How to Improve Communication Skills (With Tips)
Updated 21 May 2023
Strong communication may strengthen your professional relationships with colleagues and help you establish better work relationships. Managers often encourage employees to vocalise their thoughts and ask questions about upcoming deadlines to prevent misunderstandings. Learning about strengthening your communication skills can help you advance in your career and become more effective working with a team. In this article, we provide a guide on how to improve your communication skills and offer tips that can help you communicate effectively with customers and co-workers.
How to improve communication skills
Learning how to improve your communication skills can help you develop leadership qualities and build professional relationships in your career. For example, you might discuss important projects with colleagues and how you can complete them to the highest standard. Developing your communication skills may encourage you to express your thoughts and ideas more clearly. Here's a guide you can follow to improve your skills in the workplace:
1. Observe how people talk
People may approach colleagues in different ways when discussing important projects and other topics. For example, they might sit down, lean back in their chair, smile at the other person and start talking casually about the subject. This body language can represent how comfortable they are in the discussion and their relationship with the colleague.
Understanding how other people start conversations might help you start your own. Consider recording important meetings that involve a manager talking in front of a large group so you can observe how they express their ideas when addressing important topics. Referring to this video might help you discover opportunities for improvement.
2. Practise good listening
Listening closely to what other people say can help you better understand what they want from you, prevent any miscommunication and help you respond more appropriately. For example, someone might ask about your daily tasks and how you plan to complete them during your shift. Recognising the question may help you reply with a clear and detailed response. People may feel more inclined to approach you when they know you actively listen and can vocalise your honest opinion.
Listening well also can reduce conflict in the workplace and make people feel more comfortable talking to you. You can show you're listening and understanding what they're telling you by standing up straight and maintaining eye contact. Consider asking questions if you're unsure about their request and want further clarification.
3. Consider your emotions
Emotions can be important for the tone of the conversation and how you deliver a message. People often change their tone depending on the topic and their audience. For example, if you want to discuss a positive development with a colleague, you can smile and speak cheerfully. Being aware of your emotions can determine the mood of your conversation.
Learning about emotions in customers also can be important for your communication skills. Knowing what tone to use in different situations can help you respond more appropriately to a customer's statement. For example, you may want to use a more serious and empathetic tone if a customer is reporting an issue with a product you sold them, or you can laugh and use a relaxed tone if they're complimenting your work. Recognising a customer's tone and adjusting yours to match can help you find more effective solutions and have more productive conversations.
4. Learn non-verbal techniques
Non-verbal communication may tell you what the other person is trying to say beyond their words. For example, when someone talks to you about their job promotion, they might smile and move around with excitement. This may suggest they feel happy about the conversation subject and want to discuss something important in their career. You can base your response on their non-verbal signals and replicate the same emotions through your body language.
Examples of other non-verbal communication include hand gestures, eye contact, sense of touch, tone of voice, body posture, facial expressions, and personal mannerisms. Body language is a non-verbal message that can suggest the person's true feelings and intentions. When the physical signals match their words in the conversation, it can build trust, support clarity and strengthen the professional relationship you have with them.
5. Think before speaking
Pausing before you speak can give you enough time to think of an appropriate response. This can also help you plan how you're going to communicate precise messages by thinking of a meaningful statement that may help the other person engage with the conversation. For example, if you don't agree with their opinion, you can think of how you might still show respect to their view.
One technique is to wait three seconds before you communicate. This can help you determine whether the other person has finished speaking. People may stop midway through a statement to gather more thoughts, so it's important to wait to speak at the right time. The communicator may then feel encouraged to finish their point in the conversation.
6. Ask for feedback
You can ask a manager for honest feedback regarding your communication skills. This can help you discover areas of improvement and new verbal strategies. For example, the manager might arrange training programs that teach you how to improve your communication in the workplace. Team members may also share their views on the effectiveness of your conversations.
Some people might teach you how to focus on the conversation and present your thoughts. This can be a quick way to improve your communication skills. Customers may also offer you feedback when they review their experience buying your products. Consider documenting this feedback and using it to develop your active listening skills.
7. Have open discussions
Having regular conversations with people at your workplace can help you improve your communication skills such as speaking and listening. For example, you can suggest conducting presentations in front of a group to build your confidence.
Practising communication strategies can strengthen your professional relationships. This can also apply to customers and how you interact with them. You can consider having conversations with customers and asking them about their shopping experience. You also can consider practising your communication at home and asking friends and family for feedback.
Tips for strong communication
Here are some tips you can consider when improving your communication skills:
Use clear language
It can be important to use precise language when you speak to people and ask questions. This can ensure they understand your message and follow the conversation. If you're speaking to someone new, you can listen to their vocabulary and replicate the same tone and language in your speech. For example, they might speak casually and use simple words in their sentences.
Recognise your audience
Understanding your audience and how they behave can increase your chances of a successful interaction. You might use casual language when speaking to colleagues and friends because this can represent how comfortable you feel. Try to think about the type of conversation you want to have with certain people. For example, you may speak formally with senior management about upcoming projects and other matters regarding work objectives.
Keep eye contact
Maintaining eye contact with people at work can help build trust and strengthen your relationships. Looking at someone when they express their thoughts can show your level of interest. For example, if your colleague wants to discuss something important about your work, you can maintain eye contact with them to show you're actively listening. Eye contact also might improve the understanding between people by allowing them to read each other's facial expressions and notice other non-verbal techniques. It's important to remember that some cultures don't emphasise eye contact and some neuro-divergent people may be uncomfortable with it.
Take your time
Taking the time to think about your words can prevent you from rushing the conversation and using complex or inappropriate language. It might be worth planning what you're going to say before you approach the person. This can help you convey your message clearly when starting the discussion. For example, if you want to ask the manager for extended time off work, you might plan how you're going to start and finish the formal conversation.
Keeping a positive attitude when speaking to people can help build a healthy environment. Team members might feel encouraged to share their honest opinions and approach you with different concerns. For example, you can smile during a conversation and use positive words when delivering your message, even if you're delivering bad news. This can improve the morale of the team and help reassure them you have a solution in mind.
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