Ask Eclipse: How Can I Improve My Communication Skills?
Regardless of the position or industry you work in, there’s one skill that continues to play a huge role in the success of managers and employees alike: communication.
This in-demand interpersonal skill is “core to how people interact, and therefore it’s core to how people do business effectively,” says Dan Brodnitz, the head of content strategy for LinkedIn Learning. In fact, a recent report by LinkedIn found that the ability to effectively communicate (amongst others) was listed in 83% of job postings on LinkedIn. Below, we cover a couple ways you can build on your current communication skills.
Become a better listener One of the best ways to illustrate your communication skills to your peers is by being a good listener. Simply hearing someone talk and responding back to them is not enough. By practicing active listening – “where you make a conscious effort to hear not only the words that another person is saying but, more importantly, the complete message being communicated” – you can better understand the people around you. There are several ways show that you’re actively listening, such as:
Body language, like nodding your head, smiling, or using verbal comments to encourage the speaker. This is key particularly for remote teams who have a lot of video conferences.
Pay attention by removing distractions like your phone or email. It can be challenging to move your focus away from your daily tasks, but eye contact and your complete attention can go a long way.
Respond appropriately by providing feedback, paraphrasing their points, and asking questions when applicable.
Practice public speaking At the mention of public speaking, most people immediately think of standing at a podium, giving prepared speeches to an audience, but that’s not always the case. Public speaking can include phone/video calls or conferences, presentations, or even talking over ideas with your boss. If you feel more confident about what you’re saying, you’ll have an easier time articulating your thoughts and feelings. If you’ve got a meeting or presentation coming up, practice what you’re going to say in the mirror, or run it by a friend.
Be thorough Teams that often communicate via email should remember to be thorough in their messaging – particularly if you’re remote and rely on this communication style often. When composing an email, think of the 5 W’s: who, what, when, where, why (and some people include how, although it doesn’t start with a W) to ensure you include the vital information and help minimize unnecessary back and forth conversation.
Grow your professional relationships Often people will have difficulty communicating because they don’t feel fully comfortable with who they’re talking to. Consider a new employee working on a remote team; they haven’t physically met their colleagues, and likely have only shared emails or phone conversations. Without this personal connection, relationships (professional or not) can feel cold and formal. As a manager, try hosting virtual events, like happy hours or trivia nights, where people can get together, relax, and have fun.
Make sure everyone’s on the same page There are multiple ways that employees interact with each other that can differ from job to job. In order to create an effective communication plan, it’s crucial to make sure that everyone is on the same page when it comes to communicating and what software or platform is being used.
Because video conferencing has become so popular this year, it’s also necessary to monitor employees' comfort and skill level when working with this type of software. Consider creating training documents or providing helpful resources so no one feels left out during conversations.
Understand your own communication style One part of effectively communicating is understanding the other persons style in order to better interact with them. The second part is understanding your own –– without having that insight, it’ll be harder to know what you need from coworkers, bosses, and friends. When you have a notably good or bad conversation, take a moment to analyze the aspects of it and what worked for you and what didn’t. As you continue to practice this exercise, you’ll get a better idea of your communication style.
Don’t forget the little things There are so many small ways to improve communication that not only help yourself but help others as well. Maybe it’s by saying ‘good morning’ on a video call before diving into work, or by using an out of office message to convey your absence. Think about how you want to be treated and communicated with, and then put that into practice with yourself.
Having good verbal and written communication skills are undoubtedly necessary for understanding the people around you. But more than that, it’s the best way to form lasting connections whether they be professional or personal. Remember the above tips as you’re considering your own communication style and how it can be improved.