Five ways to improve your communication skills

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Having effective communication skills is essential in a professional setting as it can allow people to express themselves with clarity and help to improve professional relationships. In today’s evolving world of technology, having hundreds of different communication tools has made effective communication much more challenging and a necessary skill to master to be successful in a business setting. 

The ability to communicate clearly and effectively with the manager, within the team, and across the organization is most important for the success of careers and the organization. Whether you are a leader or an employee, effective communication can make or break a business. 

Five ways to improve your communication skills

What is effective communication? 

In simple terms, it is an exchange of information so that the message is received and understood with clarity, without any misunderstandings. 

Effective communication is not only vital in a professional environment as it can help you understand what others are saying. It also allows you to convey your thoughts and feelings more effectively, even in interpersonal relationships. 

The best part is that it is a skill that can be learned at any time! 

Tips for learning effective communication skills

Learning how to communicate better requires an understanding of every little aspect of what goes into it. Some of the tips are about what you say, how you say it, while others are more about how you can listen and understand others better while conveying your message. 

Along with these helpful tips about becoming a better communicator, professionals can undertake an online BBA degree such as a Bachelor of Business Administration so that they can communicate more effectively and improve their professional and personal lives.

These ten tips will help in improving your communication skills while bringing out the best within yourself and other people. 

Clarity and conciseness 

Words are most essential when it comes to communicating effectively. And when it comes to choosing the right words, less is more, always. 

To make communication more powerful and effective, it needs to be clear and where possible, concise. 

Before initiating any form of communication – whether spoken or written – know your audience and define what you want to achieve. 

Outlining what you want to convey, and its objective will help in ensuring all necessary information is included, leaving out the irrelevant information. There’s no need to use fancy language as it can be distracting, and the message may not be conveyed as effectively. 

Repetition should usually be avoided, but in some cases, it can be necessary to emphasize an important point. Make sure that you are snappy with repetition to ensure that you emphasize the specific point and be careful not to overdo it as you risk tuning your audience out.  

Nonverbal communication is also important

Communication is not just words; effective communication also depends on nonverbal cues. Facial expressions, body language, and gestures says a lot. 

As Albert Mehrabian noted, communication is 55% nonverbal or body language, 38% vocal or tone of voice, and only 7% is the actual spoken words. Nonverbal cues have a greater impact than the spoken word in any communication. 

If there is any discrepancy in the nonverbal signals and the spoken words, the audience are more likely to believe the nonverbal communication to be true. 

As a professional in a business setting, you must be active in  reading nonverbal signals. If you are aware of others’ body language, you can change your communication strategies accordingly. 

For leaders, understanding an employee’s discomfort is easy to identify through body language, as they may be unwilling to voice their concerns. Leaders should also be able to control their verbal cues, as it can send the wrong message to the team and employees. 

Be prepared

Being prepared about what you want to say and how you are going to say it will make the communication more persuasive and it will have more impact. 

Preparation for communication does not simply mean learning the message by rote. 

Being prepared involves planning the entire communication. You need to do proper background research to support your message. Think about how you will respond to any questions or comments. Preparation is about everything from start to end. You have to learn to anticipate that anything unexpected can happen. 

For example, if you are communicating with your manager regarding a promotion, you must know exactly what you want. You must be prepared to negotiate, understand your limits, and be willing to compromise. Additionally, you should have relevant data in your hand to support your case as to why you deserve the promotion. It should be factual and not based on assumptions, office gossip, or overestimation of self-worth. 

As a manager, if you are preparing to convey a performance review, you need to prepare examples of employee behavior that support the review. 

While anticipating the unexpected, always brainstorm potential questions, criticisms, requests for clarification, and disagreements. Being prepared before starting the communication will help you address them clearly and calmly. 

Tone of voice

Just like the nonverbal cues, how you deliver a particular message is just as important as the content. The tone of your voice can emphasize and add power to your communication, or it can derail it completely. 

Tone includes projection, volume, and intonation, along with the choice of words. As you are speaking, it can be difficult to monitor the tone so that it goes with the information you are trying to convey. If you control your tone appropriately, you can steer the conversation in the right direction if the message is not being perceived correctly. 

The tone of voice is an important factor to consider when it comes to office conflicts and disagreements. A positive tone with well-selected words can establish trust, but poorly chosen words coupled with an unclear tone can be disastrous. 

It is easier to control the tone of communication in written format. Make sure that you read the message after writing it, keeping the tone in mind. If it’s not a confidential document, you can ask a friend or a colleague to review it.

If a disagreement arises in a written dialogue, don’t be swift in your response, as it can escalate the conflict. It is better to wait for some time before formulating your response and reply. Generally, proofreading the message will help you moderate your tone and convey your thoughts more clearly. 

Empathy and emotional intelligence

Being an effective communicator is also about understanding the feelings of others. And communication will not be effective if you are unable to understand your feelings. 

Empathy is about understanding and relating to how someone else is feeling. It is a powerful communication tool that is often ignored or misunderstood. 

Emotional intelligence, on the other hand, is one’s ability or skill to identify and manage one’s own emotions and the emotion of others. 

With high emotional intelligence and empathy, a person can build a better rapport with others and that will certainly improve communication. Both are essential in building a successful professional relationship as they help in communicating better. 

