Now, it may be debatable as to which skill is the most important or valued in the world today, but I truly believe that communication is the cornerstone of success. From the first person we tell good morning, to the delivery of a crucial presentation at work, to resolving a conflict with a best friend, we are using all of our communication skills. Perhaps the advancement of instant messaging reduces the need or importance of in person communication for some, but when you have to negotiate yourself out of a sticky situation that prevents the use of an emoticon, what are you left with? That’s right: your communication skills; non-verbal and verbal.
As an individual who has experience in a variety of positions including, but not limited to, a consultant, presenter, son, coach, uncle, brother, boyfriend, manager, and counselor, I tend to depend on my communication skills to survive. Now by no means am I saying that my communication skills are perfect but I would like to think that they are pretty good and like anything else, it can always be improved or refined. Especially my use of sarcasm, which gets me in hot water with the Mrs. from time to time. From my experiences I have learned one important lesson with regards to communication, at the end of the day you may be knowledgeable and highly organized, but without good communication skills your ability to effectively motivate, inspire, teach, and collaborate with others can be compromised.
The success of any professional whose tasks include talking, writing, teaching, listening, and observing is determined by that individual’s ability to effectively communicate. The life of a parent, teacher, presenter, coach, or manager specifically is consistently filled with a steady flow of communication on a daily basis and being able to effectively communicate can determine whether that flow is smooth or rough.
Now questions to ask yourself:
· Have you ever been misunderstood when communicating with someone?
· Have you ever made a comment you regretted?
· Do you ever find yourself talking more than you listen?
If you answered yes to any of these questions then this blog is for you, my friend. I think that most of us can relate to at least one of these scenarios. Becoming an effective communicator is not an easy task – just like any other skill, it requires education, practice, and consistency.
Here are a few tips that can help you improve your ability to be an effective communicator:
1. Grabbing your audience’s attention. When presenting in front of a group specifically or in a public setting, and you think that you are losing your audience, there are a few tricks that you can grab their attention. Calling someone’s name in the audience in reference to the content or a question asked, using visual cues and hand gestures, varying your tone and volume to match your message are just a few tips that can make the difference between a sleeping audience and an active crowd.
2. Keep your verbal and nonverbal messages congruent. Your nonverbal communication (body language, eye contact, posture) is just as important as your verbal communication (tone, volume), maybe even more so. When communicating with someone, take a moment to make sure that your nonverbal and verbal messages are the same to avoid your listener receiving conflicting messages. For example, if you are telling someone that you agree and support their decision but your arms are crossed and you are looking at the ground, your audience may have a harder time believing you.
3. Giving constructive feedback. Giving feedback could be a tricky situation as it is easy for some to focus on the negative part of the message you are sending. When providing constructive feedback you can utilize what I call the three course meal or known to many as the sandwich model.
i. The appetizer – start off by positively communicating what the person is doing correctly.
ii. The main – Describe what they could be doing better (and how) using instructional feedback.
iii. The dessert – compliment them on something they are doing well or that you like so they feel motivated to continue improving.
iv. For example, “I like how hard you have been working on your footwork and agility drills. If you do ____ it can save you more time. Keep up the great work on improving your times.”
4. Owning your messages. During situations of conflict it is can be easy to focus on what the other person did wrong to cause the conflict in the first place. We may blame others instead of taking responsibility for our part in the conflict. Using “I”, “me”, or “we” can assist in resolving such situations by giving ownership and accountability to you and your audience. It also helps to end with a question, allowing the other party to speak freely from his/her point of view. For example, “I realize that I’ve upset you, can you explain to me what I did and how I can help?”
Even if you think that you have already mastered the art of communicating, I encourage you to try at least one of the things listed above. Actively practicing communication is the only way to improve on it. Remember, everything seems to work and flow more easily when good communication is involved. Save yourself some trouble and try out these tips!