How to communicate with others: The effective communication skills
Developing your communication skills can help all aspects of your life, from your professional life to social gatherings and everything in between. The ability to communicate information accurately, clearly and as intended, is a vital life skill and something that should not be overlooked. It’s never too late to work on your communication skills and by doing so improve your quality of life.
Communication is the act of expressing (or transmitting) ideas, information, knowledge, thoughts, and feelings, as well as understanding what is expressed by others. The communication process involves both sending and receiving messages and can take many forms.
Verbal communication is the spoken word, while nonverbal communication involves actions, facial expressions, body position, and gestures. Communication can occur in one-on-one or group settings, and in written formats (e.g., printed materials) or in visual formats (e.g., pictures, videos, and observational learning). And it involves not only the content of a message but also its emotional impact or the effect the message has on the person receiving it.
In fact, communication experts suggest that between 65% and 93% of the meaning of a message is conveyed through tone of voice and nonverbal behaviors (Johnson 2003). Thus, in addition to becoming aware of the words you use, it is essential that you become aware of your tone and nonverbal behaviors so that you understand the messages you are sending to partners.
Beyond message content, then, communication also involves the emotional impact of the message on the partner. Effective communicators give equal weight to message content and emotional impact on the receiver.
Emotional awareness is a skill that, with patience and practice, can be learned at any time of life. You can develop emotional awareness by learning how to get in touch with difficult emotions and manage uncomfortable feelings, including anger, sadness, fear, disgust, surprise, and joy. When you know how to do this, you can remain in control of your emotions and behavior, even in very challenging situations, and communicate more clearly and effectively.
If you want to be an effective communicator, you need to practice observing people in public places, such as a shopping mall, bus, train, café, restaurant, or even on a television talk show with the sound muted. Observing how others use body language can teach you how to better receive and use nonverbal signals when conversing with others. Notice how people act and react to each other. Try to guess what their relationship is, what they’re talking about, and how each feels about what is being said.
It needs to know what communication really is. Communication is the process of transferring signals/messages between a sender and a receiver through various methods (written words, nonverbal cues, spoken words). It is also the mechanism we use to establish and modify relationships.
Whether you are speaking or listening, looking into the eyes of the person with whom you are conversing can make the interaction more successful. Eye contact conveys interest and encourages your partner to be interested in you in return.
Use gestures. These include gestures with your hands and face. Make your whole body talk. Use smaller gestures for individuals and small groups. The gestures should get larger as the group that one is addressing increases in size.
Show your interest in what’s being said. Nod occasionally, smile at the person, and make sure your posture is open and inviting. Encourage the speaker to continue with small verbal comments like “yes” or “uh huh.
Manifest constructive attitudes and beliefs. The attitudes you bring to communication will have a huge impact on the way you compose yourself and interact with others. Choose to be honest, patient, optimistic, sincere, respectful, and accepting of others. Be sensitive to other people’s feelings, and believe in others’ competence
Avoid seeming judgmental. In order to communicate effectively with someone, you don’t have to like them or agree with their ideas, values, or opinions. However, you do need to set aside your judgment and withhold blame and criticism in order to fully understand a person. The most difficult communication, when successfully executed, can lead to the most unlikely and profound connection with someone.
Speak clearly and don’t mumble. Pronounce your words correctly. People will judge your competency through your vocabulary. Use the right words. If you’re not sure of the meaning of a word, don’t use it.
Effective communication can improve relationships at home, work, and in social situations by deepening your connections to others and improving teamwork, decision-making, and problem solving. It enables you to communicate even negative or difficult messages without creating conflict or destroying trust. Effective communication combines a set of skills including nonverbal communication, attentive listening, the ability to manage stress in the moment, and the capacity to recognize and understand your own emotions and those of the person you’re communicating with.
How to Improve Workplace Communication
The more an employee trusts their employer, the more likely they are to come forward and communicate when they’re experiencing a problem. One great way to lay that foundation for open communication is to establish a rapport with your employee right away.
For example, managers can take new hires out for lunch with their new teammates. Instead of talking about the business, they can prompt everyone to share things about their lives and personal interests. Even though it may be a small gesture, it can function as a great icebreaker by helping to open up the lines of communication between everyone on the team.
According to The Workforce Institute at UKG, nearly two thirds (64%) of employees say trust has a direct impact on their sense of belonging at work. It almost sounds too simple, but it’s true — proving trustworthy to your employees can result in more effective business communication time and time again.
There’s plenty to say on the topic of how to improve trust, but the core of the matter is straightforward. Show a genuine interest in your employees, empathize with their roadblocks or challenges, and follow through on identifying and taking action on the ways you can help. Your employees will be much more likely to communicate issues when they know they can trust you to stay level-headed and work with them to find a solution.
Sometimes, all it takes to open up the lines of communication with your employees is setting up time for them to speak their mind. If there isn’t already time scheduled, your employees may worry they’re burdening you — this may mean a missed opportunity to hear their most recent challenges, concerns, or even triumphs. By setting up a recurring meeting to touch base with your employees, you’ll learn more about what’s going on with your team, which makes it easier for you to iron out any kinks that arise.
For example, having a weekly one-on-one between a manager and their direct report gives the employee a chance to review how work is going overall and discuss big-picture ideas. Adding a monthly one-on-one with the director of the department to grab coffee together or go for a walk can create a more relaxed space to air concerns or share wins without the pressure of asking a superior for a meeting outright.
While it may be clear to a manager why a certain task must be completed, the reasons may not be as apparent to your employees. It’s important to provide enough context when giving out assignments. As you set expectations with employees, it can be helpful to note details like deadlines, examples of similar assignments, and any teams that might be impacted by the final output.
