Without a doubt, of all the skills you need to succeed in life, communication is number one. You can’t get through an interview, first date or meeting without communication skills. There isn’t a job on the planet that you can get by working without some semblance of communication skills.
The better you are, the better you will do. Even if you feel your communication skills are on point, there is probably room for improvement. There’s always room for improvement. Here are four ways to improve your communication skills.
- Control Your Body Language
You might be speaking the right words, but if your body language isn’t aligned with them you are giving the entire game away. Your body language speaks loud and clear and tells everyone exactly how you feel. If you slouch and keep your hands in your pockets during a presentation, it’s going to send the wrong message. If you adopt a formal, intimidating stance when you’re trying to offer someone support and sympathy, you are erecting a barrier between you. You should know how to read situations and adopt the proper body language as a response. Additionally, your ability to maintain eye contact is also vitally important. It shows others that you are engaged and interested in what they are sharing with you.
- It’s Not Only Words
Don’t underestimate the power of the words that you choose. They symbolize meaning and help others understand the message that you are trying to convey. It doesn’t matter whether you are typing out a text message, drafting an email, writing a love note or speaking to someone in person. The words that you use really matter. They allow the other person to understand what you mean. You might feel good about using large words and inserting jargon into your conversation, but if no one can understand what you mean, it’s of no use. Know your audience and use the right words to get through to them.
- Listen Closely
There is much more to communication than speaking and body language. You have to listen. It’s just as important as the rest. You will avoid a lot of issues and heartache if you listen closely to what people are saying to you. Don’t give into the temptation to interrupt them, allow them the time and space to complete their thought. When their thought is complete, you can repeat a paraphrased version back to them to ensure you have heard them correctly. Only then should you share your thoughts or opinions. Too often, we sit waiting for our turn to speak and completely miss what the other person is telling us.
The final key to improving your communication skills is your tone of voice. How often did your parents tell you to watch your tone when you were speaking to them (or another adult)? It was frustrating, wasn’t it? You felt like you were standing your ground, but to others, it was coming across as aggressive. There is a fine line between asserting yourself and slipping into aggression and your tone of voice might be the difference. You will have the find the balance for yourself, but you can start by focusing on speaking confidently, but calmly.
Additionally, your tone can come across as patronizing. This can stop a conversation in its tracks, you have to remember who you are speaking to and adopt an appropriate tone. The tone you use to speak to your toddler isn’t appropriate for a teenager or colleague. Remember that and think about how you prefer to be spoken to. When someone speaks down to you, you’re likely to react in anger and frustration. Don’t be surprised when you get this response if your tone is wrong.