14 Proven Ways to Improve Your Communication Skills
Steve Jobs inspired his employees to strive for perfect hardware products. Jack Welch mentored the senior leadership team of GE to new heights. Jeff Bezos is known for articulating the Amazon ethos clearly to employees and the world. All of these leaders possess outstanding leadership skills.
One study found that nonverbal communication accounted for 55 percent of how an audience perceived a presenter. That means that the majority of what you say is communicated not through words, but through physical cues.
To communicate clearly and confidently, adopt proper posture. Avoid slouching, folding your arms or making yourself appear smaller than you are. Instead, fill up the space you are given, maintain eye contact and (if appropriate) move around the space.
2. Be slow to speak and quick to listen.
Take time to focus on what the other person is doing and saying. Most of us hear but do not really listen. We tend to focus our minds on what we are going to say or how we will answer rather than focusing upon and understanding what the speaker is trying to communicate. Check out How to Improve Your Listening Skills.
Communicate with the intention of helping the listener. There are many reasons why people talk. Sometimes it’s merely to test the relationship, as often happens with small talk. There are those who think out loud, so as a listener you just happen to be present as they are trying to process their thoughts. Other times it’s to present information, for whatever the reason. Still other occasions the speaker is communicating a need for an answer or assistance.
If it’s small talk then you can help the listener by presenting something to the conversation that brings value to it and the other person. If you are not sure what the point of the talk is, then simply and politely ask for clarification. Such a thing can be very helpful with someone who presents something that might be a need. A good habit to get into in scenarios like that is to ask, “Are you telling me this to bounce ideas off of me or because you are asking me for my help?” For more insight, take a look at this article in Forbes: 5 Questions You Can Ask Instead of ‘How Are You?’ Better yet, consider how eliminating small talkis better for you and can increase your happiness.
7. Be careful to use the right words at the right time.
As the saying goes, “Say what you mean and mean what you say.” It is very important to understand that words have power. A good habit to get into is thinking through what you intend to say to be sure that is indeed what you mean to say. The level of verbal precision is based on the level of importance at the moment. Obviously, a major in the military will need to speak with precision when ordering an assault on the enemy; whereas there is hardly a need for verbal precision when playing tag with your daughter. At the same time, saying the right thing at the wrong time can damage the situation or the relationship.
The person who asks the questions is often the person in control of the conversation. However, control isn’t necessarily the objective. Rather, using good questions will get to the heart of the issue and help engage people in the process of dialog and communication. Ask until there is clarification by using the “who-what-when-where-how” and sometimes “why” questions.
Skill 4: Assert yourself
Direct, assertive expression makes for clear communication and can help boost your self-esteem and decision-making skills. Being assertive means expressing your thoughts, feelings, and needs in an open and honest way, while standing up for yourself and respecting others. It does NOT mean being hostile, aggressive, or demanding. Effective communication is always about understanding the other person, not about winning an argument or forcing your opinions on others.
|To improve your assertiveness:|
|Value yourself and your options. They are as important as anyone else’s.|
|Know your needs and wants. Learn to express them without infringing on the rights of others|
|Express negative thoughts in a positive way. It’s okay to be angry, but you must remain respectful as well.|
|Receive feedback positively. Accept compliments graciously, learn from your mistakes, ask for help when needed.|
|Learn to say “no.” Know your limits and don’t let others take advantage of you. Look for alternatives so everyone feels good about the outcome.|
Developing assertive communication techniques
Empathetic assertion conveys sensitivity to the other person. First, recognize the other person’s situation or feelings, then state your needs or opinion. “I know you’ve been very busy at work, but I want you to make time for us as well.”
Escalating assertion can be employed when your first attempts are not successful. You become increasingly firm as time progresses, which may include outlining consequences if your needs are not met. For example, “If you don’t abide by the contract, I’ll be forced to pursue legal action.”
Practice assertiveness in lower risk situations to help build up your confidence. Or ask friends or family if you can practice assertiveness techniques on them first.
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