What is communication? Communication is simply the exchanging of information. So, when talking about improving our communication skills, the question is, how do we get better at exchanging information?
Strong communication skills allow you to more effectively exchange your ideas, feelings and information with other people.
Why is this important?
We need to exchange ideas and information all the time! Whether you’re in a meeting looking to get your manager’s approval on a new project, or you’re trying to help bring a team member up to speed on a complex task, or if you’re pitching the importance of an idea to a different department. If we have difficulty exchanging information, then it becomes difficult for you to be heard, which can result in things like disappointment, frustration, or a lack of solid opportunities and relationships.
Good relationships also allow for an easier exchange of information. And good relationships are often formed through strong communication.
The following are a list of easy-to-implement skills that will help you become a more effective communicator in your workplace, immediately.
The act of listening is simple, but doing it effectively is rare. What do I mean by this? I mean that we’re all more than capable of actually listening to someone.
We all have the ability to be present and absorb what people are saying. The problem is, we’re often in our own heads. Most of us are concerned with getting our job done, getting our point across, and thinking about our response while someone else is speaking. The “me” mentality inhibits our listening skills.
So, my advice: commit. Commit to the act of listening. Get out of your own head and make a concerted effort to really listen. Make it a point to listen to what the other person is saying without thinking about yourself, or without casting an opinion while they’re speaking. Just listen and try to understand the words that they speak.
Here’s why you should do it.
The more we actually listen, the more people will listen to us in return. Listening follows the law of reciprocity. When we give (listen), we’re more likely to receive (are listened to). If you want to be heard, make sure you hear people first. Listening tells the other person you care about them, and that alone, will help drive more positive relationships. Trust is built from listening. And with trust comes people being more receptive to listening to you in return. More than that, listening allows you to learn from others, learn about others, relate to others, and help others make better informed decisions.
Listening is a win-win for all.
2. Asking Questions.
Asking questions is both a precursor and follow up to listening. If you want to build better connections with people at work, ask them questions. People almost always want to interact with and be around the person who seem genuinely interested in them, as opposed to the person who is more interested in themselves.
So, ask questions. Show people you’re interested in getting to know them, their interests and their lives through questions. This can make people feel valued, good, or important, and as a result, they’ll want to be around you more.
Why is this important?
Because when we get to know and better connect with people, we have an easier time communicating with them. Not only will approaching them be more welcomed, but they’ll be more inclined to listen to your ideas, feelings, and messages. In addition, it will increase your likeability in the office. Tim Sanders’ book “The Likeability Factor” emphasizes empathy (questions & listening) as a major factor that increases our likeability. And whether you like it or not, the more likeable you are – the more opportunities and privileges you get in the workplace.
3. Speaking simply.
If you confuse people, you lose people. I’m not sure who invented this catchy phrase, but it’s spot-on. If you want your ideas to be heard, it’s important that they’re explained in a way that’s clear and digestible. If people can’t understand what you’re saying, they’ll tune out. In addition, our attention spans are short!
Joseph McCormack’s book “BRIEF” noted that the human attention span is only 8 seconds on average. So, even more important that we spit out our messages in a concise, easy to digest way.
Our goal as communicators should be to speak in a way that almost everyone can understand.
If you’re not sure that your message will be understood, ask yourself, would a 13-year old understand my point? If you’re unable to explain your idea simply enough to a teenager, then maybe consider re-working your message. Albert Einstein was cited as saying that if you can’t explain something simply, you don’t understand it well enough.
Speak simply so more people listen, digest and remember what you say.
The great thing about listening, asking questions and speaking simply, is that they are all skills you can employ immediately. It may take some conscious effort and consistency to build them into your day-to-day, but if you’re committed to improving as a communicator, these skills will have a lasting impact!
President, Potato Chip Communications
Max is a public speaker, salesperson and communications consultant who has delivered thousands of successful sales, business development and educational presentations in film, health-food, manufacturing and non-for-profit industries.
Max also is a Facilitator for CMA’s Maximizing Your Presentation Skills seminar which continues to be back by popular demand every year.