Most of us think that communication is just what we do naturally and never think of it as an external skill that we can polish.
In this post, we shall look at some of the most efficacious, yet actionable and easy to implement communication improvement tips that you can start using right away in your workplace.
I challenge you to implement the below tips and you will be amazed by the amount of improvement you can bring to your professional as well as personal life.
Let’s get started to upgrade your communication skills!
Tip 1: Don’t get lost in translation – Communicate explicitly
We have a habit of thinking that everybody in the project team knows everything about the project and sometimes our emails/statements/documents are open to interpretations. As an example:
Statement 1: “We want the team to finish their standing issues and testing ASAP as we are having a ‘code freeze’ this Friday followed by a customer demo the next week”
Statement 2: “We want the team to finish their standing issues by Thursday end of the day as we are having a scheduled code freeze this Friday. Also, since our customer is having a demo the next Wednesday, we request the team to perform thorough testing of their code”
The second statement is much clearer and exactly conveys what the reader should know.
“Ensure that your communication is brief, to the point and doesn’t contain irrelevant details while being specific and encompass all the relevant information. Also, keep a note of grammar, punctuation and spelling errors. You can use online grammar checker tools like PaperRater, Grammarly, and SlickWrite.”
Tip 2: Know Thy audience, mold Thy content
The better you understand and identify the background, level of technical acumen and knowledge of your audience the better are your chances of getting your point across!
As an example:
Making your customer understand about a bottleneck situation in one of the IT project is possible through a simple 2 liner email (because he is a subject matter expert (SME) and knows in and out about the project functionalities). But, explaining the same issue to an external vendor without giving him the complete background – obviously not possible without a visual demo.
“Tweak and re-phrase your content in form of emails, presentations, documents, synopsis, case study, and demo based on your knowledge about your audience and position your content accordingly – you will garner their attention along with their respect and admiration”.
Tip 3: Upgrade your writing by following TODE (not TOAD!)
The simple acronym TODE will ensure that your written artifacts are always top notch. See how:
Set the TONE: Before writing a single word, think about how would you like the tone of your write-up to be? It could be formal or informal, active or passive, elucidative or to the point, instructional or academic – You can decide it by taking a note of what you are going to write, who is your intended audience and what message needs to be sent across.
ORGANIZE your write up: Most good communicators will swear that if they create a broad outline/structure of what they need to write out, the rest of the piece gets into place all by itself. Also, that way you are sure you’ve covered all that was important and the end reader finds it easy to comprehend – a complete win-win!
Create a DRAFT: Whatever comes first to your mind may not always be what you wished to be communicated. Always create a draft or a working copy that you create on your first go and then fill in with details and improve.
Don’t forget to review and EDIT: We come across so many pieces of content daily that we read and sigh, ‘If only the author has cared to review it one!’ Spelling mistakes, tense mistakes, grammatical errors can be avoided if you read out your article loud or proofread it. Microsoft word or any standard word processor can be of help if you are confused about your verbiage.
Tip 4: KISS – Keep It Simple, Silly!
In a presentation, you might temporarily impress clients with your technical jargon but in the long run, you are making them more perplexed than enlightened.
So, keep your conversation simple, don’t ramble much and don’t use overcomplicated words or phrases.
Additionally, to aid comprehension, take advantage of flowcharts or other pictorial aids and make your presentations and communications more visual.
Benefits you ask?
Well, your audiences will understand your point better and it will stick to their minds for long as humans remember images 13 times longer than words !!
Tip 5: Gather your thoughts, make mental notes
Any ineffective verbal communication can be transformed into an impressive and compelling discourse if you just spend 30 seconds trying to mentally list down what all you need to cover to make this conversation as constructive as possible.
“The art of making quick mental notes and outlines ensures your communication is structured and well thought while removing superfluous fillers. This skill can be inculcated with a bit of practice and once mastered, it adds a lot of gravity to your personality”.
Moreover, owing to your eloquence, people consider you more authoritative and take you and the points your drive, seriously. Another visible benefit of speaking with a clear, planned scheme is you will avoid all those ammmmm, ahhhh, you know and other kinds of fillers!