Intentionally giving your employees the opportunity to ask questions is also important. They may hesitate to ask for clarity on something, so opening up the floor enables them to do so. This can also help you build that trust with your employees.
Many people might think the primary goal of communication is getting their own message across, but effective communication is really a two-way street. If you’re only focused on your message and not actively listening to what the other person is saying, it’s difficult to end up on the same page.
To be a more active listener, ask questions for clarification and give the conversation your full attention. Avoid multitasking and thinking about your response before the other person is done talking. Active listening can be challenging at times, but it’s worthwhile.
Did you know that some of the biggest barriers to quality communication in the workplace are missed signals and quickly formed assumptions? If you have concerns about your employee’s performance or behavior, avoid making assumptions about the cause.
Instead, provide a non-confrontational setting to dig into where the problem is stemming from. When you give your employee an opportunity to share, you may learn they’re moving and have had a hard time focusing at work, or that they’re not used to juggling six projects at once and need to de-prioritize something. When your ears are open, so are the lines of communication.
Sometimes, it can be hard to admit that there’s more than one way to do things. But it’s worth learning what your team members are strong at and where they need a little help. Not only will this help you improve the way you communicate with them, but it will also help your team work better together.
When assessing strengths and weaknesses, there’s also the route of personality tests. After taking the tests, the results might help you and your employees understand each other better which, in turn, makes for more effective communication in the workplace.
Do you know your team’s preferred ways to communicate? Maybe some of your employees rarely use Slack, whereas others respond to emails instantly. Learning how your employees communicate , and what tools they prefer to use will only support improved communication.
Why Good Internal Communication is Important
Up to 28 hours a week is spent writing emails, searching for information, and collaborating internally. Effective communication channels not only keep your knowledge workers from wasting nearly the entire workweek spinning in circles, but also help you avoid crushing employee engagement and morale.
Remote work is here. While the COVID-19 pandemic has accelerated this transition, employees increasingly demand more flexible working conditions. Business-specific technology such as instant messaging apps, video conferencing tools, and virtual collaboration software ensure agility in the workplace without sacrificing productivity.
Internal communication is often the main casualty of remote work. In fact, remote workers cite loneliness and disconnect as the biggest drawbacks of working from home. Having an effective internal communication strategy in place helps you avoid a disengaged workforce and paves the way for a true team culture that drives performance.
How to Communicate Better at Work
Healthy communication can only take root by being proactive. Luckily, that’s why you’re here! With these simple steps, you can begin to promote a culture of real connection and collaboration. Better yet, they’re achievable in practically any work environment.
1. Put in Place Clear Communication Channels
Communication at work can suffer for the simple fact that employees don’t know how they should communicate. If the power structure is ambiguous, it may not be clear who reports to who. Other times, employees may not know where to find information. And if you don’t have robust channels to handle diverse flows of information, communication can grind to a halt.
A good communication strategy should account for all of this. Each team, regardless of its size, functionality, or level of formality, must have a clearly defined pecking order with each employee knowing where they fit. This helps to more swiftly resolve issues and makes it easier to communicate and collaborate.
Implement a searchable company wiki with a designated knowledge manager. This reduces the number of unnecessary questions and wild goose chases for information that disrupt workflows.
Finally, consider a team communication tool, such as Brosix. An all-in-one instant messaging software for businesses, Brosix offers rich communication and collaboration features including one-to-one and group chat, voice and video calling, a suite of collaboration tools, and robust administrative control features. It’s designed to foster better communication between coworkers.
2. Respect Others’ Communication Preferences
There are bound to be a variety of preferred communication methods around the office. After all, not only are different generations working together under the same corporate roof, but multiple means of communicating, too.
If you’ve got a company intranet or HR portal with employee profiles, have team members state their preferred communication methods and tools. Get to know your coworkers’ individual preferences and find them there.
3. Examine How You Communicate
Sometimes ineffective communication isn’t down to the other party at all. It’s you. Speak in corporate lingo or open up too much personally and coworkers may tune out or shy away from you altogether. Pack your instant messages and emails with emojis and colleagues may not take you seriously. Is your language appropriate for meetings or conversations with superiors?
How you communicate is a reflection of your professionalism. If you’re struggling to get your message across, examine your own communication style and preferences. Having a better grasp of how you communicate can help you rectify any weak points, as well as assert yourself and your message more effectively.
4. Keep Written Communication Simple and Direct
Keep written communication short and sweet. There isn’t enough time in the day to dig through paragraphs-long emails. Overly complex explanations and recommendations from the get-go can confuse. Instead, assume the recipient will either understand everything directly or respond with their own questions; then you can clarify or elaborate as necessary. Also, avoid acronyms and overly technical jargon as they slow down the process. If you have to go deep into detail, use subheadings, bullet points, and bold fonts to highlight key takeaways.
5. Build Meaningful, Professional Relationships
Finding ways to interact on a more personal level opens the door for meaningful communication. So devote some time to getting to know your coworkers. After all, you’re already spending most of the week with these people!
Simple team-building activities can help, and they don’t have to be rigorously planned. Sharing photos, dedicating a channel for casual conversation, having a virtual coffee, or playing virtual quiz games can be carried out on channels which you probably already make use of, such as instant messaging, group chats, and video calling.
This allows coworkers to share personal experiences and build professional relationships fueled by trust and mutual respect. It even makes it possible for employees to build sincere camaraderie with team leaders and supervisors, smoothing the workflow of your business.
6. Listen Attentively
Of all the telltale signs that communication could be better, listening flies under the radar. That’s because most of us are actually bad listeners, yet we don’t even know it. Multi-tasking while someone’s talking to you, already planning your response, or interrupting, are all indications that your listening skills could use some work.