Communication skills are important regardless your occupation and moment in your life. Weather you are a student, a creative freelancer or a person that is a part of a larger organization, knowing couple of simple communications rules and using them in your conversations can only benefit you. The same applies to communications in your private life with your partner, children and friends. Mastering your communication skills can improve your relationship with your boss, family member or husband and help you reach out your professional and private goals.
1. Listen and make sure you understand
Listening? Not a big deal? I wouldn’t say so. Alan Barker in his book Improve Your Communication Skills says ‘Communication begins, not with the intention to communicate, but with the act of paying attention’. There are trainings on active listening as many of us don’t know how to pay attention and how to listen to others. We judge, we speak, we interrupt, we shout, we advice but many of us don’t listen what other side has to say. Give your conversation partner a chance to actually express her or his thoughts instead of assuming you know where the problem lies. You can show that you listen non-verbally, through your body language, e.g. nodding, keeping eye contact, or verbally through asking open-ended questions, paraphrasing the message you just heard to make sure you completely understand the person you speak with. If you still don’t understand, simply ask more question – it’s not a sin.
2. Start and end with key points
Recently, my friend told me this anecdote: If you ask a man when you have a headache: ‘Please go to the pharmacy and buy me a painkillers, anything, but APAP’. He will come back with APAP’ (APAP is a common painkiller in Poland). We had a good laugh… Yes, this story seems to me a bit stereotypical, discriminating men, but if you think further it actually applies to all genders. People simply focus on the information that we say at the beginning and at the end of our statements. So if you have a longer speech and you want to make sure that people take away of it your key points place them at the beginning and ideally repeat them again at the end of your speech.
3. Use your voice effectively
What you say is important, but how you say it is important, too. Your voice is a part of who your are for your conversationalist. It influences for example if you come across as a self-confident or a shy person. Test yourself and your voice: Grab a piece of text and record yourself reading it. What is the tone and pace of your voice? Is your voice too high? Do your pronounce words clearly? Is your voice monotone? Do you speak too softly? Ask yourself all these questions and practice to improve your voice and your communication skills.
Adjust the volume
Use changes in volume to prevent your voice from slipping into monotonous sameness. Highlight relevant words or fragments of your speech by raising your voice’s volume.
Work on your tone
Especially if you work over the phone or Skype your voice is even more important as people do not get to see you and your body language. If you are a woman, make sure that you don’t squeal, unfortunately it can be perceived as unprofessional or childish.
If you speak too fast you come across as nervous, unprofessional, even chaotic. Make use of your breath and pauses. Pauses used strategically, are a tool to help you build an intellectual and emotional connection with your audience.
What else do you consider important in effective communication? Do you find these tips helpful? Please leave a comment under this article or share it with your friend.