Good communication is like good conversation: for either to be successful, both parties have to be good at both talking and listening. When it comes to communication, listening is even more essential to success. Because not hearing what the other party is saying will result in poor communication – and the consequences of poor communication can be disastrous: wasted time, misunderstandings, hurt feelings, unproductive meetings, ineffective teamwork, and lack of progress towards goals.
In the business world, good communicators know how to get their messages across without being aggressive or dominating every conversation because they listen to their employees, they respect their opinions, and they welcome – and act upon – their feedback.
There are many ways to enhance your communication skills that don’t require much more than a little forethought – and a good dose of empathy. Here are a few to get you started.
1. Learn how to listen actively
Listening is an active process that involves focusing on what is said without allowing other thoughts to invade the process. To earn and maintain the trust of both your colleagues and employees, they need to know you’re really listening to them. That means listening to them in the way you expect them to listen to you: no cell phones, no multi-tasking, lots of eye contact. And no interrupting. Not until it’s your turn to speak.
2. Say “Thank you for being here”
Before you begin any type of communication, express your appreciation for the other person’s time. Time, as you well know, is a very valuable commodity, and it’s important to show others you respect that. You might also thank the person for the contribution they’re making or the work they’re doing at the company. A little praise goes a long way toward communicating respect and building rapport.
3. Give your audience a valuable takeaway
Whether you’re giving a talk or participating in a group discussion, offer your participants one thing that will deliver value – an actionable item that they can walk away with. This is especially important if you’re speaking out to criticize or correct a situation, because unless you add value to your communication, what you perceive as constructive criticism may well be viewed as simple disparagement – which is not the effect you want at all.
4. Accentuate the positive when possible
In general, try to be constructive in your comments and questions. Offer encouraging praise. Look for positive things that you can emphasize. You want to prevent your listener(s) from taking a defensive posture if possible. No matter what the conversation, a positive attitude can help prevent it from spiraling downward and avoid a total breakdown of productive communication.
5. Keep your responses short and sweet
Keep it simple when responding, particularly in groups. This shows you have respect for people’s time. Short, snappy answers that get right to the heart of the issue will help get your point across and be
remembered in the process. Don’t forget: in a group setting, you need to make the most of the small amount of time you are given to speak. Long-winded people will lose the group’s attention and slow the progress of the conversation.
6. Determine the outcome you want
What result are you looking for from this particular communication? It’s vital to know what the objective is that you’re seeking every time you communicate with a person or a group. Do you want to impart knowledge or advice, are you looking for a compromise of some sort, are you trying to reach an agreement, are you searching for a solution? Knowing in advance what your desired outcome is will help influence the flow of the conversation and make your communication a success.