Here are 30 ways you can improve your communication skills.
1. The most important word in communication skills: 'You'.
2. The magnificent seven:
Simply/Plainly (no jargon/complex words),
Using the best medium (which the other side prefers),
Relevant, and always getting Feedback.
3. Remember the BRIEF acronym: Background, Reason, Information, End, Follow-up.
4. Answer the WIFM (What's in it for me?) for the listener/s. Why should they listen/read otherwise? Just mention the benefits, only the benefits, my friend.
4. The magic words: To request, say 'please'; to express gratitude, say 'thank you' right away, and admit your mistake quickly by saying 'I’m sorry.'
5. Listen good. Start by being really interested in the other person.
Being physically still, making eye contact and showing attentiveness while the other person is talking.
Make 'I'm listening' noises: 'Uh-huh', 'really?', 'oh yes?' etc.
Tell them what you heard: 'So he doesn't want the job? What did he say?' (this is called active listening)
Show them you are listening by referring back to others' comments later on: 'You know how you were saying earlier…'
6. Show empathy: Look at things as if you were in the other person's shoes, and you will have a new perspective on things.
7. Always be ready with a relevant elevator pitch - about yourself, or the issue at hand - being ready for important questions they may ask you - 'What have you been doing?' or 'What do you think of (a hot topic)?'
LEARN TO EXPLAIN SOMETHING IN THIRTY SECONDS
Think mantra (three words), not mission statements (sixty words).
- Guy Kawasaki
8. When you don't have a prepared 'elevator pitch', give a three-point point elevator pitch: For example, 'I have three things to say about X...'
9. Use the right medium: For example, we build trust by using face-to-face communication. Adjust to the needs of the receiver, what the receiver is used to.
10. When you can show, show, don't tell: Actions speak louder than words, right?
11. Get feedback from the other person, to make sure what you were understood.
12. Suit your body language to the occasion: For example, do the power pose exercise before an interview. Cross your arms across chest only if you are defensive/completely not interested. Read the other person's body language for cues.
13. Be prepared for small talk: We have already about using the elevator pitch (15-30 story of yourself/an issue). Use the FORD (family, occupation, recreation, dreams) acronym to come up with topics to discuss. Try to find a common ground, something that you both share an interest in.
14. Have at least one story to tell: Or two. The interesting stories have a 'but' in them somewhere.
15.. Use three diagrams to simplify complexity: First diagram presents the current system - Second presents the final system - and the third shows how the change will take place.
16. How we filter reality: We get the world by what we see (visuals), what we hear (auditory) and what we feel (emotions or touch).
17. Use words that mirror 'seeing-hearing-feeling' sensations: Experts call these words VAK words/phrases (Visual - Auditory - Kinaethetic) - 'It looks like. . . It sounds like. . . It feels like. . .'
Examples: Bright, color, luminous (visual); loud, melody, shout (auditory); cold, grasp (feeling).
18. Words such as ‘and’ or ‘but’ make others pay attention ('what now?'). They now get it that there are two parts of what you are saying. Things that came before 'and' or 'but' and what came afterwards. This is also known as verbal reframing.
19. Always take at least three different points of view: One is your view, other view belongs to the other party, and the third view is the independent/neutral view which is looking at the situation like an outside observer looking from above, for example, would see.
20. If you can't add something useful to the conversation, keep your mouth shut.
21. Mind your manners. Enough said.
22. Don't do stupid things. Don't say stupid things.
23. Ask questions: Be informed about the issues and its relevancy. Check if others haven't asked it already. Mind how you ask, who you ask, and when you ask.
24. Use humor (hopefully un-offending) and wit once in a while: It also may cause the other person to drop their guard.
25. How you come off as matters: Remember the UCLA study which showed the 55% of your message is taken in by the audience through your physical presence (dress, body language), and 38% through your sound (tone, volume, speed, pause). Facts, the purpose for which you are standing there, account for only 7%.
26. Master any public speaking/presentation opportunity by being prepared with what the audience needs to know, told in a style that makes things relevant to them.
27. To communicate numbers: Don't focus on numbers themselves, but how they support your assertions. Use metaphors and analogies instead of financial jargon ('This new product line is bleeding us dry', instead of 'EBIDTA of the new project is not up to expectations').
28. To create ideas that stick: Use the SUCCESS acronym
Simple - Unexpected - Concrete - Credible - Emotional - Stories
(Source: 'Made to stick', by Chip Heath and Dan Heath)
29. How to apologize correctly: Seth Godin says a good apology conveys your compassion ('i am sorry for my mistake. It caused...') and Contrition, where you also show you learned from it ('Mistake x was not I would like you to remember me by. I didn't consider item x in my calculation. I should have known item x was an important thing to have. I promise I won't do this again.'
30. Two 'communication models' you should know:
A. Nonviolent Communication (NVC): The idea behind nonviolent communication is to communicate from a place free from fear, for when we communicate while under fear, our communication is stressed - for example, we ask closed questions ('will you help me, yes or no?', resulting in our getting closed answer ('no'.). Closed questions, thus become a form of psychological violence.
Instead, as nonviolent communication suggests, we must ask open-ended questions, taking into consideration the other person's needs - e.g. What will you need to finish the work by next Friday?
The concept of nonviolent communication was formed by Marshall Rosenberg in the 1960s. Nonviolent communication is also known as compassionate or collaborative communication.
If you think of NVC as an exercise in empathy, you are not that far off.
To practice nonviolent communication (NVC), Rosenberg gives us a four-step process:
- Observe what's happening: What's really going on? What is happening or being said that you either like or dislike?
- Identify your feelings about it: Anger, joy, hopeful, inspired, lonely?
- Figure out what need you have that is driving that feeling
- Ask for what you need (explicitly)
Rosenberg thus suggests that our emotional response is based on some unmet need. This is pretty common sense stuff, right?
B. SMCR Model of communication
This is a theoretical sequence model of how a communication takes place between the person speaking (/writing, etc.) and the person listening (/watching, etc.). It was formulated by
This is the basic communications model, identified in 1949 by , that distinguishes something of what happens between the Shannon and Weaver in 1949.
The SMCR communication sequence, from start to finish:
Then, SMCR model also says that much happens between transmitting and receiving of communication that may result in problems with proper understanding of the message. 'Loss and distortion' happens when the source is not a great talker for example, or is not fluent with persuasive words. 'Noise' is what happens when the message has to pass through people as medium (e.g. a statement which soon becomes a rumor). Or, the receiver may get the message much later, resulting in asynchronicity, the delay dilutes the effect of the message.
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