A fundamental need to succeed at work is effective communication. One should be able to communicate effectively with colleagues, managers and peers irrespective of the industry. In the digital age, this includes being able to convey and receive messages not only in person, but also via email, social media, and phone. The National Association of Colleges and Employers even lists communication skills as the most sought quality in any job candidate.
You also need great communication skills to succeed in any leadership position, especially in business. Individuals who are great communicators also enjoy better interpersonal relationships with family and friends. Communication skills are, as such, without any doubt, fundamental to success in all aspects of life. How then, do you perfect them? You can start by doing the following:
Learn to Listen
Communication is always a two-way process and numerous people forget this and fall into the trap of “broadcasting”. They just issue a message, then ignore or fail to listen to the response. Quite like when you think about what to say next rather than listen to what the other person was saying. What is you are hearing what the other person is saying? Doesn’t that count as listening? No. It does not.
Listening is both attention to both the words being said and how the speaker speaks. It refers to offering your complete attention to the individual speaking and genuinely concentrating on what they are saying -and not saying. You have to reflect and seek clarification to be sure that you have understood the message as the speaker meant it.
Studying and Understanding Non-verbal Communication
Some estimates suggest that close to 80% of all messages during communication are delivered non-verbally. This includes the way they look, listen, react, and move during the conversion period. The main non-verbal cues (read types of communication) to check for include facial expressions, eye contact, body movements and gestures, voice tone, posture, and breathing. They help you to know what the message really means.
You also need to use non-verbal cues appropriately when you communicate to deliver your message effectively. Adjust them according to the context of the conversation to help the listener understand your message easily. Also, remember to use more positive non-verbal cues especially when in nervous situations like job interviews and presentations.
Emotional Awareness and Management
It’s easy to think that emotion has no place in the work environment. Since everything has to be logical, you may be tempted to overlook emotions at work when interacting with your bosses, coworkers or staff. However, as a human being, you are bound to get messy and emotional and so are the people you communicate with. You should never conceal them but also take care not to “let it all hang out”.
You have to be vigilant and watch your own emotions and those of others and stand on guard to manage them. This is called being “emotionally intelligent” and it includes personal skills like motivation, self-regulation, and self-awareness. It also includes social skills such as empathy to understand how to relate well with others.
Questioning allows you to understand any message you receive clearly. Further from that, it can help you to obtain additional information about a certain topic, or start a conversation and keep it going. If you develop your questioning skills, then you naturally morph into a great listener. This is because you will spend more time drawing information from others rather than broadcasting your own opinions.
It is always important to say what you need to say in the right manner. However, even more important than that, you have to ensure that your listeners understand all the essential aspects of your message. In 1990, a Stanford University graduate proved in a study that presenters often overestimate how much their message is listened to.
In the study, he asked participants to tap the melody of 120 famous songs and the other participants had to guess the songs. The tappers estimated that 50 percent of the songs were correctly identified, while in reality, only 2.5 percent were. As such, it is important to avoid over-communicating as the audience can absorb more than you intend to communicate.
Know Your Audience
For effective communication, you should know who you are engaging with. Each audience is different and so do their cultural norms that you have to consider as you communicate with them. You have to care about them and their unique needs and perspectives.
Make an effort to communicate on an equal basis and avoid patronizing your audience. This ensures that you build trust and respect. If there are confidentiality issues, ensure that all boundaries are known and maintained. This allows your audience to feel valued and they take more interest in the conversation.
Engage the Audience
All audiences tend to have short attention periods, even when you are a compelling speaker. Discussions and presentations can help you to be more effective as a communicator. Get to know what they are thinking about a particular topic or even ask hypothetical questions to keep them stimulated. Be ready for different answers when you engage your listeners and put yourself in their shoes.
You cannot predict how they will react during conversations but you can ensure a balanced approach. You also have to be prepared to defend potential disagreements and also argue out your standpoint. Also expect negative answers and queries to improve the chances of a successful conversation.
Bottom Line: Communication Skills Are A Must To Succeed
Great communication skills help create better teams and positive experiences with those you engage with. Such is critical for leadership and organizational success.
Communication skills are not a one-time thing but aspects you have to develop continually. Everyone, at one point, gets it wrong and as such, there is always room for improvement. The more you improve the better you will be at your interpersonal relationships, both at work and home. Take your time and learn what you need to improve on and keep learning how to better your skills.