For example, a leader with higher emotional intelligence will be able to engage in communication with proper tone and appropriate body language. Along with emotional intelligence, empathizing with an employee can make the conversation easier, even if you have to discuss a difficult topic. 

Communicating bad news is always difficult, but if you can empathize with a colleague and show that you understand their feelings, it can go far in making the conversation run smoothly and reduce misunderstanding. 

Active listening

An important part of excellent communication is active listening. Communication involves more than one person, so listening is just as important as speaking. 

Listening actively shows that you respect the other person with whom you are conversing, thus building trust. It allows you to hear their point of view and you can respond accordingly. 

But, when it comes to listening, it is not as easy as it sounds. 

Becoming a better listener takes practice, and it can drastically improve your ability to connect with others and communicate effectively with them. 

Active listening not only improves interpersonal relationships in a business, but it also reduces miscommunications, facilitates problem-solving and conflict resolution, and creates an overall positive environment conducive to better communication. 

Like verbal and written communication, active listening also entails many of the factors discussed above.

When someone is speaking, try to listen to the actual words they are saying, understand the tone in which the words are being delivered, and what else is implied despite not saying it outright. 

To confirm your understanding, you can always try to paraphrase the message. 

Know your listener or audience

Communication does not have a ‘one size fits all’ rule. Every conversation needs to be modified depending on who you are communicating with.

For example, informal language should be avoided when communicating with a senior or manager. Using acronyms is acceptable when it comes to conversing informally with friends but using them in an official capacity may lead to misunderstanding. Some acronyms may have different meanings to different people. You should not assume that the other person will understand what you mean. 

To make the communication effective, try to keep the other person in mind and plan your message in accordance so that it is conveyed properly. 

If you have a particular message you want to deliver, it’s not enough to simply state it in words and assume that the listeners will understand. You have to know your audience and design your message in such a way that it is communicated effectively. 

A person from the sales team won’t be interested in learning about all the little details of data analytics, and the analytics team doesn’t want to hear about how to get a new client. But both are interested in the number of sales and any related trends. So, you need to consider the requirements and plan your communications accordingly. 

Plan your communications by considering the needs of the audience rather than your wants or wishes while conveying the desired message. 

Feedback 

To become a better communicator, you need to be able to receive feedback from others, be it your team members or your managers. Feedback can help you identify areas of improvement that you might not have noticed. 

According to Anne Sugar, an executive coach and speaker, you can ask for specific feedback, “Did I share my ideas in three minutes or less?” Answers to this question can offer insights for future conversations. You can ask your peers or even subordinates how you can improve your communication skills. They will see it as a positive trait that you are willing to seek out others’ points of view, thereby helping in building a positive relationship.

You can also choose to share positive feedback if someone communicates well. It will help in building a relationship within a team. 

On the other side, no one likes a harsh taskmaster or a critic, but as a manager, it is unavoidable. As a manager, you may have to provide negative feedback to an employee. You can temper any negative feedback with positive feedback to encourage your employees to be more forthcoming and communicate openly with others. 

If you are sharing constructive feedback, you can do so in private so that you can take your employees’ feelings into account. 

It is important to time it perfectly so that the communication is effective and not misunderstood. If you are a new employee, criticizing the company’s new project in the first month may not be the best option. 

Finding the right place and time for feedback is essential for effective communication. 

Teamwork 

In a professional environment, effective communication within a team is important for team-building and successful collaborations. 

The better your relationships are with colleagues in your team, the greater likelihood that you will be able to communicate effectively. 

One of the easiest ways to foster team building is weekly team meetings. Good communication within a team can promote better communication. Communication in team settings is key to problem solving, the better the communication the quicker problems are highlighted and resolved.

As a leader, it is important to create an environment where teams can communicate outside of the usual times. A weekly team meeting can create opportunities for communication amongst the members. If they start communicating during the meetings, they are more likely to start communicating spontaneously. 

Organization communication strategy and positive organizational culture 

In any organization, a lot of information is exchanged in multiple formats. Each of these communications are  a part of the bigger picture within the organization. 

For communication to be effective, unless there is a defined communication strategy, information can be lost despite it being shared. A communication strategy will basically outline the how’s and what’s of communication making it consistent and effective in delivering the correct information whenever needed. 

Streamlining the information flow will ensure that the message is received and understood by the target audience. Streamlining also ensures that the audience isn’t overwhelmed with information

Just like outlining the organization’s communication strategy is important, the corporate culture within the organization is equally important. 

Communication will be much more effective in an organization that supports transparency, trust, and open dialogue. It will certainly help in bringing the best  of other people as they communicate effectively with their peers and superiors within the organization. 

If an organization’s culture is positive, employees will be more receptive to their leader’s message. Managers will also find it easy to share constructive feedback. Employees will feel confident in sharing their opinions without any risk of negative impact. 

Trust plays an important role here. 

Communication can be effective only if the organization’s culture is built on the foundation of trust and transparency. 

Final thoughts

Communication is hard, and you can always learn more. Communicating effectively in a professional environment will  always going to be a necessary skill to master. No matter what you do, misunderstandings and miscommunications are bound to occur. What is important is how you resolve them with effective communication. 

When you have to engage in difficult conversations, developing effective communication skills will make your job easier – whether you are an employee or a leader in an organization. 

Any time you spend on building these skills will certainly be worth it.

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