Communication is such a valuable skill to have. It helps not only in our careers, conveying our messages and vocalizing out intentions, but it is also key in building relationships out in the real world. However, some of us struggle with our communication skills. Regardless of what you may think, good communication skills is not something you are born with. The environment we grow up in does influence those skills, as it does with anything, but we all have the ability to build those skills. So if you feel you could improve as a communicator, here are a few ways to get started.
Above all else, listening is the key to good communication. With people who struggle in their communication skills tend to have a false idea of the purpose of good communication. Firstly, it is not a one-way thing. You are not just trying to communicate your side of things, so you need to listen, which will in turn inform your side of the conversation. What do they understand? What am I not getting across? What do I need to clarify? Secondly, communication is not a battle. Even in a debate or situation with two opposing sides, never talk over someone. That’s not communicating, that’s just talking. Finally, listening doesn’t just mean hearing their words and waiting for them to stop talking, it means absorbing what they are saying and addressing it when they are done.
Think about your goal.
When trying to effectively communicate your own goal, whether it be a business pitch or explaining a plan to your employees, you need to approach it as you would if it were a written proposal. Most importantly, you need to think about what you want to achieve before you start. When you are done talking, what do you want people to have taken away from what you’ve said? This doesn’t mean you need to have the perfect pitch prepared. You can ask for feedback, allow the other person or people to ask questions, or basically have a conversation about it. But knowing what you want to achieve will mean you can walk away from the conversation without any second-guessing how you communicated your thoughts.
The same idea can be used if you’re in the opposite position. If someone is explaining or presenting an idea to you, the first thing you should try to do is listen intently, but if there’s still confusion on your end, ask questions. Don’t assume that you basically know what they were trying to say. You’re not a mind reader and asking for a little clarification is not a fault on your or them. Likewise, don’t wait for them to clarify anything for you. They may feel their point was delivered well, so if you are at all unsure, it’s up to you to ask the proper questions.
Be conscious of your tone.
I knew someone who was a perfectly friendly and pleasant person if you knew them well enough but who couldn’t help but speak to others in a negative tone. It wasn’t that they were angry or annoyed with people, but they couldn’t seem to establish the comforting or welcoming tone. It made it very difficult for them to build relationships and work with others. Tone can be a very tricky thing. Sometimes you take a certain tone that sounds harsher than you intended. It can be very off-putting for others. Be conscious of the tone you’re using and make sure people know your true intentions. If you inadvertently take a negative tone, let them know it was not intended and ease their minds.