Eight Ways to Improve Your Communication Skills
The quality of your results are often based on the quality of your communication skills.
To do well in life, you need to communicate well and maintain good relationships with others. At work, you need good relationships with your customers, good relationships with your colleagues, and good relationships with your suppliers. And at home, you need a good relationship with your partner and you want good relationships with your kids.
In order to gain excellent relationships you need to develop excellent communication skills.
The term communication skills is very broad; it subsumes many subsets. The main subsets of communication are:
- The ability to communicate clearly.
- The ability to communicate logically.
- The ability to communicate emotions.
- Good body language.
- Good voice tones.
- The ability to ask the correct questions.
- The ability to listen well.
- The ability to remember exactly what was said.
Let us make a note on each set.
1. The ability to communicate clearly
The first communication ability is to clearly express your exact meaning; as opposed to expressing your meaning in a vague, unclear and ambiguous manner. You can gain clarity of expression by being picky about your choice of words. To be clear - use specific terms.
For example, rather than say, "I'm going to London, tomorrow." You could say, "Tomorrow morning, I'm driving to Wembley".
Rather than say, "When you come to the meeting, please make sure that you are appropriately dressed", you could say, "When you come to the meeting, would you please, wear business attire; suit and tie: not jeans and tee shirt."
The most common communication error is to communicate a message using ambiguous terms; in terms that could be interpreted in more than one way. Ambiguity causes error, confusion, misunderstanding, and therefore, conflict. So, please make your instructions as clearly worded, as you possibly can.
2. The ability to communicate logically
It is important that everything you say has a logic to it. If your messages are not logical, then there is no reason to take it seriously. And if your messages are illogical, then your message will be rejected as nonsensical.
Logical communication means: your communication is structured, it is based upon facts, it is systematic, and it is coherent. Illogical communication is the opposite: Illogical communication would be perceived as unstructured, based upon arbitrary opinion, unsystematic and incoherent.
Impose some order on any chaotic thinking and make your message logical.
3. The ability to communicate your emotions
Not only do you want to communicate your ideas in a logical way, you want also to be able to express yourself emotionally. There are three motivating emotions.
- You can motivate people by using emotions of optimism and desire for a better future.
- You can motivate people by using emotions of fear or worry for a bad future.
- You can motivate people by using emotion of anger or depression over a bad past.
Please note that these three methods of creating emotions all work well to motivate people, but only the first one is of a positive nature.
The other two are negative motivators. You can use them, but please don't overuse them. Don't overuse the negative emotions, use the positive emotions instead, as your main motivators.
4. The ability to project good body language
In addition to your speech you have to consider your body language. Body language is itself broken into subsets:
- Your body posture.
- Your dress code.
- How you touch people (handshakes, etc).
- Arm gestures (pointing your finger, waving your arms around).
- Eye contact.
- Facial expression (whether you smile or not).
- Orientation (the angle at which you stand or sit relative to the other).
- Proximity (how far away you are from the other person).
You need to consider all the above elements. Do you need to make any improvements in any of the elements of your body language?
5. The ability to project good voice tones
Your voice tones make a difference to how you are perceived. Think of the actor, Morgan Freeman. He makes a great living, partly on the fact that he has developed a wonderful tone to his voice. He has, what some people call, gravitas.
A good speaking voice has the qualities of:
- Deeper tones (deep voices have authority).
- Slower delivery (a slower delivery is more considered).
- Slightly louder delivery (a slightly louder delivery is more confident).
6. The ability to ask the correct questions
It is important to ask the right questions. Here are six questions that you could learn and use them on your customers, colleagues, boss or kids.
- What is the goal?
- What is the plan that will allow us to achieve the goal?
- What is the first thing to do?
- In relation to the goal, what is currently going well?
- In relation to the goal, what is currently, not going well?
- In relation to what is not going well, what changes do you think we need to make to our current plan, to make things better?
It is this kind of question that will get people moving towards their goals.
Here are a four more fantastic questions that I use, most days.
- When you say, X, what do you mean, specifically? Example: When you say (he was very professional), what do mean specifically?
- How do you know that is true?
- For what purpose?
- What do you think caused it?
If you ask good questions, then you'll learn more.
7. The ability to listen well
Communication is not only about transmitting your message, it is also about receiving their message correctly. Listening is tiring work. You need to keep your mind on-the-job. It is easy to let your mind drift off and not listen to the message properly. For example, have you ever been introduced to someone, who gave you their name? Then two minutes later you realised that you did not remember the name.
It is important to pay attention. Don't let your mind be distracted. Focus your mind on their message.
The best way to do that is to consciously try to visualise their message. The act of visualising is the best way to focus your mind and will help you to remember what they said.
8. The ability to remember what was said
You need to remember what they said; what you said, and what was agreed. If you cannot remember the communication, then what was the point in communicating in the first place?
As I mentioned above, the best way to memorise is to visualise, as best you can, what you hear. For example, this morning I met a man called Nick. As I introduced myself, he held out his hand to shake mine, I noticed that he had a tattoo on his forearm. I said to myself, (in my head, not out loud) "I bet he NICKed that tattoo."
We talked for about ten minutes and at the end, Nick shook my hand and said goodbye. I saw the tattoo on his forearm and I said, "Nice to meet you, Nick."
Nick said, "You too, er, mate!" I think he had forgotten my name.
For your memory's sake: here are the eight sets again. Good communication implies:
- Clarity of expression.
- Sound Logic.
- Positive Emotions.
- Correct Body language.
- Attractive Voice tones.
- Good Questions.
- Attentive Listening.
- Excellent Memory.