Communication skills are some of the most important skills you can have in today’s job market. Sure, you need the technical skills required to perform a job efficiently, but the ability to convey your message clearly, whether verbally or in writing, are “soft skills” that all companies require and look for in a candidate.
Sure Signs of Bad Communication Skills
We’ve all known someone, personally or professionally, who for whatever reason, just couldn’t seem to get their point across. Examples are everywhere. From the colleague who always seems to forget to relay key information (“Oh, I didn’t tell you the meeting time changed?”) to the co-worker who comes across as rude or long-winded? How about the friend who responds to a question with a rambling explanation that is completely off-topic when a simple yes or no would have sufficed? And don’t even get us started about the people who never look you in the eye, or even worse, interrupts and talks over you.
We have all experienced these types of interactions. In fact, some of us might be guilty of these offenses ourselves at times. Becoming aware of subtle things like body language or knowing when to have a conversation in-person instead of via phone or email are important parts of communicating effectively that often are taken for granted.
Ten Ways to Improve Your Communication Skills
Honing your communication skills is a must for acing an interview, performing your best at the job you love and going after that big promotion. Here are some ways you can make sure your communication skills are top notch:
- Listen: An excellent communicator starts by being a great listener. Focus entirely on the person speaking. It should go without saying but never answer emails or respond to texts during a conversation. Also, it’s best not to view your time listening as merely waiting for the chance for you to speak. Really hear the other person so that you can effectively respond to the message they are trying to convey. Last but certainly not least, never interrupt or try to talk over the other person. This is a sure way to end a discussion before it can even get started.
- Speak clearly: Don’t mumble and make sure to pronounce each word. Speak clearly and confidently with your head up and your eyes focused on the person you are speaking to. If you have a doubt about how a word is pronounced or what a word means, never just throw it out there in hopes that you are right – you can end up looking very foolish.
- Know your audience: The way you communicate with your boss or the CEO of a client is completely different than the way you address a personal friend. Good communicators refine their message to fit the audience and the circumstances.
- Watch your body language: Make sure you have open body language. If sitting, don’t slouch and if standing, make sure to stand with good posture. Be aware of the placement of your arms as folding them across your chest can make you appear closed-off and defensive. You want to convey the appearance of being accessible, engaged and confident.
- Be brief and specific: People do not have time to read through long emails or listen to a long-winded monologue. Be short, precise and to-the-point so the information is clear and easy to understand.
- Make eye contact: This is a must in everyday communication. Maintaining appropriate eye contact demonstrates confidence and credibility. Looking down or around the room can make you appear nervous, distracted or uncomfortable.
- Ask questions: If you are unclear about what the person is saying or asking for, make sure to ask follow-up questions so that you completely understand what is being asked of you. Take notes if needed so that you can recall the key points of the conversation later.
- Restate the person’s question in your answer: When answering a person’s questions, ensure that your answer is on-point by re-stating the question within the context of your answer. For example, if you are in an interview and the hiring official asks you about your project management experience, a great way to start your answer is to say, “My experience with project management is…”
- Empathy: Nothing helps communication better than understanding where the other person is coming from. Try to put yourself in the other person’s shoes and figure out what is important to them.
- Make sure you are understood: An excellent way to make sure your message was received is to provide a recap of what just decided and/or a roadmap of action items each person is taking from the meeting. This way, any confusion about expectations can be cleared-up before the conversation ends and eliminates potential future problems.
Take a good look at your strengths and weaknesses and determine if you need to work on improving your communication skills. We can all use a refresher course now and then. Having top-notch communication skills will help you ace that job interview, receive that glowing annual review, or get that promotion you have always wanted.
References & Additional Information
10 Ways To Improve You Communications Skills by Right Management®
10 Ways To Improve Your Communication Skills by Melanie Pinola
8 Ways To Improve Your Communication Skills Right Now by Kevin Daum