10 Ways to Improve Your Communication Skills

“Most people do not listen with the intent to understand; they listen with the intent to reply.” Stephen R. Covey author of The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People.

Communication skills essential both in and out of the workplace. People who can truly listen are good at acquiring the information they need and find it easier to build up a rapport with someone.

Improving your communication skills can make for better productivity in meetings, teams and importantly reduce wasted time. On average, in the UK an office worker is said to spend around 16 hours a week in meetings with four of these hours wasted.

While it may be impossible to remove all wasted time, you certainly can minimise it. Here are 10 ways on how to improve your communication skills and waste less time talking and more time doing.

Help people to remember

People often want actionable information instantly and lose interest fast if the value is not presented quickly. Using lists, cheat sheets, infographics or powerpoint slides are simple ways of making your ideas more “portable”.

This makes the information more accessible and easier to refer to. We often use categories to split up information to help us understand more about it and decide if it is relevant.

Using pictures and diagrams to illustrate ideas or processes helps people visually understand concepts. You can alleviate text fatigue for readers by using numbered lists to break up information into manageable digests.

Concise and to the point

Write in short and simple sentences to promote your views. Removing the ‘um’s’ and ‘ah’s’ shows more confidence and makes it easier for people to understand.

Improve your communications skills by using pauses and thinking about your responses, saying something that doesn’t present value or misunderstanding the question can quickly skew a conversation or worse kill it.

Don’t be over formal

Don’t cheapen your compliments by overusing them. Submission on business ideas or thoughts may leave your boss thinking you don’t care or don’t share the belief in the company’s vision.

Respect yourself and don’t be a pushover

Stand your ground and make your opinions heard. You’ll never be treated as a leader if you let people dismiss you.

Express how you feel, don’t let people manipulate you and become the strong, assertive person you want to be. Learn to say “no” without being seen as obnoxious.

Body language

You should learn not only how to use body language, but how to read the body language of others so you can craft your responses to achieve the desired effect.

Kinesics relates to not just whole body movements but gestures, posture, head and hand movements as well.

There are two forms of posture, open and closed. Using a closed posture often indicates shyness or defensive nature. Open posture, however, can show interest, readiness to listen or buy-in from that person.

If you become really good at understanding body language, you will be able to gauge how that person is feeling and thinking.

Tell a Story

Everyone loves a story. Seth Godin in his talk “How to get your ideas to spread” speaks about an idea that spreads must be remarkable or as he puts it ‘worth making a remark about’.

Filmmaker Andrew Stanton (“Toy Story,” “WALL-E”) in his TED talk, speaks about the importance of making people care. In his talk he gives several ingredients to great storytelling, one key insight was the idea of character spine.

The idea is that a character has an inner driving force or unconscious goal they’re striving for. For example, in the business world, Elon Musk’s character you might say is to preserve.

Tailor your Message

You want to customise your message to suit the needs of your audience. For example, CEOs you might say are concerned with productivity, cost-savings and infrastructure, while IT managers concerns might be systems, processes and integration.

Therefore, you would not create the same presentation for both parties, you would tailor individual presentations to suit each role so as to appeal to their values or problems.

Show Empathy

Make sure you understand the problems of the person you’re speaking with and empathise by acknowledging them. Agreeing is the main aspect of convincing someone to listen.

Emotional/social intelligence is a key part of a communications skill-set, making sure to interact through clear thoughts and articulating them well. Those who do this well, are generally more accepted and appreciated.

Listen

Stop talking, maintain an open mind and focus on listening, not just to respond or fire a new question but to understand his or her needs.

This will help you fine tune your response to extract the information you need or provide the value they will not receive elsewhere.

Ask questions

Use a combination of open and closed questions to learn and understand a person’s knowledge, opinions or feelings.

A part of relationship building is using the right questioning techniques to learn about the person, finding where you may share similar interests.

Funnel and probing questions are great for revealing more details and help you clarify their opinions or issues.

Finally, simplify your idea by using as few words as possible to describe it. The more you can condense your work, the easier it will be for someone else to understand.

learn more about GRIP Communications and what we do at www.gripcom.co.uk