Communication! One of the most important attributes of organizational effectiveness and one that is sometimes taken for granted. Communication is a key part of success at work and in other parts of life. While few leaders have mastered the art of communication, most struggle with communicating effectively. Fortunately, when it comes to being a leader, learning is a constant.
Remember, there is no perfect communication styles, however, there are a few consistent themes that can help improve your communication. Of course, we can’t cover them all here, but we can share at least 5 strategies to practice essential communication skills:
1. Listen to understand.
Listening to understand is one of the hardest components of active listening but it’s also a crucial part of communication. Most times when we listen, the mind already start to formulate an answer, especially when we are familiar with the topic. Once the mind starts to formulate an answer it automatically checks out of listening to the person and misses key details. A great way to adapt this skill is to engage in the stories of others. Practice this by retelling the person’s story or summarizing what you heard back to them to make sure you fully understand what they are trying to convey. Also, make sure to ask clarifying questions once the other person is done speaking.
2. Be Present
Pay close attention during a conversation, use eye contact, and avoid getting distracted by your phone or other devices. Look at things from the other person’s point of view without criticism or judgment and take note of how the other person is reacting. Show sympathy and empathy when appropriate during the conversation. Everyone wants to be heard and people notice when you’re not listening to them. If you’re unable to be fully present, ask the person if they will be willing to speak at another time in which you can give them your full attention.
3. Reduce informalities.
It’s normal to use other types of informal language while talking to friends or family, especially friends at work. However, business usually requires a more formal language set. Pay attention to who you’re talking to and make the necessary adjustments. Acronyms, and informalities can make some people feel uncomfortable, especially if they’re not familiar with them or you.
4. Focus on being brief.
You don’t have to make a long speech to be effective. Practice being brief and getting your point across with fewer words and less time. People appreciate brief conversations especially when you work in a busy environment. However, ensure you’re still providing enough information while you talk, and be careful not to be vague or miss important details.
5. Be authentic.
Don’t try to emulate someone else’s style of communication, find the best styles that works for you and is comfortable to you. You don’t need to be charismatic, but you can learn to be approachable. Draw on your confidence and be open to receiving feedback. Try to stay optimistic, even if you’re having a difficult conversation and focus on the silver lining and innovation of new ideas.
The next time you have a conversation, try to directly get your point across. Summarize the important parts and only focus on the person in front of you. There are no end goals to learning, and communication is one that we all must continue to perfect over time. Every time you have a conversation with someone, use it as an opportunity to practice a little more. And as you know, practice makes perfect!
What other effective strategies you’ve developed to increase your communication skills?