and causes that are an important part of the other person’s life. A sense of connection leads to a more receptive listener.

    Maintain a positive attitude

    Be constructive in your comments and questions whenever possible. Offer encouraging praise. Look for something positive that you can emphasize. You want to prevent your listener from taking a defensive posture if possible. This can circumvent the conversation from spiraling downward and the inevitable breakdown of productive communication that follows.

    Watch the tone

    While you need to be assertive in making your thoughts heard and getting your point across, be careful not to be aggressive. You want to be confident and direct without intimation. Try to remain calm and strive for a cooperative attitude.

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    Determine the desired outcome

    What result are you looking for? This is important. Know what the objective is that you are seeking. Are you intending to impart knowledge or advice, looking for a compromise of some sort, attempting to obtain agreement or searching for a solution? The desired outcome helps to influence the flow of the conversation.

    Actively listen

    Be sure to make eye contact. Be respectful and don’t interrupt. None of us likes to be interrupted and we need to extend that courtesy to others. Seek to understand the person’s viewpoint. Keep an open mind. Learning to appreciate differing perspectives is an invaluable communication tool.

    Observe non-verbal cues

    Carefully pay attention to body language, both your and theirs. Crossed arms or a closed stance can signal defensiveness or disagreement. Wandering eyes, fidgeting or shuffling can indicate restlessness or impatience. Yawns or sighs suggest either mental or physical weariness. These are all important signs that the communication is not going to be a successful one.

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    Ask for feedback

    First, make sure the other party clearly understands what you are trying to say. Often, we think we have agreement only to discover that we have misunderstanding instead. Invite input, thoughts, and opinions.Not only will this information help you, but it also serves to give the other people a sense that their opinions are valued.

    Establish follow-up

    Clarify any actions that will be taken. Confirm deadlines, responsibility, and accountability. If applicable, record any agreements in written form. Verbal agreements tend to be vague, written contracts are clear and concrete.

    Finally, always try to end on a positive note and offer another sincere thank you.

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    (Photo credit: Young man talking 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 April 11, 2019

      How to Improve Communication Skills for Workplace Success

      How to Improve Communication Skills for Workplace Success

      Possessing strong communication skills will help you in every phase of your life. This is especially true in the workplace.

      I have personally worked with several leaders who were masters of communication. A few were wonderful speakers who could tell a great story and get everyone in the room engaged. Those of us in attendance would walk away feeling inspired and eager to help with what came next. Others were very skilled at sharing a clear direction and job expectations.

      I knew exactly what was expected of me and how to achieve my goals. This was the foundation of an energized and vibrant role I was in. What I have found is strong communication skills are incredibly helpful and sometimes critical in how well we perform at work.

      Here we will take a look at how to improve communication skills for workplace success.

      How Communication Skills Help Your Success

      Strong communication skills pave the way for success in many ways. Let’s look at a few of the big ones.

      Create a Positive Experience

      Here are two examples of how well developed communication skills helps create a positive experience:

      When I first moved to the city I now live in, I began a job search. Prior to my first live interview, I was told an address to go to. Upon arriving at the address provided, I drove around and around attempting to find the location. After 15 minutes of circling and looking for the address, I finally grabbed a parking spot and set out on foot.

      What I discovered was the address was actually down an alley and only had the number over the door. No sign for the actual company. The person that gave me those very unclear directions provided a bad experience for me.

      Had they communicated the directions to get there in a clear manner, my experience would have been much better. Instead the entire experience started off poorly and colored the entire meeting.

      As a recruiter, I frequently provide potential candidates with information about a job I’m speaking to them about. In order to do this, I also provide a picture of the overall company, the group they might be joining, and how their role fits in and impacts the entire company.

      Time and time again I have been told by candidates that I have provided the clearest picture of a company and role they have ever heard. They have a positive experience when I clearly communicate to them. Even when the position does not work out for them, often times they will want to stay in touch with me due to the open communication and beneficial experience they had during the interviewing process.

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      Strong communication skills will provide a positive experience in virtually any interaction you have with someone.

      Help Leadership Skills

      It’s certainly a skill all its own to be able to lead others.

      Being a mentor and guiding others towards success is a major hallmark of great leaders. Another characteristic of effective leaders is the ability to communicate clearly.

      As I referenced above, having a leader who can plainly articulate the company’s mission and direction goes a really long way towards being the Captain of the boat that others want to follow. It’s like saying “here’s our destination and this is how we are going to get there” in a way that everyone can get on board with.

      Another critical component of everyone helping to sail the boat in the right direction is knowing what your portion is all about. How are you helping the boat move towards its destination in the manner than is consistent with the leaders’ vision?

