Good communication skills are vital to feeling competent and effective at work. Often though you don’t get the support you need to improve your communication skills until you start to repeatedly hit some invisible barriers to getting your thinking and ideas across effectively in meetings and situations where it really counts. It’s something that a lot of people can struggle with, particularly early on in their career, until they learn how to improve their default communication style.
Here’s a common workplace scenario when you haven’t honed your communication skills:
You’re in a meeting and everyone’s talking about a particular issue and it’s now your turn to contribute. You start talking, but it’s as if they haven’t heard a thing that you’ve said. So you sit there feeling ignored, dismissed and devalued. A few minutes later you try again. But now you’re feeling frustrated and a bit anxious and use far too many words, over-explaining. Confusing yourself and everyone else. Eventually you lose your train of thought because no one’s responding in a positive way and someone else starts talking over you.
Is this something you’ve experienced? If it is, then you know how frustrating it can be. Particularly when your ideas are ignored and someone else says exactly the same thing, but in a different way and everyone takes their ideas on board. It’s one of those “WT# just happened then?” type moments – until you become aware of what’s going on and how to fix it.
If you’re finding people tune out and don’t engage with you the way you want, below are 4 effective ways you can improve your communication skills so that you’re able to get your ideas across more effectively and with greater impact:
# 1 Listen First
This is Communication Skills 101. Often when you’re not being heard, it’s because you’re not first taking the time to listen closely to what others are saying. Seek first to understand before trying to be understood. Take the time to tap into other people’s agendas, priorities and what’s most important to them first, before putting forward your ideas or solutions. Each time you find yourself jumping ahead in your mind or tuning off, pull your focus back to listening fully to what the other person is saying. Stay present.
# 2 Make It Simple
Being able to make the complex simple is a highly valued and sought after skill in business today. Take time before a meeting to organize your thinking and ground yourself. Stick to an executive summary, plain English style of communication where you can quickly cut to the chase and get your key points across.
Learn the power of the pause. Get comfortable with the silence and spaces in between what’s being said. Pausing for a few seconds after you make each point adds more emphasis to what you’re saying. It also gives people time to take in your ideas, digest them and then respond. Start with pausing for just a few seconds at first, which will probably feel like minutes. Then build up from there.
# 4 Read The Non-Verbals
Often when there’s a communication disconnect it’s because you haven’t correctly read the vibe of the group or the political power plays. I’ve heard so many technically brilliant people say that they’re just not interested in playing politics in the workplace. This can be dangerous and potentially derail your career. To succeed and look after yourself in any kind of group you have to be savvy to what’s going on and know how to navigate through these more invisible terrains. You need to learn how to read what’s going on in the room and how to respond.
Taking time to learn more effective communication skills pays off in all areas of your life. Because if you’re having communication issues at work, then it’s highly likely you’re also having them at home and in other areas of your life.