Effective communication. You know it’s necessary in both your personal and your professional life. But, for many people, successfully and concisely getting a point across doesn’t exactly come naturally.
There are filler words and fidgety movements. There are nonverbal cues and intonation mistakes. And, on top of all of that, you also need to worry about proper word choice to ensure you’re making yourself as clear as possible.
So, it’s really no wonder that even the most confident people among us can struggle with presenting themselves as poised, polished, and professional when communicating in the workplace. Yes, communication might be basic, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy.
This is where today’s “Dear Kat” question comes into play:
“Dear Kat, I’ve been working hard to foster a positive professional reputation for myself. But, I feel like my communication skills—whether in the office, at a meeting, during a networking event, or any other professional function—could use some improvement. Do you have any tips for how I could instantly make myself a better communicator?”
This is a great question! And, pat yourself on the back for wanting to grab the reins and make progress in this area.
First things first, it’s important to remember that—since communicating is something you’ve been doing essentially your whole life—it’s going to be difficult for you to drastically improve things overnight. As with any other skill, it’ll involve an investment in energy and plenty of conscious thought to start undoing those habits you’ve formed over years of speaking.
But, with that said, there are a few simple things you can implement right away that are sure to take your communication skills up a notch.
1. Make Eye Contact
Can you picture a recent conversation when you were talking with someone, yet they couldn’t manage to tear their eyeballs away from their phone and pay attention to you? It’s frustrating, isn’t it?
In today’s digital-obsessed society, we all seem to have forgotten how to actually look at one another when we’re talking. But, unfortunately, this half hearted approach to communicating makes your conversational partner feel as if you’re never completely engaged in the discussion.
So, put down your phone or step away from your computer and actually maintain some direct eye contact with whoever you’re speaking with. It’s a seemingly small change, but you’ll be surprised by how big of an impact it can have.
2. Actually Listen
In a similar vein, it’s important for you to remember that communication doesn’t just refer to what you’re saying—it also involves listening. In fact, great communicators know that they should plan to listen even more than they speak.
It’s all too easy to confuse hearing with listening. However, if you’re actively involved in the conversation, that entails much more than simply waiting for your turn to speak up again.
Don’t just hear people—actually listen to them. That alone will lead to much better relationships and more productive conversations.
3. Remember to Breathe
When you’re nervous, your pulse quickens. And, unfortunately, the speed of your voice tends to go right along with it. Before you even realize what’s happening, you’re speeding through your entire spiel like someone’s holding down a “fast forward” button on your back.
That not only makes you look anxious, but it also means you’re difficult to listen to. So, when preparing to speak—whether it’s a formal presentation or voicing your opinion in a meeting—make a concerted effort to be conscious of your breathing patterns.
Being aware of when you need to pause to take a breath (trust me, breathing is important!) will help you to slow down your speech pattern in a way that feels a little more natural and comfortable to you.
4. Pay Attention to the Ends of Your Sentences
Women in particular have the tendency to raise the pitch of their voice at the end of their sentences. This subconscious habit makes it sound like you’re asking a question—even if you’re making a firm statement.
Needless to say, this is something you need to pay attention to when communicating. It’ll feel a little strange at first—and, honestly, you’re bound to slip up every now and then. But, give it your best shot.
After all, sounding like you’re asking for approval and permission when you’re really just sharing a fact undermines that confidence you’ve worked so hard to achieve in the workplace.
Those quick tips are bound to help you start taking steps in the right direction with your communication. But, remember, dramatically improving your skills is a commitment—there really aren’t any quick fixes or magic pills (I’ll let you know if I find any!).
So, dedicate yourself to the process and choose one small thing you can improve each week. Before you know it, you’ll be a master of strong communication.
Do you have any tips you use to help step up your communication game? Let me know!