Communication can be so important to get right – and so easy to slip up on. So, let’s look at communication skills: how to improve them in 3 easy steps.
Ultimately, we work with and through others and need to be able to communicate to get things done. It sounds like it should be simple, we’ve been communicating in various ways ever since we were born. Yet, it can be surprisingly complex to master good communication and to keep everything together all of the time.
Communication Skills: How to Improve
I highlight below a number of different components of communication. The aim is not to baffle you, but to highlight different techniques that you can use to improve and hone your existing communication skills.
You may be tempted to test all of them at once, but try not to get overwhelmed by them. My suggestion is to pick a couple that resonate with you and work on these. Once you’ve got these sorted, then move onto some which aren’t so familiar. Keep testing and learning until you’ve got them all covered, or at least all understood.
I’ve summarised 9 simple techniques into 3 main components of:
Awareness & communication
Communication styles & preferences
Communication styles include extroversion and introversion, but can also extend to cover chatty, quiet, loud etc. These can have a big impact on the way we communicate and are interpreted by others. There are various theories and tests that you can take – online or with a licensed practitioner – if you want to discover more about yourself.
One of the biggest takeaways is that we are likely to have different preferences and tendencies from at least some, if not all, of the people we interact with. These don’t make us good or bad, just different.
We have our natural styles and preferences, but we can also learn to flex these and adopt other characteristics when dealing with different people. This makes us more versatile and expands the chance of communicating well with as many people as possible.
Understand your audience
It’s important to understand who you are communicating to or with.
What is their position? Likewise, what skills & understanding do they have? What is their level on knowledge on the topic? What is their expectation of you personally or regarding the points you’re trying to communicate?
These may sound like obvious points, but we don’t always understand the needs of our audiences fully. We may try and direct the same communication to different audiences with varying levels of success. This can risk impacting our effectiveness or credibility, or make us look lazy.
Assess the situation through feedback
Communication is rarely a one-way ticket. There should be some opportunity to assess and course correct if necessary through listening & observing, as well as other feedback. This might be possible in the moment. If not, hopefully you can request and review this after the fact for future improvements.
Content & communication
You may have heard the oft-quoted statistics that communication is only 7% verbal and 93% non-verbal, with non-verbal comprising body language (55%) and tone of voice (38%).
That being said…
Be clear on your message & outcomes
Be clear on the message and the desired outcome. Keep things simple in structure and broken down into digestible bitesize chunks. Repeat the key messages for emphasis.
Use the most appropriate method of delivery
Often face to face communication is preferable, but sometimes a written summary or a detailed analysis may be most effective. Maybe a combination of written and verbal could be useful to convey complex messages.
Video conference may be just as effective as being in the same physical room, as long as you’re able to get some kind of feedback from the audience.
Delivery & communication
Manage how you present & conduct yourself
This can include the way you dress, but also how you show up more generally e.g. punctuality and handshakes.
Dress code shouldn’t always matter, but it can do. Ensure you’re aware of the situation and how the others will be dressed. If nothing else, this can help to minimize noise and distractions, leaving you freer to get on with communicating your message.
Use your voice for impact
Looking back at those stats, 38% of communication comes from tone of voice. Imagine your voice has different controls, kind of like a music system. Leverage the controls to adjust the general volume & tone, intonation of sentences and accentuation of certain key words. Listen to others talking and play around with you own voice controls for different effects and impacts. You can even record your voice to play around with this.
Adopt appropriate language
If you’re familiar with the audience, you may be able to flex your language specifically to them, but speaking simply, clearly and succinctly is often a good start.
Manage the use of technical versus non-technical language and jargon, unless you are very confident that the audience will understand these them. Be prepared to check in with the audience for their understanding and spell out any unfamiliar terms.
Many of us also operate in a multi-cultural world these days, so be cognisant of any non-native speakers. However, sometimes their English can be better than some of the native speakers!
Importance of body language
As mentioned above body language represents 55% of our communication! Body language is the unspoken element that can reveal our true feelings and emotions. It can include our gestures, facial expressions and posture.
We can use self-awareness to adjust our own body language so that we appear more positive, engaging, approachable or however else we’d like to come across.
We can also read signs in others’ body language. This can help us to understand the full message of what someone is trying to tell us, and to enhance our awareness of people’s reactions to what we say and do.
Communication Skills: How to Improve Today
Communicating well is an important skill, yet, it can be surprisingly complex to master.
I’ve highlighted some key components of communication that you can use to hone your existing communication skills.
Don’t get too bogged down, but pick a couple that resonate with you and work on these. Keep testing and learning until you’ve got them all covered, or at least all understood!
Thanks for reading. Check out other Blue Diamond articles to help you take control of your work and life.