Tip 6: Maintain your composure and perform BA (Being Aristocrat!)
Any professional working in a workplace has to deal with a very diverse set of stakeholders – colleagues, leads, managers, customers, SMEs, higher management, and so on. Each one of these stakeholders has their own unique set of priorities, outlook & skills and you have to communicate with each one of them using a different approach – a time and energy consuming affair.
On top of this, if somebody is not cooperating or becomes difficult to deal with then it’s very easy to get frustrated and lose your nerve.
However, remember that the being professional is about being well cultured, an elite class!
“Remember to be polite and friendly even when you feel exhausted because if you are courteous, the professional in front of you will reciprocate the same feelings and you will be able to convince or win him without much verbal effort”.
(Try this quick exercise – Imagine a scenario in which you are trying to convince one of your stubborn stakeholders by using a negative tone and impolite words. Now, do the same using only positive words. Visualize any differences?).
PS: You might shrug off the above tip and say “Why I have to be meek in front of others?”. Well, politeness is not about being submissive but it’s about respecting the other person and their feelings. If you are polite despite being in the face of rudeness, it’s a sign of strength rather than weakness.
Tip 7: Make the other person feel heard
In a conversation, it’s very important to reciprocate what you just heard and when you are dealing with customers who are trusting you with their vision and money, you should be all the more careful.
If you have just discussed an important piece of information with your project team, always reciprocate with your understanding and provide feedback by saying:
- “Let me rephrase that in my language”
- “Correct me if I am wrong but what I interpret from this is”
- “So what you mean to convey is..”
This small exercise helps build trust and the other person becomes more open in their discussions – something every professional will Love!
Another nice technique here is asking follow up questions, for example,
- “What might be the implications of scenario you just explained”
- “Is there something you want to add here?”
- “How well this functionality fits with the module we discussed yesterday?”
- “I wish to spend some more time on this area as I see it’s really important”
All this conveys that you are really attentive in the conversation and value the time and thoughts of the person in front of you.
Tip 8: Always communicate with an agenda (and have it handy)
Do you deal with people whose conversation are drifting from one topic to another, lack clarity and there is a clear absence of a specific agenda of conversation?
Most of the times, we all have met such individuals.
To ensure that you are not being perceived as one, always have a ‘specific take away’ for any piece of content and try to make it evident at the onset so that everybody realizes what they have to concentrate upon. For e.g.:
- Your Meetings should have an Agenda
- Your Emails should have a Subject
- Your Documents should have an Abstract
- Your Suggestions should have a Synopsis
- Your Presentations should have an Introduction
- Your Discussions should have an Objective
- Your statements should have a conclusion
Tip 9: Even your Body has a Language of its own, make sure you use it
We as human beings are sometimes deceptive but our body isn’t. Our body language gives subtle cues that tell the person in front a lot about what we don’t intend to convey. Let’s see the most important body language signs that you should display so that your co-workers can rely upon and are comfortable working with you:
- Always make eye contact: Its signals that you are paying attention and are confident about what you speak – both being important for a BA
- Don’t divide your attention: Don’t look at your laptop, documents or phone when you are in a conversation
- Have your arms open: Crossed arms signals you are not receptive to suggestions and gives an impression that you possess a non-cooperative attitude
- Your toes should point to the person you are speaking to: Your toes and feet reflect in which direction your current interest is – be careful about that in a one-on-one conversation
- Use your hands: If you emphasize your thoughts by moving your hands, it signals you are excited and energetic
- Smile and Nod often: The gestures give subtle hints that you agree with the other person and you are on their side – an easy way to build trust with your stakeholders
Communication is one of the most important skills in the arsenal of any professional, which, although being the easiest to master, is given the least importance!
As a professional who has to interface with a diverse set of individuals and has to exchange a lot of information, you should give conscious attention to your verbal, written communication as well as your body language. Amalgamation of the above tips and the zeal to become a better communicator is a perfect recipe for success in your professional world.
Do you have any quick communication improvement tip to add? Let fellow professionals know by commenting below.