By Haley Gleason
After reading the title of this post, I’m sure you’re thinking, “I can communicate just fine with people.” However, you may not be as effective as you think. The world is constantly changing around us, and the same goes for the ways in which we communicate. As future business professionals, we must take the necessary steps to stand out from the crowd, and being exceptional communicators is a great way to do it. With that in mind, here are a few tips to improve your communication skills.
1. (Actually) Listen to others
Hearing what people have to say is something we do on a daily basis. However, are we truly listening? Many of us take listening for granted, believing we are good listeners simply because we hear others. Yet many people they feel as if they are not receiving the full attention of those they converse with. According to Chip Rose, a professional mediator, “We all use language to communicate, to express ourselves, to get our ideas across, and to connect with the person to whom we are speaking. When a relationship is working, the act of communicating seems to flow relatively effortlessly. When a relationship is deteriorating, the act of communicating can be as frustrating as climbing a hill of sand.” Personal and professional relationships alike require both parties to listen effectively. Therefore, it is important to take steps to avoid disruptions, such as our phones, background noise or even our own thoughts.
Bearing this in mind, consider making these personal adjustments as necessary to be a more effective listener:
- Face the speaker and use eye contact.
- Use body language and gestures.
- Keep an open mind.
- Don’t interrupt. Listen to everything others have to say before you provide feedback.
- Ask questions to ensure you understand what others are saying.
2. Provide valuable feedback
Providing valuable feedback goes hand-in-hand with listening. You can only truly provide valuable feedback if you listen to what a person has to say. It is not always easy, but it is obtainable with conscious effort. One aspect to consider that is very important in providing feedback is patience.The point of providing feedback is to improve and/or satisfy the person you are talking to, which is best accomplished by exercising patience and conveying your support. Being honest is another important part of good feedback, but note that you are often not going to get your point across by being critical or harsh, as this behavior often causes people to become guarded or hostile. Again, exercise patience and provide feedback in a positive, supportive manner.
Feedback also requires constant attention and timeliness. This is especially true since methods of communication have changed. Feedback is more relevant when provided as soon as possible, and modern technology enables near instantaneous responses. Make an effort to utilize your resources and provide feedback in a timely matter when it is needed the most.
3. Break down boundaries
Sometimes, poor communication skills may make you feel as if you’re on a deserted island, attempting to send a message in a bottle which no one ever receives. In a way, you may have unknowingly placed yourself on that deserted island by not breaking down boundaries with whom you are trying to communicate with.
The first step to break down these boundaries is to put yourself in someone else’s shoes. Try to understand where their opinions and ideas are coming from. This does not mean you have to always agree, but gaining an understanding of their stance can help you move forward to communicating effectively.
The next step is to be fearless. Don’t be afraid to talk to others and ask questions. Talk to people you normally wouldn’t, like people in other departments and different seniority levels. If you are an entry level employee, break the norm and go engage with a manager or executive. That is your opportunity to learn from them and grow in the company.
As described in an article on Fortune.com, breaking down these boundaries can help you secure nigh unlimited potential in the workplace. This potential will not only help you grow as an individual, but also as an unstoppable business professional.
4. Embrace change
Change can be a difficult concept to wrap your head around, especially because we often become comfortable in our abilities and current situation. However, it is important to remember that change is an important part of stimulating personal growth. To help embrace change, get rid of the negativity in your life, such as the self-doubt that takes over in uncomfortable situations. Develop the confidence to break down boundaries. Have the strength to actually listen to people. Be patient, honest and timely in providing feedback. With the help of these tips, you can set yourself on the path to becoming a great communicator.