      If you have a boss or a manager that can show you what it takes for not only you to be successful, but also how your performance helps the company’s success then you’ve got a winner. A boss with superior communication skills.

      Build Better Teams

      Most of us work in teams of some sort or another. During the course of my career, I have led teams up to 80 and also been an individual contributor.

      In my individual contributor roles, I have been part of a larger team. Even if you are in business for yourself, you have to interact with others in one manner or another.

      If you have strong communication skills, it helps to build better teams. This is true whether you are in an IT department with 100 other fellow programmers or if you own your own business and have customers or vendors you communicate with.

      When you showcase your robust ability to communicate well with others while interacting with them, you are building a better team.

      Now let’s jump in to how to improve communication skills to help you pave the way for your workplace success.

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      How to Improve Communication Skills for Workplace Success

      There are many tips, tricks, and techniques to improve communication skills. I don’t want to overwhelm you with too much information, so let’s focus on the things that will provide the biggest return on your time investment.

      Most of these tips will be fairly easy to become aware of but will take time and effort to implement. So let’s go!

      1. Listen

      Ever heard the saying you have two ears and one mouth for a reason? If you haven’t, then here’s the reason:

      Being a good listener is half the equation to being a good communicator.

      People who have the ability to really listen to someone can then actually answer questions in a meaningful way. If you don’t make the effort to actively listen, then you are really doing yourself and the other person a disservice in the communication department.

      Know that person who is chomping at the bit to open his or her mouth the second you stop talking? Don’t be that person. They haven’t listened to at least 1/2 of what you’ve said. Therefore the words that spill out of their mouth are going to be about 1/2 relevant to what you just said.

      Listen to someone completely and be comfortable with short periods of silence. Work on your listening skills first and foremost.

      2. Know Your Audience

      Knowing your audience is another critical component to having strong communication skills. The way you interact with your manager should be different than how you interact with your kids. This isn’t to say you need to be a different person with everyone you interact with. Far from it.

      Here is a good way to think about it:

      Imagine using your the same choice of words and body language you use with your spouse while interacting with your boss. That puts things in a graphic light!

      You want to ensure you are using the type of communication most relevant to your audience.

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      3. Minimize

      I have lunch with a business associate about 3 times a year. We’ve been talking for several years now about putting a business deal together.

      He is one of those people that simply overwhelms others with a lot of words. Sometimes when I ask him a question, I get buried beneath such an avalanche of words that I’m more confused than when I asked the question. Needless to say this is most likely a large portion of why we never put the deal together.

      Don’t be like my lunch business associate. The goal of talking to or communicating with someone is to share actual information. The goal is not to confuse someone, it’s to provide clarity in many cases.

      State what needs to be stated as succinctly as possible. That doesn’t mean you can’t have some pleasant conversation about the weather too.

      The point is to not create such an onslaught of words and information that the other person walks away more confused than when they started.

      4. Over Communicate

      So this probably sounds completely counter intuitive to what I just wrote about minimizing your communication. It seems like it might be but it’s not.

      What I mean by over communicating is ensuring that the other person understands the important parts of what you are sharing with them. This can be done simply yet effectively. Here’s a good example:

      Most companies have open enrollment for benefits for the employees in the fall. The company I work for has open enrollment from November 1 to 15. The benefits department will send out a communication to all employees around October 1st, letting them know open enrollment is right around the corner and any major changes that year. There’s also a phone number and email for people to contact them with any questions.

      Two weeks later, we all get a follow up email with basically the same information. We get a 3rd communication the week before open enrollment and another one 1 day before it starts.

      Finally we get 2 emails during enrollment reminding us when open enrollment ends.

      There’s minimal information, it’s more of a reminder. This is effective over communication.

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      5. Body Language

      The final critical component to how to improve communication skills for workplace success is body language. This is something most of us have heard about before but, a reminder is probably a good idea.

      When I am in a meeting with someone I am comfortable with, I tend to kind of slouch down in my chair and cross my arms. When I catch myself doing this, I sit up straight and uncross my arms. I remember that crossing arms can many times be interpreted as a sign of disagreement or conflict.

      In general, the best rule of thumb is to work towards having open body language whenever possible at work. This means relaxing your posture, not crossing your arms, and looking people in the eye when speaking with them.

      When you are speaking in front of others, stand up straight and speak in a clear voice. This will convey confidence in your words.

      Conclusion

      Possessing strong communication skills will help you in many facets of your life and most certainly in the workplace.

      Good communication helps create better teams, positive experiences with those we interact with, and are critical for leadership.

      There are numerous tactics and techniques to be used to improve communication skills. Here we’ve reviewed how to improve communication skills for workplace success.

      Now go communicate your way to success.

      More Resources About Effective Communication

      Featured photo credit: HIVAN ARVIZU via unsplash.com

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