Some people have an innate ability to command the room. They know how to get their point across in a group without barking orders or dominating the conversation—they are good at talking and listening.
But good communication skills don’t grow overnight; good communication takes planning, preparation and consistent practice. So we asked the Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) for their 10 best tips to be better at communicating to help you. Which one will you try first?
1. Give a valuable takeaway.
Whether you’re giving a talk or participating in a group discussion, decide on one thing that will really deliver value—an actionable item that people can walk away with. This is especially important when we have to speak up to critique or correct an idea that’s going around, because when you’re not adding value, it’s no longer constructive criticism; it’s just dissenting.
2. Be a good listener.
Being a good listener is the key. Don’t go in with the sole objective to just speak. As the conversation goes on, listen and respond, incorporating your points into the response. People are more willing to listen if they believe they’re being listened to.
3. Pick an opportune time to speak.
The best way to ensure your voice is heard in a group is to pick your spots, meaning find a gap within the conversation to speak, no matter how many people are involved. By selecting the most opportune time to speak, you can ensure that you have the attention of the group and can get your entire message across without being interrupted.
4. Be the unifying voice.
Discussions can often drag on and turn circular. By stepping in and first unifying all the best thoughts, you get people to calm down. Once they’ve calmed down, you can insert your point and it will resonate with people. The more influential people are, the more important this becomes.
5. Keep your responses succinct.
Keep it simple when responding in groups. This shows you have respect for others’ time. A long, drawn-out answer to a question is not only inconsiderate, but you lose their interest in what you have to say. Short, snappy answers that get right to the heart of the issue will help get your point across and be remembered in the process.
6. Don’t be the person who needs to comment on everything.
You’ll be respected more in a group if you have a reputation for kicking in only when you have something important to say. It’s easy to tune out the people who make some reflex comment on almost any situation, but someone who rarely talks usually catches attention when they have something to say.
7. Cut the fluff.
When speaking in a group, you need to make the most of the small amount of time you are given to speak. This means you need to get straight to the point. In a group setting, anyone who is long-winded will lose the attention of the group and slow the progress of the conversation. Always cut the fluff.
8. Prepare ahead of time.
Public speaking is hard for anyone, and most of us don’t communicate on the fly as well as we’d like. You are much more likely to provide a strong and memorable contribution if you take the time to sort out your points and practice them first. The difference is noticeable. Think closely about what you’re trying to communicate and how that could best and most briefly be said.
Be positive. If you smile and nod along as other people speak, they will be positive about opening up and letting you speak as well. If they see that you aren’t listening to them but, instead, impatiently waiting for your turn to speak, they won’t pay you any respect.
10. Validate, then share.
It is not enough to just listen. Good leaders need to show their team they actually understood what was being shared. State your team member’s idea back to them to validate it, and then add your own perspective for a productive discourse. People are more open to your ideas and opinions when they feel as if theirs were honored.
Simply talking doesn’t make anyone a good communicator — just like hearing someone doesn’t make us good listeners.
In fact, being a good communicator means being a good listener, according to Aaron Karmin, MA, LCPC, a psychotherapist at Urban Balance. It also means being mindful of your words and tone, and not taking someone else’s tone personally, he said.
Instead, good communicators “choose to ask questions to gain understanding, rather than give explanations to force agreement. They choose to make the implied feelings explicit by responding to the emotions behind the words.”
Good communicators maintain eye contact and pay attention to the other person’s verbal and nonverbal cues, said Karmin, who also pens the popular Psych Central blog “Anger Management.”
They don’t get swept up in defending themselves. “As soon as you defend, you lose.”
Below, Karmin shared strategies for helping readers become better communicators in all areas of their lives, including at home and at work.
1. Take ownership of your reactions.
Karmin often hears clients say, “they made me feel ___ or “I had no choice but to yell back.” But, while you might not love your options, you always have a choice, he said.
You have a choice in how you react, and what comes out of your mouth, he said. “We can choose to catch ourselves about to explain, defend, debate, cajole, nag or antagonize, and choose not to do it.”
For instance, trying to defend yourself is actually futile and usually only backfires. For instance, let’s say your partner states, “You never listen to me.” You defend yourself by saying “Of course, I listen. You said to call the plumber, and I did. Here, you can look at the phone bill.”
