Five Quick Tips to Improve Your Communication Skills At Work
by Dr. Vivian W. Lee
Many people have read the book, How to Win Friends and Influence People. However, not many know how to apply the secrets in real life. Perhaps the secret of all secrets is simply mastering your communication skills. Your communication skills will determine your level of success in your next project, venture or business deal.
Communication has two elements. There is verbal communication and non-verbal communication. Verbal communication (the use of words and tone of voice) directs only 10% to 20% of your conversations with others. That means your non-verbal communication (your facial expression, your body gesture and your energy projection) determines the remaining 80% to 90% of your overall communication experience. When you master your communication skills, you will be able to resolve conflicts, seek solutions, build lasting trust and gain mutual respect. When you communicate clearly and confidently, you minimize cross-cultural misunderstandings and maximize performance. Here are five quick tips to help you master verbal and non-verbal communication skills.
1. Focus on your true intention
Whether you are speaking to someone over the phone or in person, you will need to focus on your true intention. What does that mean? Well, are you trying to help that person? Are you trying to hurt that person? Are you trying to trick that person? Since most of our communication is directed by non-verbal actions, others can “feel” you in the conversation.
For example, if you are speaking to someone over the phone, you will need to speak slowly with organized thoughts. When you speak a little slower, you will allow time for the other party to process your words and ideas through your guided journey. Your tone of voice will carry the “emotion” through the phone so your listener or receiver will hear you (or judge you) by how he or she feels. If you are speaking to that person face-to-face, you will need to provide eye contact, acknowledge their presence and show enthusiasm. Be sincere, open and honest in any business meeting or negotiation. Make your clients or partners feel important and worthy.
2. Use simple words and phrases
When you can use a simple and easy-to-understand word, use it. When you are using lots of jargon, slang or complex languages, you will just confuse your audience. Say only what you mean and mean only what you say. If you are not sure your intended message was received by the listener, reconfirm. Most people are “visual” learners (about 65% of population) who prefer images and reading texts. Some are “auditory” learners (about 15% of population) who prefer music and listening to sounds. That means it will really help to draw out your idea on a piece of paper for most of your target audience so that your audience can follow any complex idea in simple terms.
3. Develop self-awareness and encourage interaction
One of the biggest challenges in communication is probably developing self-awareness. Without it, there might be miscommunication, confusing your audience and not understanding why. With good self-awareness, you will be able to adjust your communication style correctly and quickly for each situation. Whether you are in a business meeting or a sales call, you have to “consciously” engage your target audience. With good self-awareness, you will know what you say and how you say your message clearly. Speak with confidence and clarity. Meditate and organize your thoughts. Be articulate on all the key points. Encourage your audience to participate in the conversation by asking specific questions.
4. Communicate in positive and constructive ways
No one likes to start a conversation in a negative way. Do your best to communicate messages in positive and constructive ways. For example, if you are in a performance review, address all the weaknesses as new opportunities to learn and grow for self-improvement. If you are in a team meeting, lead the discussion with a “structure,” but at the same time guide the conversation with “flexibility.” It’s the simple Yin and Yang idea of balancing the opposites.
Effective communication determines success or failure. When team members communicate with open minds, they build trust and harmony in the working environment. These elements work to create a good supportive business culture.
5. Speak with respect
If people can only remember one thing from your conversation, they will only remember how they feel about it. You will need to address the most basic human emotion needs by making them feel comfortable, valued and respected. For instance, if you are a boss or an executive, you want to speak in a sincere tone of voice. The more authority you have, the more sincere you will need to speak. That’s the only way to gain trust and credibility. On the other hand, if you are an employee, you want to speak to both your supervisors and co-workers based on an open and honest ground. That’s the only way to seek solutions for every problem with mutual understanding.
When you have learned to communicate effectively, verbally and non-verbally, you will gain your own fans, followers and supporters in your business and social circles.