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Are your communication skills as good as they could be?

by Jennifer Harper

‘Good communicator’ and ‘excellent communication skills’ are phrases you may have read in the list of skills required for many jobs. So how are your communication skills? Are you communicating as well as you could be? Or are your communication skills holding you back from promotion?

Developing your communication skills will not just benefit you when applying for jobs and attending interviews, but will also prove fundamental in your progression.

Good communication means that everyone within a team fully understands what they are required to do, and why they are doing it (i.e. meeting customers’ needs and company goals).

Poor communication can cause confusion, frustration and insecurity as staff may not feel fully informed.

We communicate through many different ways every day – body language, verbally, text, email, telephone, video calls, social media and letter. Most of us will have had an occasion where we have misread a text, not understood an email, or perhaps even felt uncomfortable by someone’s tone of voice.

Here, we outline ways you can improve your communication skills to help you secure your preferred job, perform at your best, and achieve promotion.

Who, What, Where, Why, When – and How.

Regardless of the form of communication, spoken, written etc. be as clear and specific as possible so that your audience knows precisely what is being asked of them. Don’t assume that the other person(s) knows what you are talking about, so try to address the following questions in order to give clarity:

  • Who are you addressing and who is it relevant to?
  • What is the subject?
  • Where is this happening?
  • Why is this being addressed?
  • When is it taking place?
  • How is it going to happen?

Listen

Truly listen to what other people are saying. Acknowledge if someone is having problems by using empathy (“I understand the difficulty you are having.”) If you don’t listen you may miss important information. Also, pay attention to what they are not saying – by addressing what has not been said, this demonstrates your ability to look at the bigger picture or to think ahead.

Body Language

Good posture can give the impression of confidence and that you are alert and paying attention, so try to stand or sit tall, especially when giving a presentation or attending a meeting. Remember to have good eye contact and don’t be too animated with your hands as this can be a distraction (though avoid closed, folded arms).

Tone of Voice

Be aware of the tone of your voice. What do others hear? Is your tone too loud, too soft? Do you speak quickly, or slowly? Or is your voice monotone? Record yourself speaking and listen to what others hear. Take note of ‘ums’ and ‘ahs’ and practice reading aloud. It is possible to train yourself to speak more fluidly and in a tone that keeps your audience engaged.

Explain

When asking a member of staff to do something, always explain the purpose behind the task. This gives meaning to the other person’s role and demonstrates that you value their contribution.

Feedback

We have all had negative feedback from a boss, so don’t be that person who only points out mistakes. Always give positive feedback where it is deserved. It’s amazing how acknowledging small successes can boost morale within an office or amongst a team.

Writing Skills

All forms of work-related written communication should be considered as formal and written with respect. Work emails should not be written as friendly texts with sloppy language. Remember to use punctuation, check your spelling and use the ‘Who, What, Where, Why, When, How’ rule to be clear in what you are asking and saying.

Friendliness and Approachability

A simple smile, a quick ‘how was your weekend’, or a warm tone can make a big difference in terms of how others see you. To progress in work you should be approachable, meaning others know you are there to help, and are happy to listen to resolve issues.

These simple suggestions can help you to communicate more effectively and increase your self-awareness, with the positive impact of a more fluid working life for you and your team. Clarity prevents wires being crossed, while a friendly approach gives the message that your door is always open.

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