Essential Skills to be an Effective Communicator
Communication…seems like it should be so simple, when in reality it is quite complex. It is essential in everything we do; everything! Communicating successfully and effectively involves sharing ideas, feelings and observations in a way that is clear, while also taking the time to listen and respond to others. When it comes to leadership, it is a core function and characteristic needed for success.
To be an effective communicator, it requires developing and mastering your communication skills in the following areas:
- Verbal skills – how well are you understood in your speech?
- Writing skills – how well do you convey your message/ideas through writing?
- Listening skills – how well do you understand what others are saying?
- Interpersonal skills – how good are you at “reading the situation or environment” and adapting your communication style to the audience?
Hence, the complexity surrounding communication and reasons why some days have you feeling like a rockstar and others you are scratching your head. These are the main areas of focus when you desire to be a strong and effective communicator. Based on these main areas, here are five essential communication skills to understand, grow, and master:
- Be clear and concise – whether in person, via phone or email, convey your message using an appropriate number of words. Too few and/or too excessive number of words has the listener confused and unsure. Worse yet, if you ramble on verbally or in writing, they may lose focus and check out. Self-check: ask others for feedback on how they view your ability to convey a clear and concise message verbally and in writing?
- Listening – Effective communication requires being an active listener. Active listening means you are present in the conversation and not thinking about the fourteen other things you have to do or that you are scrolling through emails nor checking social media. You actively hear and understand what the other person is saying. In fact, you engage by asking them questions rephrasing what you heard to gain clarification or to let them know you did understand. Active listening can be a challenge for many. Self-check: how do you feel you are doing at actively listening?
- Responsiveness – are you timely in getting back to people when they reach out to you or do you wait too long to reply to an email or return a voicemail? Being responsive is particularly important for leaders and managers. Trust is built when people know that you are listening, responding timely and/or processing their ideas. A quick, “Ok, sounds good, thumbs up, or let me get back to you when I have more information” goes a long way. They will feel respected, appreciated and heard. Self-check: how are you at responding to messages?
- Empathy – is the interpersonal skill of being able to understand and share the feelings of another person. Check out by February blog, Leading with Empathy, to refresh this essential communication skill.
- Non-verbal communication – Words make up less than 10% of the message we are conveying, which makes body language an important and essential communication tool. Your body language should support your message. An upright posture, appropriate eye contact and gestures indicate your openness, approachability and confidence. Self-check: Are your arms crossed, are you upright leaning in or posturing with your shoulders hunched when you communicate?
Communication is complex and you are required to take control of your future leadership skills. Strong communication skills are essential and core for achieving the highest level of success. Using communication skills effectively will allow you to develop, grow, and maintain positive relationships professionally and personally.