By Tzatzil LeMair
Determine both how and what to communicate.
“Communication – the personal connection – is the key to personal and career success.”
Paul J. Meyer, Author and Pioneer of the Self-Improvement Industry
Clear communication is the foundation of all relationships. Therefore, mastering effective communication skills is key to fostering successful relationships in business, education, as well as in social and personal circles. What we communicate, and, just as importantly, how, can be the difference between success and failure.
According to a 2016 survey by the National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE), verbal communication skills are ranked first among the “must have” skills and qualities sought in job applicants. Luckily, communication is a skill set that we can, and should, continue to develop and hone throughout our careers.
Here are five essential communication skills you should be practicing every day:
1. Express ideas clearly – Highly successful people understand the importance of effective communication as a crucial tool to express themselves and convey their ideas clearly and persuasively. Clear communication avoids misunderstandings and unnecessary conflict, as well as possible mistrust. The foundation of clear communication is forethought: think before you speak. Take a moment to consider your target audience, organize your thoughts in a logical order and assertively deliver your message in a timely manner.
2. Develop empathy – When communicating with others, it is important to first consider your audience. Develop an understanding of what is important to them and what their needs are. This is shaped by their background, values, experience and current situation, plus their priorities and immediate needs. A lack of empathy may make you come across as out-of-touch, condescending or worse. Invest in understanding your audience, and you will craft a message that will truly resonate with them.
3. Pay attention to social cues – During fluid, informal conversations it is essential to develop self-awareness and remember to pay attention to social cues. The ability to read a room full of people talking and listening to one another by observing their body language and following the conversation will ensure that when you speak, your message will be received, understood and appreciated by others. Self-awareness starts with your own body language and what it says about you. Is your posture cheerful? Are your expressions welcoming? Are you making eye contact and smiling? Once engaged in a conversation it is best to actively aim to be a good listener. Your audience will appreciate it, and they will further open up to you.
4. Become a better listener – With today’s increased use of mobile technology, people are often distracted by their devices while at the same time attempting to interact with others in person. Multitasking makes it impossible to listen attentively and respond appropriately, and it may be interpreted as a lack of interest. Learning to become an active listener takes practice and patience. Active listening means being fully engaged and present in the conversation. Maintaining eye contact, asking follow-up questions, repeating what was said and giving confirmatory physical signals like nodding show that you are engaged and receptive, and it encourages the person speaking to be more open and honest towards you.
5. Become a better writer – Strong writing skills are critical for success in all industries, particularly now that so much social and professional communication is done in writing: not only formal correspondence and memos but also email, texting and social media. It is important to choose the correct tone and degree of formality when writing. Aim to be both an effective and efficient writer. You’ll be effective by making your message crystal clear and tailoring it at the right audience, and you’ll be efficient by making it brief and to the point. Last, but not least, always meticulously proofread your writing and use a spell-checking tool before submitting or sending.
Honing these five invaluable communication skills will give you a significant edge in many aspects of your life: from career advancement to your personal relationships.
If you are ready to start working on these skills, check out the courses we have available in our communication portfolio, or get in touch with an Enrollment and Success Coordinator at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Tzatzil LeMair is the account director of Sensis TX. A graduate of the Boston University Questrom School of Business, she is an experienced advertising executive and leader in cross-cultural, multi-channel marketing.
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