Do you have all of the necessary qualifications and experience to move to the next level in your career, but keep getting blocked?
Are you excluded from important meetings, while others who have a similar background and expertise to you are being included?
Do you feel that when you ask for feedback, there’s something people aren’t telling you?
If you’re not being bullied, you don’t think that you are experiencing discrimination, and you’ve done everything to advance your career, but it’s stalled, it may be that you need to improve your communication skills.
Many years ago I worked in an organisation where there was someone who was excellent at their job, but people would talk about their ‘unfortunate manner.’ Which was code for ‘they didn’t have good communication skills.’ This person was never given feedback on their lack of communication skills and instead became increasingly frustrated that their competence wasn’t recognised. This wasn’t the first time this has happened to them in their career. If only someone had advised them to work on their communication skills, their career would have soared.
Communication skills encompass a wide range of skills – you may be strong in some, and weaker in others. Here’s 18 tips to help you improve your communication skills…
1.Look for signs. Do you read people based upon their facial expressions, gestures, posture and eye contact to gauge what is going on for them? Are you aware of your own body language? A relaxed expression and eye contact can communicate a sense of self-confidence and poise that relax the person you’re dealing with.
2. Uncover your blind spots. Open yourself up to the notion of lifelong learning and self-improvement by asking specific questions to understand the strengths and weaknesses of your communication better. You may have a mannerism or turn of phrase that might be off putting to others, that you could easily stop doing. This self-awareness is a game changer.
3. Master listening. Do you listen or just wait your turn to speak? The best way to get a true reading of another person is to listen to what they have to say. It sounds obvious, but listening often involves learning how to be silent and waiting for the other person to express their viewpoint. Silence often opens the door to active and fruitful communication.
4. Open your mind. For people to respect you and listen to your ideas, they need to know that you’ll consider their contributions in a fair and open-minded way. Be honest, positive and respectful in how you respond. Part of being approachable is conveying to others that you welcome their opinions and are willing to evaluate them on their own merits. Understand that this works two ways, so it also means you will have to acknowledge any weaknesses in your own opinions too.
5. Laugh. Don’t take yourself too seriously. Use self-deprecating humour where appropriate and don’t be afraid to laugh at yourself or your own errors. One of the greatest barriers to productive work relationships is being perceived as someone too rigid to see the humour in their own human failings. Of course, don’t take this too far, you don’t want to be seen as the clown and not be taken seriously at all.
6. Smile. As a coach, the greatest gift you can give other people is the attitude of “unconditional positive regard.” That is, you accept them in their entirety, without limitation. The best way to express complete acceptance is simple. You smile! When you smile with happiness at seeing people, their self-esteem jumps automatically. They feel important and valuable and they like the person who is making them feel this way. Check out your expression when your face is at rest, for some people it’s not so welcoming – also known as ‘resting bitch face.’ You may need to adjust it.
7. Appreciate. Sounds simple, but like so many others on this list of tips, it’s easy to forget. You can show your appreciation by saying “thank you”, for any large or small reason. Whenever you smile or say thank you to another person, not only does that person’s self-esteem and feeling of importance jump, but so does yours.
8. Affirm. Mark Twain said, ‘I can live a good few months, on a compliment.’ When you give people a genuine, sincere compliment about a trait, possession, or accomplishment, they automatically feel better about themselves. They feel acknowledged and recognised. You can compliment for small things as well as large ones.
9. Give Attention. This goes hand in hand with listening well. Attention is perhaps the most important quality for building rapport. When you pay close attention to other people, the more valuable and important they will feel they are. This shows that you actually heard the person, not only what they said, but what they meant.
10. Respect and Be Aware of Cultural Differences We learn most of our people skills from our parents and others in our community. However, when communicating with someone from a different culture, it is important to acknowledge cultural differences. You need to consider the appropriateness of eye contact, expect some misunderstanding, and perhaps get some help, like an intermediary who understands both cultures.
11. Keep your emotions in balance by developing your emotional intelligence. Learn how to manage life’s stresses and any negative emotional displays that may come as a result of them. While self-awareness enables you to recognise when you are irritable, anxious, or feeling threatened, your ability to regulate these emotions helps you to maintain your composure and prevent any behaviours you might later regret.
12. Ask questions. Part of communicating effectively is asking great questions. A good question typically is an open-ended question that a person can respond to in a variety of ways. Questions can also provide clarification for something that is unclear. Asking questions shows that you are interested in furthering a discussion.
13. Learn from mistakes. To improve your social skills, learn from your mistakes and don’t repeat them. If you have a bad interaction with someone, come up with solutions to improve it for next time.
14. Be Friendly. Greet people with a friendly, “Hello!” and stop to chat with people you see regularly. This is especially useful at a workplace or office. Even if you are not friends with people, show them that you are friendly and warm. If you have nothing to say, give a compliment or make small talk about the weather or television shows.
15. Always Give Value First. Consider how you can you help them? This isn’t any different than normal friendships. If you’re friends with someone who’s always taking without ever giving, you don’t want to hang out with them. It’s too draining. Relationships are all about giving and gaining or reciprocity.
16. About Things Outside of Work. It’s hard to build rapport if you ONLY talk about work related topics. Expand your conversation, ask them “How’s life? How’s the family doing?” That’s how you build a genuine connection.
17. Get Face to Face Time. Try getting personal communication time in with people, even if just on the phone or video call, there is usually less misinterpretation and more forgiveness of communication problems when face to face.
18. Don’t argue or be aggressive. If you start to get heated in a conversation, take a deep breath and a step back (maybe even literally) and think about what you’ll say or do physically next that could set the interaction in a more negative or positive reaction.
Bonus Tip: Treat people how they want to be treated. The best communicators use empathy by considering the individual needs of those that they are communicating with, rather than communicating with others as they’d like to be communicated with.
Did you notice any particular areas for your development? What will you try first?
Some further resources for you.
BLOG: The Importance of Communication Skills
WEBINAR: Effective Communication [48 mins]
EVENT: Presenting with Confidence 21st September
RESOURCES: Team Meetings
BOOK: How to Win friends and Influence People.
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