This rarely makes the other person change their mind, and all that defending just gets disregarded. What it does cause is more miscommunication and accusations, he said.
2. Ask questions.
Asking questions helps you gain a deeper understanding of the situation and possibly reframe it. Karmin gave these suggestions:
- “How does that make you feel?
- What is the worst part?
- What are you trying to achieve?
- What would you prefer instead?”
3. Ask for clarification.
If you’re not sure you understand what the other person is saying, repeat your interpretation, and ask if you got it right, Karmin said. You might start with: “So what you are saying is that…”
4. Agree with feelings, not the facts.
You don’t have to agree with the other person’s “facts.” But you can agree with how they feel, and communicate that you’ve heard them, Karmin said.
For instance, you might say: “You sound hurt. That must be painful.” Karmin gave these additional examples:
- “You sound very ____.
- I don’t blame you for feeling____.
- I’d be ____if that happened to me.
- I’m sorry you’re so ____.
- It’s awful, isn’t it?”
Remember that “feelings are neither right nor wrong; it’s what we do with them that’s right or wrong.”
5. Set limits.
Maintain boundaries, especially when your talk starts escalating into an argument, Karmin said. “Arguing only fuels hostility and it doesn’t get you heard.” He gave these examples of setting limits:
- “I never thought of it that way.
- You’ve got a real problem there. I don’t know what to tell you.
- That would be nice, wouldn’t it.
- You may have a point.”
6. Be precise with your own words.
For instance, instead of saying “always” or never,” which tend to have exceptions, clarify that these words are “figurative or feeling words,” Karmin said. So you might say: “It feels like you never listen to me” or “It feels like you always blame me.”
“By adding ‘feels like’ we avoid sidetracking into the exceptions of ‘always’ and ‘never’ occurrences. This ensures we are being clear and more likely to be heard and understood.”
Communicating well is a skill. The above six tips can help you sharpen it.
Relationships don’t exist in a vacuum. They exist between two emotional human beings who bring their own past experiences, history, and expectations into it. Two different people also have different levels of skill when it comes to communication. But better communication, because it is a skill, can also be learned.
The most popular myth about communication in relationships is that since you talk to your partner, you’re automatically communicating. While talking to your partner is indeed a form of communication, if it’s primarily about everyday, “surfacey” topics (“How were the kids?” “How was work?” “How’s your mother?”), you’re not really communicating about the important stuff. This article is primarily about how to talk in a more open and rewarding manner with your significant other.
Communication either makes or breaks most relationships. You can improve your relationship today, right now, by putting into practice some of these tips for improving the communication in your relationship.
1. Stop and listen.
How many times have you heard someone say this or read this in an article about communication skills? How hard is it to actually do when you’re “in the moment?” Harder than it sounds. When we’re knee deep within a serious discussion or argument with our significant other, it’s hard to put aside our point for the moment and just listen. We’re often so afraid of not being heard, we rush to keep talking. Ironically, such behavior makes it all the more likely we won’t be heard.
2. Force yourself to hear.
You’ve stopped talking for the moment, but your head is still swirling with all of the things you want to say, so you’re still not really hearing what is being said. Laugh all you want, but therapists have a technique that works very well that “forces” them to really hear what a client tells them — rephrasing what a person has just said to them (called “reflection”).
This may upset a partner if you do it too much, or do it in a tone that suggests you’re mocking rather than trying to seriously listen. So use the technique sparingly, and let your partner know why you’re doing it if they ask — “Sometimes I don’t think I’m getting what you’re telling me, and doing this lets me slow my mind down a bit and really try and hear what you’re saying.”
3. Be open and honest with your partner.
Some people have never been very open to others in their life. Heck, some people might not even know themselves, or know much about their own real needs and desires. But to be in a relationship is to take a step toward opening up your life and opening up yourself.
Little lies turn into big lies. Hiding your emotions behind a cloak of invincibility might work for you, but won’t work for most others. Pretending everything is alright isn’t alright. And giving your partner the silent treatment is about as useful as a fish with a bicycle. In the desert. At night. These things may have “worked” for you in the past, but they are all barriers to good communication.
