It used to be that people only needed to sharpen their communication skills for phone conversations and face-to-face appearances. For many, these scenarios were bad enough, especially public speaking. Nowadays, even in small groups and one-to-one settings, effective communication is getting tougher.
Times have changed. Thanks to email, instant messages, chat rooms, social media and other tools brought to life courtesy of technology, we all have a whole lot more to learn these days if we are to communicate effectively with others.
Fortunately, there are some very simple tips that anyone can use to help them on the road to clear, effective communication.
Three tools to effective verbal communication
Whether you’re addressing a large crowd, talking on the phone, or working with a client one-on-one, mastering these skills will put you well on your way to becoming a much better communicator:
- Listen. Communication is meant to be a two-way street. Half the battle is learning how to really hear, process and respond to what others are saying. A good listener takes a keen interest in his audience, by using appropriate verbal and non-verbal ‘door-openers’, and by asking questions to encourage conversation. Listening doesn’t mean waiting for your turn to speak!
- Repeat. Learning to paraphrase what others say isn’t parroting – it’s good common sense. When you repeat what others have said to you in a different way, you’re clarifying your understanding and stimulating further discussion.
- Reflect. Too many people open their mouths and speak without thinking. Before you let the words escape, think carefully. It helps if you slow down, even just a little, to make sure you have given appropriate consideration to the comment you are about to make. Sometimes when you open your mouth and speak too soon, you put your foot in the wrong place!
Learning the rules for effective communication can take some time and effort. Very few people are born with a natural talent for great two-way communication. The majority of us could spend some time honing our skills at listening, reflecting, paraphrasing and slowing down.
Tips for effective written communication
Of course, communication isn’t limited to face-to-face discussions or telephone calls. Most people today are more likely to be texting, emailing or sharing information via a social media site like Facebook. We can’t escape these modern communication tools, so let’s look at how you can make your messages more effective.
- Know your audience. The style of writing you use will depend greatly on the reader. You would choose different words when texting your friend than you would in a text to your boss. Abbreviations and acronyms may be OK when instant messaging friends, but they will not give a good impression if prospective employers see a lot of this on your Facebook wall. Writing appropriately for your audience is vital, whether it’s a text or an email.
- Make sure spelling and grammar are appropriate. A conversational style of writing is appropriate in today’s emails. However, overlooking correct punctuation and grammar or making spelling errors will not show you up in a good light. Such errors may confuse your readers and it may take a few more emails back and forth to clarify. Read before you send. Never, ever, send a text, email or even a social media post in haste. Take time to craft all your messages with care. Make sure they say what you really intend, and check carefully before you send it off on its way. If you don’t, it could come back to bite you later.
- Take care with your content. Technology has made it very easy to communicate instantly with just about anyone in the world from anywhere you happen to be. It has also made it very simple for a ‘trail’ to be created about your life. Don’t text, email, post or even chat online if you wouldn’t want someone else to read it. You never know where dark forces are lurking.
- Be cautious with your reactions. In writing we don’t have the benefit of facial expressions, intonation and body language, through which much of what we say is interpreted. This type of ‘reading between the lines’ is not possible with the written word. It’s important to choose your words carefully and don’t write in haste, otherwise the wrong tone could cause real offence to your reader and damage your reputation.
Communicating for success requires developing skills that will enable you to say what you mean and mean what you say every time, whether orally or in writing. Time invested in improving your communication skills will always be well spent.