1. LEARN TO LISTEN
Active listening increases the impact of your shared communication and helps you to build a rapport with the individual or group. When you are asked a question, be seen to be physically listening by making eye contact and nodding. Confirm your understanding of the question by adding a follow up question to clarify or give feedback to their input. Research shows that only about 10% of us listen effectively (Psychology Today), therefore being seen to actively listen will help to strengthen your reputation of being a good listener and earn you respect from your colleagues in the workplace.
2. CHECK YOUR BODY LANGUAGE
To become an effective communicator, we also need to be aware of the non-verbal messages we are sending. Before you start speaking, check your posture. A poor, slouching posture shows disinterest, whereas standing tall helps you appear credible and strong.
To improve your interpersonal skills and build trust, ensure to match your non-verbal message to your verbal message. For example, if you are talking about an exciting new project for your team to work on, be sure to match the excitement in your body language and facial expressions. Failure to do so can result in confusion amongst listeners or make you appear misleading. Become aware of the hand signals, head movements and body positioning that you use when communicating your points and ensure that they compliment your verbal message.
3. DEVELOP YOUR LANGUAGE SKILLS
Verbal communication isn’t just about the words we say, but also the complexity of the words and how we join them together to create a meaningful message. When communicating verbally, use confident language and speak slowly to allow the individual or group to properly understand and analyse your points. Avoid filler words such as ‘um’ and keep pauses short and impactful to diffuse any tension or provoke thought, especially when communicating virtually. This point is validated by Erica Dhawan in the BBC article ‘Digital body language – How To Communicate Better Online’. She reflects on the importance of pauses both in real life communications and virtual interactions, suggesting that individuals follow - “The five second rule”: Waiting five seconds before speaking to make sure individuals have time to process the ideas.
4. BE ASSERTIVE
To develop our communication skills we need to become aware of the 4 human behaviours; Aggressive, Passive, Passive Aggressive and Assertive.
‘Aggressive’ individuals prioritise satisfying their own needs first, without allowing input and feedback from others.
‘Passive’ individuals are the opposite, they put other peoples needs before their own and rarely have the opportunity to express their feelings.
Those who are ‘Passive Aggressive’ find it difficult to assert themselves directly, which may lead them to feel powerless and build up resentment towards others.
Good communicators fall in to the ‘Assertive’ category – they have the confidence and courage to defend their points whilst also discussing the alternatives. They do not pressurise or manipulate others and welcome constructive feedback or refinements to their ideas.
Learning about the 4 Human Behaviours, can help you to be aware of any negative signals you may be sending and position yourself as an ‘Assertive’ communicator.
5. NOTICE ‘VAK’ SIGNALS
VAK signals are sensory phrases relating to Visual, Auditory or Kinaesthetic tenses. Examples of these include ‘appears to me’ or ‘’to paint the picture’ as Visual phrases, ‘manner of speaking’ or ‘sounds like’ as Auditory phrases and ‘come to grips with it’ or ‘pull some strings’ as Kinaesthetic phrases. To enhance your communication skills, pay close attention to whether the individual is using any sensory phrases and ensure to use phrases that match. This helps to intensify your message in the listeners brain and develop a stronger connection.
Following these crucial points can help you to improve your communication skills and in turn, gain a good reputation in the workplace. These skills will help you progress in meetings, strengthen your relationship with clients and colleagues and count towards ensuring interview success.
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