Being open means talking about things you may have never talked about with another human being before in your life. It means being vulnerable and honest with your partner, completely and unabashedly. It means opening yourself up to possible hurt and disappointment. But it also means opening yourself up to the full potential of all a relationship can be.
4. Pay attention to nonverbal signals.
Most of our communication with one another in any friendship or relationship isn’t what we say, but how we say it. Nonverbal communication is your body language, the tone of your voice, its inflection, eye contact, and how far away you are when you talk to someone else. Learning to communicate better means that you need to learn how to read these signals as well as hear what the other person is saying. Reading your partner’s nonverbal signals takes time and patience, but the more you do it, the more attuned you will be to what they’re really saying, such as:
- Folded arms in front of a person may mean they’re feeling defensive or closed off.
- Lack of eye contact may mean they’re not really interested in what you’re saying, are ashamed of something, or find it difficult to talk about something.
- Louder, more aggressive tone may mean the person is escalating the discussion and is becoming very emotionally involved. It might also suggest they feel like they’re not being heard or understood.
- Someone who’s turned away from you when talking to you may mean disinterest or being closed off.
All the while you’re reading your partner’s nonverbal signals, be aware of your own. Make and maintain eye contact, keep a neutral body stance and tone to your voice, and sit next to the person when you’re talking to them.
5. Stay focused in the here and now.
Sometimes discussions turn into arguments, that can then morph into a discussion about everything and the kitchen sink. To be respectful of one another and the relationship, you should try and keep the discussion (or argument) focused to the topic at hand. While it’s easy to get in the cheap shots or bring up everything that an argument seems to call for, just don’t. If the argument is ostensibly about who’s making dinner tonight, keep it that topic. Don’t veer off down the country road of who does what in the house, who’s responsible for child rearing, and by the way, who cleans the kitchen sink.
Arguments that do veer off tend to escalate and grow larger and larger. One party needs to make an effort at that point to try and de-escalate the argument, even if it means walking away from it, literally. But do so as respectfully as possible, saying something like, “Look, I can see this isn’t going to get any better by discussing it tonight. Let’s sleep on it and try talking about it with fresh eyes in the morning, okay?”
Going all the way back to the laconic Spartans, the ability to be succinct in one’s communications has been to others a sign of strength and a well-appreciated gesture. But it’s a skill that’s never been more important than it is today, when people are bombarded with information and don’t have the bandwidth to digest long and convoluted messages.
My guest today is an expert in helping people get to the point, the founder of the BRIEF Lab, and the author of Brief: Make a Bigger Impact by Saying Less. His name is Joseph McCormack, and we begin our conversation with how his work grew out of his development of a communications curriculum for the military’s special operators. We then discuss how being brief is not just about conciseness but first about achieving clarity, and the high costs of not shaping our communications with these qualities — especially in a world where attention is a scarce resource. Joe explains why it’s actually harder to exercise verbal discipline than it is to use lots of words, and four techniques to make your messaging clear and concise. We then discuss how to apply these techniques to shortening meetings, condensing emails, and distilling how you describe your role when people ask what you do. We end our conversation with how to create more meaningful interactions during fluid conversations by actually preparing for these encounters, rather than simply trying to wing it.
If reading this in an email, click the title of the post to listen to the show.
As parents, we sometimes believe that we have to protect our children from our own worries and emotions. And while there are certain things that adults need to deal with and adolescents don’t, it is important for children to understand that their parents have feelings too. Parents with strong emotional intelligence can communicate their feelings effectively and they can pass those skills on to their children.
What is Emotional Intelligence
Emotional intelligence is the ability to identify and manage one’s own emotions, as well as the emotions of others. Emotional intelligence includes: emotional awareness (the ability to identify and name one’s own emotions), the ability to harness those emotions and apply them to tasks like thinking and problem solving, and the ability to manage emotions (regulating one’s own emotions and helping others do the same).
While there is not a scale that accurately measures emotional intelligence, many parents can look at the attributes of emotional intelligence to gauge whether or not their child has these skills. Children learn emotional intelligence through parental interactions. When parents acknowledge and validate their own emotions, as well as the emotions of their child, children learn to tolerate strong emotions and develop that self-control and problem-solving skills.
