I haven’t seen a job description yet that didn’t say strong/good/effective communication skills were essential.
If you can’t communicate well, you can be sure of challenges ahead – job interviews, team working, dealing with issues, dealing with customers, selling products, selling yourself – whatever your job involves, this skill is something that must be developed and consistently improved upon. It’s not a skill to work on mid-career – you need to put in the ground work early on.
George Bernard Shaw said: the single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place. Therefore, don’t assume because you are telling people things, you are a good communicator.
Here are some tips on improving your communication skills:
- LISTEN – how many times have you been in conversation, mentally preparing your response whilst the other person is speaking to you? This happens all too often and you don’t then fully hear what the other person is saying. A good communicator will listen effectively before responding. Think about this next time you are in conversation and really make an effort to do nothing else but listen and fully focus on the person speaking and nothing else.
- BODY LANGUAGE – what does your body language say when you are communicating face to face? You could ask a friend or colleague their thoughts. A good communicator will maintain eye contact and look approachable without for example, folding arms. Make the other person feel you are listening to them intently.
- ADJUST – it’s important to adjust your communication style depending on who you are dealing with. Targeting your communication based on who you are speaking to is the key to being a good communicator. It’s important to be relatable. If you can adjust your language to make it more relatable to your audience, then you must.
- ADAPT – Email and messaging are the way of the world now. We communicate face to face and by phone much less these days. A good communicator will know when to pick up the phone or speak to someone face to face. I was once a manager of a difficult person and we fell into the trap of email communication only and this only served to make them more distant and isolated. I am of the firm belief that had I gone to see them quicker and changed my communication style, a difficult situation could have been avoided.
- BE EQUAL – don’t patronise people and talk down to anyone. You are communicating, not lecturing. Treat everyone as your equal.
- CHECK, CHECK, CHECK – did the other person understand what you said? Did you ask if they understood? Did they look confused or non-engaging? Do their actions evidence your communication was effective?
You can read thousands of articles on communication – you won’t read any one guide. What is clear though and what I believe to be absolutely true: communication can always be improved. Good communicators fail sometimes, it is never perfect every time. As yet, I don’t know if I will ever in life feel like my communication abilities are perfect and that’s ok because I will continue to try to improve.