It is no secret that entrepreneurs and employers value communication skills. Communication is the foundation for success in many areas of life. From careers to personal relationships it is critical that we communicate effectively with those around us. Without communication relationships break down. This can often lead to setbacks when trying to reach our goals.

Many people struggle with communication and feel like they are simply not good communicators. Others have an overconfidence in their ability to communicate with others and may be missing important aspects of communication. No matter where you stand on the spectrum of communication there is always room to improve our communication skills. This article will give you tips on how you can improve your communication skills both inside and outside the workplace.

Understand Non-Verbal Communication

Have you ever been told that body language and tone of voice speaks louder than the words you use? This belief is based on a 1971 study by Professor Albert Mehrabian. Though Mehrabian’s claims have been disputed you can likely think of a time when you understood how a person was feeling without them saying anything at all. It is sometimes obvious when a person is upset but often non-verbal cues get missed.

An understanding of nonverbal communication is critical for good communication. This applies to both ourselves and our audience. Pay attention to cues such as body language when speaking to someone.

What to look for;

  • Pay attention to how a person is presenting their body, are they standoffish, slouched or presenting as warm and engaged in conversation.
  • Listen to other’s tone of voice. Understand that there may be a disconnect between what is being said and how it is being said.

What to do;

  • Be mindful of how you are presenting yourself, try not to cross your arms or fidget when someone is speaking to you.
  • Consider your tone and try to align how you feel with the language you are using. Don’t make others guess if you really mean what you are saying.
  • Be confident when speaking, learn how to boost confidence in public speaking and apply it to your everyday life too.

Be an Active Listener

Some may be surprised to know that listening is just as, if not more, important than speaking when communicating. Often times the best thing we can do to improve our communication skills is to improve our listening skills. People will value your attentiveness when speaking to them. But you will also gain the benefit of truly understanding what someone else has to say.

There are many things you can do to show someone that you are actively listening to what they are saying. Use these tips the next time you need to listen to someone, and you will likely see an immediate change in your listening abilities

  • Paraphrase – after listening to what someone has to say, repeat it to them in your own words. Show them that you have listened and that you understand what they have told you.
  • Use eye contact – look at someone when they are speaking with you. Show them you value their time and you care about what they are saying.
  • Use affirmations – acknowledge that someone is talking to you. Thank them or say I understand.
  • Show them you care – use your body to show that you are engaged in the conversation. Stay off your phone or other devices. Give them your full attention.

Pay Attention to Your Language

Though non-verbal communication skills are critical we still need to be mindful of what we are saying. Consider that your language needs to be clear and concise when speaking to others. If you are in a very technical industry you may have to consider your language when speaking to someone without industry knowledge. Always speak in a manner that is accessible to those around you. Keeping it simple and clear is often best in communication.

  • Avoid acronyms
  • Be respectful
  • Keep it simple
  • Use common language

What about electronic communication?

There is no denying that much of the communication we do takes place through electronic sources. Online communication such as email or text messaging is quick and helpful. But many complain that they feel like their message doesn’t always get across when using electronic communication. This is often due to coming across the wrong way or having your tone being misunderstood.

Electronic communication does not allow us to present the non-verbal signals that are so important in communication. A simple “ok” could be interpreted as cheerful or angry. A use of capital letters can be interpreted as yelling or excitement.

The readers mood is also a barrier to communication. Sometimes the reader’s mood will be projected onto your message and they may read more into what you have said than you meant. For this reason, email communication can be frustrating to both the sender and the receiver.

Here are a few simple tips to help you be better understood when writing emails or using text messages;

  • Use punctuation
  • Avoid using all caps
  • Use emojis when appropriate
  • Keep language simple

Ensure Communication Has Actually Happened

One of the biggest barriers to communication is the assumption that communication has happened. Our tips above should help you better understand others. But how can you be sure that they have understood you? Always ask questions and paraphrase others to ensure you are both on the same page.

At the end of the day you are responsible for communication. You cannot rely on others to simply understand what you mean. Put the effort in and you are sure to find yourself building stronger relationships while effecting better communication.

communication skills

What If I Need Help?

If you feel like communication is a struggle, then it may be a good idea to reach out to a life coach. It can be hard to understand how to find a good life coach. But a good coach can listen to you and help you find your strengths and weaknesses. Communication is a learned skill than can be built upon and a good life coach can help you do it.