Cultivating strong communication skills takes practice, time, and humility. Word choice is important, but not nearly as influential as body language and tone. The goal of communication is to transmit an idea, not impress someone with your power or intelligence.
Don’t over think it. Define your message with clear, concise, and powerful language. Avoid fancy vocabulary, run-on sentences, or irrelevant tangents. Stay on topic, and reiterate key points to ensure comprehension. Be honest and candid with your audience. People respect authenticity.
There’s a time to speak, and there’s a time to listen. Think about how much you wanted the other person to hear your message, and realize that we all feel that way. Devote your complete, undivided attention to whenever someone speaks to you. Don’t fiddle with your phone or glance at the stack of papers on your desk. Keep nonthreatening eye contact and nod when appropriate.
Sometimes conversations will not go the way you planned, and that’s okay. Keep calm and demonstrate that you are adaptable. Have an open mind and be willing to consider new ideas as they arise, even if they contradict your preferred method of operation.
Focus on the audience, not yourself.
The most effective leaders and communicators (imagine Bill Clinton) make their audience feel respected and valued. Be present and engaged. An extra benefit to focusing your efforts externally, on others rather than yourself, is that it can help calm your nerves.
Seek and ask for feedback.
Does your audience seem to be understanding your message? Are you making your point? Do they have positive, receptive body language? Watch for small signs like crossed arms, knitted brows, darting eyes, and quiet sighs. If you’re not sure your message is coming across, ask. Accept feedback gracefully.
Be honest with yourself.
Don’t be afraid of the truth. If someone offers you feedback you disagree with, ask yourself why. Is it bad feedback, or does it challenge your self-worth and identity? Understand your triggers. Once you learn to pay attention and be receptive to life’s small messages of feedback, you can effectively alter your communication style.
Good communication is the key to any successful relationship, personal or professional. It requires that we check our ego at the door. When we connect and engage with people, it sets the stage for constructive communication and the sharing of ideas.
John Bradley Jackson
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