In my last article, I identified the importance of effective communication in the workplace. Today’s article is a follow-up that offers several suggestions meant to help individuals improve these skills. Some tips may be more or less relevant to the situations that are specific to an individual’s role. As I mentioned in my previous article,l everyone should be striving to improve in this area and I think these tips can help.
7 Tips For Improving Your Communications Skills at Work
1) Join an organization that helps develop public speaking skills–organizations such as Toastmasters International can be a safe place where various communication skills can be practiced. These organizations are very inexpensive and are filled with people who understand the challenges faced in workplace communication.
2) Be prepared for conversations when possible–very few things are more unnerving than stepping in front of a group and suddenly realizing the lack of preparation. This is especially true for those who don’t regularly present to an audience. If this is your first time in this context or with a group of this size, be over-prepared. Over preparation leads to a healthy confidence.
3) Realize that fear isn’t unique to you–many struggle with the fear of public speaking, but many would argue this is normal. My son is an avid guitarist and dreams of playing on a big stage someday. He is currently working with a guitarist in Nashville, TN that travels the world performing in front of large audiences. My son, having some experience with stage fright, asked this professional guitarist how to deal with it. The response my son received is that this is normal and something his mentor feels every time he goes on stage. While the performance delivered by a guitarist is different from that of a speaker, the fear is the same. I think it is helpful to understand that others experience this fear and that it often lessens as the conversation or presentation progresses.
4) Listen more than you talk–This suggestion is specific to two-way conversational situations. I like to think about it this way. We each have two ears and one mouth. Let’s just look at that as a subliminal message from a higher power that’s telling us to listen twice as much as we talk. I can’t tell you how often I hear one question asked, and another question answered. As individuals, we have a tendency to think about what we are about to say rather than listening to what the other person is telling us. Realizing this tendency and making a conscious decision to listen will lead to more effective communications.
5) Push yourself beyond your comfort zone–Over time, we tend to become comfortable in our own environments. However, there is a whole world out there. Our knowledge and ideas are likely valuable beyond the four walls of our offices and conference rooms. By pushing forward, we realize that the development of our communication skills is nothing more than a process. With each step along the way, we are sharpening one important tool in the career tool belt.
6) Practice makes perfect [er at least makes you better]–When preparing for an important conversation or presentation, practice is a good thing. Going through it audibly is very important. Sometimes written language sounds much different when it is read aloud. While practicing, it is a good idea to consolidate any written version to nothing more than notes. Practicing in front of a mirror, presenting to a coworker, and recording yourself are all good ways to assess the effectiveness of your delivery.
7) Be bold, but not arrogant–A meek or timid presenter rarely holds their audience’s attention. Being bold shows confidence and is a step toward the audience recognizing your expertise. This boldness should be tempered in a way that it doesn’t come off as arrogance. Be careful not to make your boldness about yourself, but about the topic.
As I mentioned in my previous article, our jobs are more than just about technology. A key soft skill that we need to develop is the ability to communicate effectively. Making that conscious decision to communicate better and exercising those skills are important steps in a fulfilling career. Even though we all love our tech, this ability to communicate effectively helps us establish relevance with the business leaders and peers. Ultimately this allows us to more efficiently work through the process of integrating technology into business systems.
How do you feel about communication in your workplace or places you’ve worked in the past? Do you have other tips that you find helpful in regards to efficient and effective communication in the workplace? If so, share your experiences and suggesting by commenting below.