Here is an introduction to basic communication skills to help you communicate more effectively at work and in your personal life.
For a step by step approach, download our Communications Pack.
Have you ever had a conversation with someone who couldn't speak your language? It is possible!
Body language can account for over 55% of how we communicate.
If you have something important or sensitive to say, meet the other person face to face if possible. You can check their body language, to see how they are reacting to your message.
Be conscious of your own body language, as Perception is Greater Than Reality..
You may be slumped in a chair because you are tired after a long day. The other person might pick that up as a lack of interest in what they have to say. Eye contact, facial expressions, posture, gestures, dress etc. will have an impact on how your message is received.
Focus on the following four aspects to improve this important basic communication skill:
Pitch. A lower pitch can sound more authoritative and knowledgeable. Politicians often work to lower their voice pitch.
Volume. If you are naturally quiet spoken, it can be interpreted as a lack of confidence and timidity in certain situations. Similarly, if you normally speak at a high volume, reducing it may make you sound less aggressive to some people. If you find yourself in conversation with someone who is shouting, raise your voice to match theirs and gradually reduce it - they will follow.
Inflection. Put emphasis on certain words when you speak, to convey passion, enthusiasm and add meaning to what you are saying.
Pace. Take care that you pace what you are saying to allow the message to sink in. Avoid racing through the message or speaking so slowly that the other person loses interest.
Your tone of voice can account for over 37% of how you communicate in a typical work environment.
Although in a complex communication setting, words may only account for approximately 8% of how you get your message across, you can still make a better impact with the words you use. Here are some tips:
Speak in metaphors. Connect better with others by helping them to visualise what you are saying. For example, instead of:
"The task is going to be difficult, but it will be worth it when it's done." you could try:
"We have a difficult mountain to climb but the view from the top will be great!"
Write using short, simple sentences (less than 20 words) to help understanding. Instead of:
"I would be extremely grateful if you would return the product at your earliest convenience.." say:
"Can you please return the product as soon as possible?"
Ask questions that are positive and specific. Your brain is like a Google Search Box; the better the questions, the better the response. So instead of:
"How can we reduce costs?" say: What steps can we take to make even greater cost savings?"
Use emotive language. For example:
Instead of"We train individuals", say: "We empower individuals through training"
So what is empathy? This is a basic communication skill which involves putting yourself in another person's shoes. You recognise the feelings and the situation that the other person finds themselves in.
It doesn't mean that you agree with them, it means that you understand where they are coming from.
Empathy involves being trustworthy, confidential and non-judgemental. You can develop empathy with someone if you share common values and experiences.
It is not sympathy, where you may end up supporting a negative frame of mind and making the situation worse.
It is also not apathy, where you show no interest in the situation or the feelings of the other person.
Check our Empathy Blockers page for more advice on building your empathy skills.
Active Listening involves reflecting back the feelings and the situation that you believe the other person is experiencing, to check that you have understood them correctly.
It is closely linked to empathy (above) and is a basic communication skill that can be developed with practice, and is very useful in an emotionally charged situation.
It allows the other person to vent, and as you are not adding your point of view at this stage, you avoid the danger of "saying the wrong thing" and making the other person even more upset.
Read our latest newsletter - Avoid the Pain of Employee Turnover - 3 Steps to Maintaining Business Performance or view our back issues for more concise tips on practical management skills.