Communication is key. Whether written or spoken, reading, or listening, these skills are crucial
in any workplace and can make you a better, more effective, and more efficient employee.
Here are 10 ways to improve your communication skills:
1. Listen actively:
The better you listen, the better you are at communication. Before you respond, make sure
you’ve heard and digested what someone is saying.
Don’t just wait for their mouth to stop moving to make your point.
2. Body language matters.
This is important for face-to-face meetings and video conferencing. Make sure that you appear
accessible, so have open body language. This means that you should not cross your arms.
And keep eye contact so that the other person knows that you are paying attention.
3. Match the message to the medium
If you’re better via email, don’t try to have that important progress update in your boss’s office
before you’ve had your coffee. If it’s a sticky situation that requires a nuanced approach,
don’t just send a flat-toned email when you could finesse the situation with a well-managed
in-person conversation. Figure out what it is you have to get across, then choose the medium
that suits that message best.
4. Ask for honest feedback.
As with most leadership skills, receiving honest feedback from peers, managers and members
of your team is critical to becoming a better communicator. If you regularly solicit feedback,
others will help you to discover areas for improvement that you might have otherwise overlooked.
5. Put Away the Distractions
It’s pretty rude to use your phone while someone’s talking to you or you’re supposed to be hanging
out with them. Maybe we can’t get rid of all our distractions or put away technology completely,
but just taking the time to look up could vastly improve our communication with each other.
6. Engage the audience in discussion.
Regardless of how compelling the speaker is, all audiences have limited attention spans.
To become a more effective communicator, make presentations and discussions interactive.
Ask the audience a question, encourage people to call out their thoughts during a brainstorming
session or at the very least ask hypothetical questions to stimulate the audience.
7. Start and end with key points.
Think back to the “tappers and listeners” study mentioned earlier. Clear communication is
of paramount importance. To ensure that the audience understands the key takeaways from
a presentation, reiterate key points at the start and finish. This can also be accomplished
by providing attendees with a one-pager that includes key points the audience should consider
throughout the presentation.
8. Be Brief Yet Specific
There’s actually a BRIEF acronym—Background, Reason, Information, End, Follow-up—to help
you keep your emails short without leaving anything out. It’s a good policy for both written and
verbal communication (I’ve always felt that my job as a writer was to clearly get the point across
and then get off the page as soon as possible. Just two more items on this list!) Clear and
concise are two of the 7 Cs of communication, along with concrete, correct, coherent, complete,
9. Think before you speak.
Always pause before you speak, not saying the first thing that comes to mind.
Take a moment and pay close attention to what you say and how you say it.
This one habit will allow you to avoid embarrassments.
10. Use the PIP approach.
A common framework used by business experts like those at McKinsey is the purpose,
importance, preview (PIP) approach to presentation introductions. Following this approach,
the speaker first states the purpose of the presentation, and then shares why presentation
is important by reviewing implications and possible outcomes.
Finally, the presenter gives a preview of the topics that will be discussed.
This framework is a useful way to get audiences excited about the presentation,
helping them to focus on your message and on key takeaways.
Bonus tip: Keep it positive
No matter how stressed you are, or how fraught the conversation, try to stay positive.
Put your team first. And never make it personal—keep your focus on the professional.
Earn a reputation and respect.