Let’s Talk! Effective Communication Skills
by Veronika | Dec 5, 2023
Are you a good communicator? Do you wonder if you could be better?
Good communicators can both listen and talk. They can stay present, patient, and engaged in the conversation. Being a good communicator requires you to be able to remain connected to yourself and to the other person – it is not an either/or scenario.
In my work within organisations and couples in therapy, communication skills are usually most sought after. They are essential for good long term relationships and teams alike. They make the difference between connected, agile teams, families, and couples, and those who fail to collaborate, stay aligned, and achieve common goals.
The good news is that improving communication skills is easier than you might imagine. Here are some basic principles for the workplace worth following in order to communicate better. You can adapt them for your personal conversations.
1. Active Listening
Arguably the bedrock of effective communication, active listening demands full engagement with the speaker. It means to suspend the self-talk in your own head to pay attention to what is said both through language in words and conveyed through non-verbal communication in tone, feelings, and body language.
Imagine a scenario where a team member is detailing a project update that you feel is long overdue. Instead of preparing your response while they are talking, focus on understanding their key points and emotions. Before leaping into your own perspective, let them know that you have understood their perspective.
For example, you could respond with, “I recognise the pressure you were under to deliver this project and appreciate your insights on this aspect of it. This clarifies our direction”. Having felt heard, your listener will now be more open to listening to your perspective.
2. Clear Articulation
Clarity is crucial in communication. Picture yourself explaining a complex idea to a team member. Rather than using convoluted language, keep it simple and break down the concept without being patronising. “Okay, let me clarify this point further: essentially, our goal is to streamline the process, ensuring efficiency across all phases”.
3. Non-Verbal Communication
Non-verbal cues are potent communicators. It is estimated that approximately 90% of our language is non-verbal. Just think about your body language, facial expression, tone and pace of voice, eye contact, hand gestures… Non-verbal cues are picked up both consciously and unconsciously.
For example, when spoken words don’t align with non-verbal communication we may feel confused. Your body gives you away just as much as it can help you. For example, when you feel down you might hunch your back. Also, when you hunch your back you might feel more down. When you stand up tall and pull your shoulders back, there is a good likelihood that you will feel more uplifted and confident.
So envisage giving a presentation where you demonstrate confidence in an open body language that aligns with your spoken words. This synergy reinforces your message. A firm handshake, maintained eye contact, and a welcoming smile all contribute to a positive non-verbal communication experience.
4. Empathy in Communication
Empathy makes us feel connected as human beings. Whether in the workplace or in personal relationships, empathy is never amiss and does not take up much time. Suppose a peer is going through a tough time. You can express empathy simply by saying, “It sounds like this is a really challenging situation for you.” This response not only acknowledges their emotions but also deepens your connection.
Constructive feedback fuels growth. Learning to give and receive feedback in a non-judgmental, productive way is an essential skill. It starts with the understanding that feedback is not meant to be a character assassination or negative criticism.
Consider a team member challenging your approach offering controversial suggestions on a project. Acknowledge their input by saying, “I appreciate your perspective. Let’s think together about how we could integrate these aspects to enhance the project’s overall effectiveness.” This response demonstrates receptiveness to constructive feedback.
6. Adaptability and Cultural Sensitivity
Different cultures have different preferences in communications styles. Being able to adapt your communication style is essential in diverse environments.
Envisage a scenario where you are discussing a project with a multicultural team. Use questions rather than assumptions to open a conversation that enables members to present different views. “Let’s consider various perspectives on this matter. How does this align with you? What would need to change for you to get behind this?”
7. Conflict Resolution Skills
Conflict is a natural part of collaboration. Picture a disagreement in a meeting. Stay calm and say, “I understand there are differing opinions. Let’s find common ground that benefits the entire team.” This approach demonstrates effective conflict resolution, fostering a positive team dynamic.
Empower your journey toward success in personal and professional relationships by integrating these tangible communication strategies into your daily interactions to build stronger connections, foster collaboration, and confidently navigate the diverse landscapes of communication. Remember, your words shape the world around you, and effective communication is the key to unlocking your full potential.
By taking action, you create a workplace culture and personal relationships that value and prioritise the mental and physical health of individuals leading to improved communication, enhanced collaboration, and greater overall well-being for everyone involved.