Do you pride yourself on being a self-described “great communicator”? The dirty little secret is that many of us who think we are brilliant communicators actually have a lot of work to do before claiming that mantle. Simply being able to say something without fear or hesitation doesn’t mean we know how to truly “communicate.” Great communication goes beyond the actual act of speaking or writing, and moves forward into making connections with those who communicate with us. Effective communication is about establishing two-way communication, learning how to talk, encouraging questions, becoming an active listener, reading body language and remembering to follow up.
Establish Two-Way, Not One-Way Communication
One of the popular elements of business organizational theory is the idea of one-way versus two-way communication. It seems that many people, once they become a leader or head of a project or organization, throw away the idea of a two-way communication system. They think that because they’re in charge, “what they say goes.” Communication doesn’t just mean the mere act of speaking to another person, because communication also involves you actively listening to the other individual. You need to see how they’re reacting to you and what you’re saying, as well as what they’re saying for themselves, and how they’re saying it; all of these provide clues about how your communication partner is receiving your message. You should always try to focus on what they’re saying, even if you get tempted to multitask.
Learn How to Talk
Can you talk? Sure, you know how to speak a language, but can you really talk? What are you saying? If you’re just speaking memorized messages, you probably aren’t hitting your target goal with your team. Being a good communicator means that you need to anticipate and adjust your message as it’s being received. You should look at your audience and see if they’re engaged, if they’re listening, and if they’re responding to you. These clues will help guide your communication as it is happening. In some cases, you want to alter your communication to keep people engaged. In some circumstances, you want your audience to be asking questions and adding their own input. That’s the beginning of a truly good conversation.
Keep it Clean and Encourage Questions
Your communication needs to be clean. Clean doesn’t mean sanitized, but instead means that you will speak without buzzwords and jargon. Sometimes it’s better to just use simple words. Unlike the written word, when you speak aloud you want to say what you mean without clutter. Remember the saying “Less is more!” and just talk. Think for a moment about how to exchange ideas through conversation. Do you invite questions? Do you ask questions to others? A great communicator listens and responds.
Be an Active Listener
Research indicates that most people only remember only about 20 to 40 percent of what they hear. Listening is as much a skill as speaking; in fact, it’s impossible to be a good communicator without it. So how can you improve your listening skills? First, start by giving the other person your full attention. Make sure you look them in the eyes. If you feel yourself becoming distracted, repeat what they are saying in your mind. Sometimes it’s even appropriate to speak words aloud, just to let them know you hear them.
Acknowledge the other person by nodding and smiling. If you find yourself thinking about what you want to say next, or preparing a rebuttal, then you should stop and focus on the speaker. Provide feedback, ask questions and always strive to remain civil.
Learn to Read Body Language
Reading body language can help you understand how others are perceiving your speech as well as help you get your point across the best way possible. Make sure if you smile, it’s a real smile. When your smile is plastic, it feels insincere. Genuine smiles light up your entire face. Crossed arms are the universal signal for negativity. To remain open, never cross your arms or legs. To establish yourself as a leadership, always stand straight with your head held high. Don’t slouch or look away from people. If you maintain good posture and energy, then other people in the room will respect you.
Don’t Forget to Follow Up
Part of establishing trust and credibility is showing accountability. How can you be accountable? Make a list of things you have committed to do, whether it is creating a timeline, a to-do list, or asking for people to give you feedback. The next step is perhaps the most important one: always do what you say you will do. Nothing establishes credibility more than showing people enough consideration that they feel valued. By following these general guidelines, you will become an All-Star communicator.