Another one of those tips that seems obvious, but is surprisingly easy to overlook. When I was working on mastering this non-verbal communication skill, I set an alarm to go off every 30 minutes that said “POSTURE!” Most of the time, I was slouching.
Developing Effective Communication Skills
Effective communication skills are fundamental to success in many aspects of life. Many jobs require strong communication skills. People with good communication skills also usually enjoy better interpersonal relationships with friends and family.
Effective communication is therefore a key interpersonal skill and learning how to improve your communication has many benefits. However, many people find it difficult to know where to start. This page sets out the most common ‘problem areas’ and suggests where you might focus your attention.
Many people appreciate that they have a problem with communication skills, but struggle to know where to start to improve. There are a number of ways that you can identify particular problem areas, including:
Ask your friends, family and colleagues to advise you. Most people will be happy to help you with your journey towards self-improvement. They may even have been waiting for just this opportunity for some time.
Four Key Areas for Improvement
1. Learn to Listen
We all have a tendency to forget that communication is a two-way process. We fall into the trap of ‘broadcasting’, where we just issue a message, and fail to listen to the response. Quite a lot of the time, we are not really listening to others in conversation, but thinking about what we plan to say next.
What, however, is listening? Listening is not the same as hearing. Learning to listen means not only paying attention to the words being spoken but also how they are being spoken and the non-verbal messages sent with them. It means giving your full attention to the person speaking, and genuinely concentrating on what they are saying—and what they are not saying.
2. Studying and Understanding Non-Verbal Communication
Non-verbal communication is often thought of as body language, but it actually covers far more. It includes, for example, tone and pitch of the voice, body movement, eye contact, posture, facial expression, and even physiological changes such as sweating.
You can therefore understand other people better by paying close attention to their non-verbal communication. You can also ensure that your message is conveyed more clearly by ensuring that your words and body language are consistent.
3. Emotional Awareness and Management
At work it is easy to fall into the trap of thinking that everything should be logical, and that emotion has no place. However, we are human and therefore messy and emotional. None of us can leave our emotions at home—and nor should we try to do so. That is not to say that we should ‘let it all hang out’. However, an awareness of emotions, both positive and negative, can definitely improve communication.
Emotional intelligence covers a wide range of skills, usually divided into personal skills and social skills. The personal skills include self-awareness, self-regulation and motivation. The social skills include empathy and social skills. Each one of these is broken down into more skills.
Empathy is the ability to ‘feel with’ others: to share their emotions and understanding them. It includes understanding others, developing them, having a service orientation, valuing and leveraging diversity, and political awareness.
Fundamentally, the principle behind the different skills that make up emotional intelligence is that you have to be aware of and understand your own emotions, and be able to master them, in order to understand and work well with others.
4. Questioning Skills
Questioning is a crucial skill to ensure that you have understood someone’s message correctly. It is also a very good way of obtaining more information about a particular topic, or simply starting a conversation and keeping it going. Those with good questioning skills are often also seen as very good listeners, because they tend to spend far more time drawing information out from others than broadcasting their own opinions.
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How to Improve Communication Skills: All Three Types
1. Be an “active listener”
2. Speak up about your thoughts and ideas
This communication skill is especially important if you’re a leader, because what you say is setting the stage for your team to follow. If you’re an open and honest communicator, you’re setting an example for everyone else to do the same.
3. Try not to make assumptions
This is important because what we say isn’t always a completely accurate representation of what we really want. Especially in a complicated situation, or one where it’s easy to get overwhelmed or embarrassed, it’s common that we try to disguise or hide our real needs.
4. Practice self-awareness, especially during tough conversations
People with advanced communication skills have a solid grasp on their own emotions. They know how to control them when they’re upset or over-excited, and they don’t let them take over the conversation or cause unnecessary drama.
It’s important to stay level-headed when you’re reacting to something you don’t like. If you feel your heart start to thump, or your face start to get hot, take a break. Try to find some alone time where you can calm yourself down.
