Do you get sweaty palms and weak knees when presenting your thoughts, even in small group settings? Do you feel that despite the great content you deliver, the audience just doesn’t get the message? Do you find it difficult to structure the delivery of your thoughts?
Effective communication plays a big role in our personal and professional lives. It enables us to build relationships, resolve conflicts, and achieve our goals. However, developing strong communications skills can be challenging, as it often requires us to step out of our comfort zone and confront difficult situations or unfamiliar communication styles. It can be especially challenging in virtual situations, where it's difficult to "read the room" and feed off its energy -- or lack thereof.
So, rather than throwing up your hands and feeling defeated, take control. Here are seven effective ways I’ve found (from experience!) for improving communication skills, whether you’re having a conversation in a virtual team meeting or leading a discussion in a room full of colleagues.
7 Effective Ways to Improve Your Communication Skills
1. Get comfortable being uncomfortable
Improving your communication skills often requires you to confront situations that make you feel uncomfortable or vulnerable. For example, you may need to give a presentation to a large group, have a difficult conversation with a colleague, or seek feedback from a supervisor. It's important to remember that feeling uncomfortable is a natural part of the learning and growth process. By embracing these challenges, you can become a more confident and effective communicator. Tell yourself it’s okay and work through your fears.
2. It's not about you
Effective communication isn’t about imposing your own views or agendas on others, but rather about understanding and respecting the perspectives of others. This means listening actively, asking questions, and being open to feedback. By focusing on the needs and concerns of the other person, you can build stronger relationships and create a more positive and productive communication environment.
3. You cannot NOT communicate
Even when you're not speaking, you're still communicating through your body language, facial expressions, and other nonverbal cues. It's important to be aware of the messages you're sending through these channels and to use them to your advantage. For example, maintaining eye contact and using open body language can help you appear more confident and engaging, while crossing your arms or avoiding eye contact can make you seem insecure, defensive, or anxious.
4. Structure -- what, so what, and now what
A clear and logical structure can help you communicate your ideas more effectively. A common approach is to start by:
- Stating the main point -- the "what" -- you want to communicate.
- Followed by the supporting evidence or the "so what."
- End with a conclusion or the "now what."
This helps the listener understand the context and significance of your message and this format can make it more engaging and persuasive.
Paraphrasing is the act of restating someone else's words or ideas in your own words. It's a valuable communication skill because it helps you ensure that you’ve correctly understood what the other person is saying, and it can also help you clarify any misunderstandings. By paraphrasing, you can demonstrate that you’re actively listening and that you value the other person's perspective.
It's important to take time to reflect on your own communication style and identify areas for improvement. This might involve asking others for feedback, observing how you communicate in different situations, or considering how you might approach a communication challenge differently in the future. By engaging in self-reflection, you can become more self-aware and better able to adjust your communication style to meet the needs of the situation.
7. Be curious
Asking questions and seeking to understand others' perspectives can help you build stronger relationships and improve your communication skills. By showing genuine curiosity and interest in what others have to say, you can create a more open and collaborative communication environment and foster deeper understanding and connection.
Developing an effective communication style using these seven tips takes time and practice, but the payoff is big. The better you and your teams communicate, the more everyone will thrive.