What would you say is the most important skill in the world?
There are lots of theories and back and forth from experts, but for our vote, the best skill in the world is communication.
It’s so useful across every single aspect of our lives. Personal and professional relationships are only bettered by effective communication.
Communication, especially good communication, helps broker deals, avoid issues, reduce downtime, increase profits, and more.
And yes, communication is a skill like any other. It can be practised and improved upon with a few choice strategies.
Here are a selection of tried and true strategies and tactics that will skyrocket your communication skills and improve your ability in the workplace.
Have you ever had a misunderstanding? Have you ever said something that didn’t come out quite right?
Small communication errors like this can have a big impact. It can impact a decision, a relationship, a deal, etc.
Good communication makes you more productive and reduces the risk of mistakes happening.
Developing your communication skills helps you understand what others are saying and makes you a better collaborator and team member.
The Basics of Communication
Everything needs a good solid foundation. These four skills are the basis of that foundation. These make up the core skills for effective, clear communication.
They are the four crucial elements, but they are not solo pieces. They are designed to work together and to be practised together.
Any conversation involves two things, listening and speaking. Listening is an often overlooked part of ‘communication’. But it is an essential part of the whole process. You need to be able to understand what the other person says and what they truly mean.
If you’re just focused on yourself then you’re not listening or reacting to what others are bringing to the table.
Pay close attention to what’s being said and make others feel heard and considered.
This is horrendously underrated as a skill. Being able to understand the feelings of those around you is an integral part of being an effective communicator.
You should be able to understand and relate to someone else’s feelings, as this provides context to what they mean. It is the best and easiest way of developing rapport with people.
With better rapport comes better relationships and better communication. From there it opens up a wealth of avenues that can benefit you professionally and personally.
Nonverbal communication skills
Body language plays a much more important part in communication than what you say.
Working on developing an awareness of your body language, as well as reading and understanding the body language of others, will rapidly increase your communication skills.
This covers everything such as tone of voice, how fast you talk, how you hold yourself, what your posture is like, and more.
No one is an island. With that the ability to interact and engage with your team is important.
Building strong relationships and rapport with others in the workplace will make practising the above and below so much easier and more effective.
It works in a cycle, when you improve your communication you will improve your teamwork. When you improve your teamwork then you improve your communication with them.
It’s a win-win for everybody.
How to Improve Your Communication Skills
Now that we have covered the four main components of communication, here are some tactics and strategies for you to practice with.
These will improve your communication in leaps and bounds, so you can enjoy the benefits that come with it.
Practice ‘active listening’
We have two ears and one mouth for a reason.
Yes, this phrase is rather blunt however you cannot deny the truth of it.
The first step in great communication is listening. Without that, your communication will be ineffective and sloppy.
Effective communicators are always good listeners.
‘Active listening’ is a fancy word for paying attention.
Have you ever stood there listening to someone only for you to realise halfway through a sentence that you had tuned them out for the past 5 minutes?
We’ve all done it.
If you are not actively listening to them then you are not engaging. This means a lot of the time you miss out on the context of what is being said or maybe even some vital information that you need.
Active listening means engaging with what someone is saying by paying attention to them, responding to them, and asking follow up questions.
When you are listening, listen intently. Focus on what the person or persons are saying and from there make sure you are taking in what is being said.
In short, you should be listening more than you should be speaking. And when we say listening, you should be understanding and responding properly to what they are saying.
Focus on nonverbal communication
Most of what we say doesn’t come in the form of speech but instead from body language.
Everyone is aware of this to some degree however, a lot of people just take it for granted. If you want to improve your communication skills then you need to focus and hone your ability.
Mastering nonverbal cues and nonverbal signals can help prevent miscommunication. Look at who’s speaking, how are they holding themselves? How are they speaking – tone of voice, speed, word choice? Are they using their hands a lot?
This isn’t only about reading others’ body language but also being aware of your own. You need to be able to accurately present yourself whenever you are speaking to ensure the message you want to get across is clear.
Pay attention to your facial expressions and body language when you are speaking with someone in a professional setting. Your nonverbal cues affect the first impression you make on someone.
Tips such as maintaining eye contact, limiting hand gestures, and having good posture go a long way when meeting someone for the first time.
There are tons of blogs and books on the topic with lots of advice and suggestions on how to present yourself to exude confidence and clarity.
Manage your own emotions
We’ve all said things in the heat of the moment that we later regret. That’s definitely something that would need to be worked on for you to be an expert communicator.
Keeping calm and managing your emotional response means you can choose your words carefully and stay in control.
For the sake of clear communication and your own personal wellbeing, it’s important to manage your emotions and express them appropriately in context.
Allowing strong emotions to unnecessarily creep into a professional setting can lead to poor communication and conflict. Not something you want or need, and the repercussions can be severe.
Staying calm will let you be able to think about what to say and how best to say it to get the result you need.
Ask for feedback
At the end of the day, everyone needs practice. And with practice, you are going to need feedback so that you know how and where to improve.
There’s no shame in asking for honest feedback on your communication skills from colleagues.
Asking your colleagues for their advice on improving your communication skills can help you better understand how you are coming across.
By asking about your performance, you will be able to benchmark your progress.
Practice public speaking
It’s rumoured that Sir Winston Churchill had a stutter. To overcome this, he practised his public speaking intently. He would prepare speeches in advance and practised them diligently to make sure he could communicate his points clearly.
Public speaking may sound daunting, but there’s no better way to develop good communication skills than by seeking out public speaking opportunities.
Doing this forces you to consider things such as your word choice, what key points you should focus on, and how clear you need to be.
Great communicators can clearly state what they need to, whether they’re speaking to a large group or talking face-to-face to an audience of one.
Regularly speaking in front of a group will magnify your strengths and weaknesses and force you to develop great communication habits.
Yes, it’s going to be nerve-wracking, but it will benefit your communication skills in the long run.
Develop a filter
You know what we just said about an emotional response. A big part of that is building up an effective filter.
Knowing when not to talk or what not to say is just as important as knowing what to say.
Different times and situations call for different approaches. The classic phrase ‘know your audience’ applies here.
Developing a filter will help supplement other communication techniques and ensure that you maintain a certain level of decorum and avoid conflict in the workplace.
Communicate clearly and regularly
Practice, practice, practice. You should practice your communication regularly and in every way. Writing, speaking, emails, phone calls, meetings, presentations, you name it.
It’s important to make sure you’re staying on topic and giving your audience all the relevant information they need to understand.
This is especially true with technical subjects or complex issues.
When in doubt, remember KISS or Keep It Super Simple. Use examples or analogies or just provide the highlights of what needs to be said but without the jargon or technical terms.
Clarity makes up a large part of truly effective communication, so take your time to make sure you are making things clear as often as possible.
Record yourself communicating
Whether working on a group project, giving a speech or simply just speaking with others, record a few communications and evaluate opportunities for improvement.
Discovering where you can improve is a good first step to establishing a baseline for skill development.
This is also a good way of practising things solo before doing a speech or presentation. You can watch and listen to yourself, take out the umms and errs and then be a fantastic public speaker.
Communication, done better
When all is said and done, communication is a skill like any other. It requires practice and honest feedback but it will be one of if not THE best skills you will ever develop. This counts personally as well as professionally.