Another key part of self-awareness is being able to admit when you’re wrong. It might feel like a huge blow to your ego, but trust me – you’ll likely find that by admitting your mistakes and trying your best to prevent them moving forward, you’ll build respect and integrity in the eyes of your loved ones and colleagues.
5. Don’t be accusatory when raising an issue
If you start the conversation with an accusation that something is their fault, it’s practically an invitation for a fight. Our natural reaction to accusation is to get defensive… and nothing good comes from that conversation.
The Power of Strong Communication Skills in the Workplace
Good communication skills enable managers to receive and send negative or heavy messages without creating frustration and disruption of trust. This is important to keep employees motivated and engaged.
What’s more, the way managers communicate with employees during change has a direct impact on the company’s bottom line. Indeed, most digital transformation strategies fail because of a lack of communication in the workplace.
Although we can develop certain communication skills, communication is more effective if it is spontaneous than when it follows certain formulas. The spoken word has a different echo of spontaneous spoken speech.
30+ Stats on the Importance of Developing Strong Communication Skills
- 7% of communication is verbal, 38% is the tone and inflection, and a staggering 55% is body language (Haiilo)
- Over 80% of Americans think that employee communication is a key factor in creating trust with their employers (Slideshare)
- 81% of recruiters identify interpersonal skills as important (mba.com)
- However, more than 60% of employers say that applicants are not demonstrating sufficient communication and interpersonal skills to be considered for jobs (Business Time)
- 57% of recruiters say interpersonal skills will grow in demand over the next five years (mba.com)
- 98% of top salespeople identify relationships as the most important factor in generating new business (Salesforce)
- More than 90% of employees would rather hear bad news than no news (Jostle)
- 69% list strong communication skills as a reason they are confident in hiring graduates from business school (mba.com)
- According to the National Association of Colleges and Employers, 73.4% of employers want a candidate with strong written communication skills (Inc.)
- Companies lose on average $62.4 million per year because of inadequate communication to and between employees (SHRM)
- 57% of employees report not being given clear directions (HR Technologist)
- 69% of managers are not comfortable communicating with employees (HR Technologist)
- Only 19% of organizations say they are “very effective” at developing leaders (Infopro Learning)
- 82% of employees don’t trust their boss to tell the truth (Forbes)
- 85% of employees say they’re most motivated when management offers regular updates on company news (Trade Press Services)
- 70% of all organizational communication emanates through the grapevine (Chron)
- 63% of millennials feel their leadership skills are not being developed (HRPA)
- 56% of employees believe managers need to adapt their skills to manage a remote workforce (PowWowNow)
- 77% of employers say that soft skills are just as important as hard skills (Haiilo)
- 41% of leaders are not able to gather appropriate information quickly. As a consequence, 40% are not able to make timely and deliberate decisions (PwC)
- 69% of managers fail to organize communication with their employees (Rallyware)
- 37% of managers are uncomfortable having to give direct feedback about their employees’ performance if they think the employee might respond negatively to the feedback (Harvard Business Review)
- Communicating well is the one critical skill that 91% of 1,000 employees in a recent Interact /Harris Poll said their leaders lack (Inc.)
- Around a quarter of employees think email is a major productivity killer (Bluesource)
- Employees feel a communication divide could have serious business implications, including low staff morale (61%), confusion for the company’s clients or customers (60%), and loss of business (31%) (HR Magazine)
- 74% of workers would like their company to let them work from home more frequently as a result of COVID-19 (Robert Half)
- 28 % of employees report poor communication as the primary cause of failing to deliver a project within its original time frame, according to a survey by the Computing Technology Industry Association (Bluesource)
Listening is one of the most important aspects of communication. Successful listening is not just about understanding spoken or written information but also an understanding of how the speaker feels during communication.
2. Straight talking
Conversation is the basis of communication, and one must not neglect its importance. Even a simple, friendly conversation with colleagues can build mutual trust and even detect problems before they become serious.
3. Non-verbal communication