Communicating With Your Teen
Understanding your own emotions is the foundation for becoming a better communicator with your teen. For example, if your teen missed curfew, the first emotion you may go to is anger. But underneath that anger, there may be fear from not knowing where they were or feeling disrespected. Being able to identify those nuances in emotions can help you communicate with your teen how you felt when they missed their curfew. They can begin to understand that you’re not angry for the sake of being angry, and many teens will feel more empathy when you tell them, “I was afraid for you.”, rather than, “I am angry at you.”.
Another part to be aware of, is how we communicate nonverbally. More than our words, tone of voice, body language, and facial expressions convey our feelings. If your teen makes a mistake and you reply with “It’s fine.”, but your tone is sharp and your arms are crossed, you teen knows that it is not really fine. By becoming aware of our tone and mannerisms, we can make sure we are presenting emotional congruence.
Once you feel comfortable communicating your emotions, you can provide the same opportunities for your teen. Teens are more likely to be open with their parents if they don’t feel pressured into sharing information. Sometimes direct questions can feel like too much pressure for teens. Instead, focus on listening. Sometimes even an offhand comment about their day is their way of sharing. It is important to remember that consistency builds trust. On-and-off emotional awareness can cause teens to feel distrustful and put up barriers. That is why keeping your emotional awareness active is crucial.
Red Mountain Colorado Can Help
At Red Mountain Colorado, we know that healing the entire family system is essential to your teen’s long-term success. Our family therapeutic process is designed to help you and your child address underlying problems so that you can get back to being a family again.
Red Mountain Colorado was founded to help struggling teens work through behavioral and emotional challenges. We specialize in the treatment of trauma-related mental health challenges. Throughout programming, we empower teens to build healthy coping skills and habits that they can use to work through the challenges they face. For more information please call (970) 316-7589.
So many of life’s outcomes, achievements in particular, depend on clear, confident communication. Whether it’s a presentation to colleagues at work, settling a disagreement with your spouse or making weekend plans with friends, communication plays a key role. However, a large majority of individuals don’t consider themselves to be great conversationalists. Still, the act of learning how to be a good communicator is an endeavour that’s frequently undervalued and neglected.
Even if it doesn’t come naturally, there are many ways to enhance your speaking abilities, often that have nothing to do with verbal communication at all. When we become stronger communicators, we undoubtedly become stronger in other aspects of our life. We become stronger partners, friends, parents, coworkers, leaders and beyond. There are actually thousands of fantastic reasons as to why you should sharpen up your communication skills, without a single good reason not to.
So, whether you’d like to become more persuasive in the boardroom or simply have more engaged conversations, here are 6 ways to become a better communicator:
Keep your focus
Between the scramble to get ahead and the technology-driven world we live in, we’ve become the generation of multitasking. You can’t communicate effectively when your mind is elsewhere, however. If your focus is another place you’re likely to miss important details that might make all the difference between a successful or unsuccessful conversation. Besides, when do people ever want just your divided attention? Whether you’re participating in a group discussion or having a one-on-one conversation always be fully present.
Learn to listen
This ties in with staying focused and is probably the most important piece of advice, as listening is the foundation of all good communication. It’s makes sense. If you don’t know what others are saying (or not saying), it’s unlikely that you’ll be able to adequately respond or relate to them. But listen to understand, not to merely reply. This type of active listening will allow you to read between the spoken lines. So, never go into a conversation with the sole objective to speak.
Effective communication is not a one-way street. No matter the audience size, great communicators always ask questions. This tactic has two benefits. First, it helps speakers clarify their thoughts and feelings. Second, it provides the listener with even more information and ideas to reflect upon. Successful communicators also question their audience to confirm that their point has been understood. Open-ended questions, as opposed to ‘yes’ and ‘no’ questions, are always more valuable.
Practice better body language
Body language has a major impact on the way people speak to and read one another. The more you’re able to develop a keener awareness of these visual signals while communicating, the easier it will become for you to understand your audience. Remember, too, that your own body language will say more than words. For instance, positive body language is more likely to encourage an open flow of communication with others. Try to keep an upright posture, steady eye contact and use affirmative movements (nodding, hand gestures, etc.) when appropriate.
