Communication skills are the best predictor of your future success. We are always communicating with the people in our lives and the way we communicate extends far beyond our verbal or written abilities. We communicate through our behaviours, our priorities, our style preferences, and so many more ways that we may not be aware of. We are always communicating. Is our communication being perceived in the way we would like it to be? ask Nikki Langman, communications expert and author of How to Be a Badass.
Despite being the most important set of skills you could ever possess, we aren’t taught communication skills in school in any meaningful way. The way to develop these skills is to make them a personal priority and practice over and over.
Five communication skills you need to develop
Effective communication needs clarity
Have you ever spoken to someone and felt confused by what they were saying? Communication isn’t really communication if the other person doesn’t clearly understand what you’re trying to say. Be on the lookout for how your information is being received. If there is any doubt, stop. Ask questions about the clarity of your message or allow the recipient to ask clarifying questions.
We have all been a part of a conversation where the speaker goes on and on and never seems to get to the point. There is a time for stories and there is a time to be succinct and direct. Develop the awareness to communicate what your listener needs. Is context appropriate to support your main points or can you make your point clearly and quickly?
Communication requires listening
We know that communication goes both ways. We know this so well, yet poor listening remains one of the biggest obstacles to effective communication. Most of our energy in conversing gets stuck on the output. What am I saying? How are they responding to me saying this? Are they interpreting what I am saying correctly? Do I need to say it differently?
Listening seems like it should be easier than it is, but it is quite difficult in practice. Most of the time, we don’t want to forget our point so we rehearse in our heads, rather than listening to what is being said to us. What ends up happening is that we create independent monologues, not conversation. Makes sense, right? But remember, when you are speaking, your listener is probably doing the same thing to you – thinking about their response. When you have that awareness and if you can openly acknowledge it, communicating can be a lot easier and mutually beneficial.
Listen to more tips on how to improve your communication
Your level of displayed confidence impacts your ability to communicate. Think about the last time you listened to a speaker who was clear on their content and delivered a message with impact. Would you say that they were confident? How did you respond to that person? Now think about a time where you listened to a speaker who rushed their words or had a lot of “umms and ahh’s”. How did you respond to that person?
Confidence is a preview of competence. Think of a job interview situation. Who would you put your trust and faith in (not knowing any other details), the person who communicated clearly and confidently or the person who stumbled to find the right words? Invest in building your confidence, it matters.
Your grammatical precision is noticed and impacts the way you are perceived. Know your audience and take the time to review your communication to ensure that you are getting the right message across. Think of poor grammar as written noise. Poorly constructed documents and messages can hinder your audience’s interpretation of you and what you are trying to communicate. Take the extra time to edit and proofread. It can make all the difference in the world. This is also true in verbal communication. Slang, colloquialisms, and poorly placed euphemisms can undo a good message and negatively impact the way others view you.
Communication is a set of skills that can be learned, adjusted, styled, and finessed with practice. Practice is the key. The best news is that there are always people around to help you hone your skills. Everyone is a potential communication practice learner or teacher. Start by asking people you trust to give you valuable feedback on your current communication skills. What information can they provide to help you understand where your communication gaps and strengths might be?
Be open to communication coaching and share what you learn with others. Your efforts might inspire others to upgrade their communication skills as well – a win for everyone.
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