When a leader thinks about effective communication skills, they’re focusing on the different ways in which we give and receive information. The ability to communicate is essential in all fields, but nowhere is it more vital than in the workplace. If you can't communicate effectively with other people, you will create unnecessary problems and be much less effective at what you do.
Have you ever had a boss you knew would give you their undivided attention and honest feedback? Conversely, have you ever had a boss whose feedback was vague and unclear? I've encountered a wide range of communicators during my journey as an entrepreneur, and I've tried to learn lessons from all of them.
Communication with others can take many forms. Whether you're in an in-person meeting or sending a quick email to your boss, it's essential to communicate effectively and respectfully. Here are four ways you can be a better communicator.
- Be clear, brief, and specific
Communication is all about getting your point across. You risk being misunderstood if what you’re saying or writing is unclear, vague, or overly wordy. Be as clear and as concise as possible to get your point across. You should also be as specific as possible; avoid unnecessary words or overly descriptive language that can muddle or weaken your message.
- Always be prepared
Before you make a phone call, begin a presentation, or send an email, you should have a plan. No one appreciates having their time wasted, so go in with all of the information you need close at hand. If you’re dealing with a client, try and anticipate their questions so you can be ready to answer them. If you’re in a meeting or on a phone call, write down notes to refer to during the conversation to help guide you.
- Give your undivided attention
We all live busy lives, full of people who demand our attention at any moment. I’ve learned the importance of giving each task my full and undivided attention while building three companies. If you try to send an email to your boss while on the phone with a client, you may find yourself inattentive to both conversations. Always give your full attention to the other person, listening closely, and responding only when you feel you have heard everything they say.
- Don't be afraid to ask questions
Communication is a two-way process. If you’re unsure about something someone has said, never presume their meaning. It’s always better to clarify with a question than to misunderstand. Follow up with an email after a meeting to confirm that you have all the necessary information.
Tips To Improve Face-to-Face Communication Skills
While we've all been in meetings that could have been handled better via email, face-to-face communication is still the best way to hold meaningful discussions with others. Here are several tips for improving your communication skills during face-to-face conversations.
- Practice civil discourse, especially during tough conversations
Although we may wish otherwise, not all conversations will be pleasant or lighthearted. You may have to fire an employee, have a difficult discussion with your boss, or disagree with your colleagues during a meeting. Practice civil discourse by speaking truthfully and respectfully while allowing others to disagree. Avoid the temptation to lose your temper or interrupt the other person. As long as you speak truthfully and listen to the other person’s point of view, it is possible to have difficult conversations civilly.
- Practice active listening
When it comes to improving communication skills, listening is equally as important as speaking. Practice active listening by giving the person speaking your complete attention. Don't interrupt them, and make eye contact if possible. While the other person is speaking, don't spend time formulating your own response; instead, take a moment once they’ve finished considering what you’d like to say next. When you reply, paraphrase what they said to ensure you understand it. Ask questions if you need more information before responding.
- Focus on nonverbal communication
Language is just one of the ways in which human beings communicate. Our body language can share many things that our words do not, from our facial expressions to the gestures we make. If you’re a manager leading a meeting, be mindful of your employees’ body language. While they may not say anything to raise a concern, they may be communicating discomfort or disagreement through crossed arms. Be mindful of your nonverbal communication, as you want your body language to match your message.
- Ask for honest feedback
Giving and receiving criticism can be awkward for both parties, but feedback is critical to personal growth. To encourage others to communicate freely, ask for honest feedback when needed. Most people will say what’s on their minds when given an invitation to do so. The more you ask for honest feedback from your colleagues, the more you’ll learn how to improve your communication skills.