Don’t be afraid of a bit of silence
Occasional lags in conversation are natural and often expected. Don’t be too hard on yourself. As a matter of fact, silence can actually be one of the most effective strategies for communication. How? Silence can raise your perceived authority as well encourage others to speak up. Practice using clean, fitting pauses and see what happens. It may take a bit of practice to thoroughly master, but the results can be well worth the effort.
And finally, critique yourself
Even if you think you’re doing a superb job at communicating, there’s always going to be room for improvement. Consider recording yourself speaking publicly or in an everyday conversation to listen back to. Maybe you talk too fast or use words such as “um” or “like” too many times? Once you find areas you’d like to improve upon, work through each one individually. It’s also a good idea to continuously invest in improving your communications skills through various books, workshops and generally just stepping outside of your comfort zone.
Choosing to advance your communication skills is one of the best investments you can make. Each of these tips will help to ensure that you say what you mean and hear what is intended. Great communication opens up ideas, thoughts, feelings and doors to so many possibilities. Start today to become a better communicator.
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Miscommunication, conflict, assumptions, errors, mistakes, ineffective decisions and a loss of team cohesion: What do all of these organizational issues have in common? All are the result, at least in part, of poor listening.
It’s often said that we have two ears but only one mouth. Therefore, we should listen twice as much as we speak. Yet, while effective listening is a highly valued skill in the workplace, many of us find that task difficult to master.
Even good listeners have difficulty remembering what they heard. A study by the University of Minnesota on thousands of students and hundreds of business professionals revealed that people could remember only about 50 percent of what they’d heard just a few minutes after listening to a short lecture. This retention rate dropped to less than 25 percent after about two months.
The ability to listen ranks high on most lists of skills employers desire in employees. In addition, listening is critical when you’re learning on the job, which is another skill that employers desire. Listening also comes into play in collaboration, problem-solving and teamwork — more skills and qualities that rank near the top with employers.
According to listening experts like Lyman Steil of the University of Minnesota, the average adult spends about 70 percent of his or her day in some form of communication. The most oft-cited statistics show that adults spend 9 percent of their communication time writing, 16 percent reading, 30 percent speaking and 45 percent listening. Therefore, if you want to improve your interpersonal communication skills, focus on becoming a better listener.
Myriad experts have written volumes on this subject, but we find that keeping the focus on a few key tips gives the best results.
Listen for content.
While words are only part of the message, they are an important part. Albert Mehrabian, in his book Silent Messages, suggested that words provide 7 percent of the meaning we derive from a message. So, use your intellect to listen for facts and ideas as well as the specific words people choose; but focus on the main idea being presented.
You may also want to check your understanding by feeding back the main idea to the speaker and asking if you are correct in what he or she is trying to convey. It is essential to ask questions if you don’t understand the meaning of a word, idiom or acronym. Don’t let a reluctance to show a lack of knowledge get in the way of understanding.
Listen to the intent.
Mehrabian also reported that 38 percent of the meaning of a message comes from tone of voice, inflection, pauses and other vocalizations. Practice using your intuition to hear the underlying messages. If you know the speaker, this will be easier, but you can become more aware by actively listening for the clues of how a message is presented.
Assess the speaker’s nonverbal communication.
Body language, including facial expressions, provides another 55 percent of the verbal message. Watch for signals that tell you what the speaker is really saying. Remember to take in the entire picture instead of focusing on one indicator. For instance, crossed arms don’t always mean that the speaker is defensive, disagrees, is uncertain or insecure. Sometimes this just signals that the person is cold.
Monitor your nonverbal communication.
You must be just as vigilant about the messages you are sending to the speaker while you are listening. Remember, body language can speak very loudly without your saying a word. If the conversation is positive, it’s fine to show this.
However, if the topic is more negative, you need to practice your poker face, especially if you tend to be animated and are easy to read. Sending negative signals may shut down the conversation before you are able to understand the other person’s point of view. Doing this will end your chance for resolution.
Listen to the speaker with empathy.
Finally, try to see the situation from your speaker’s point of view and try not to prejudge. One of the best pieces of advice we ever received was to listen to a person’s entire point before interjecting our thoughts into the mix. In addition, try to focus on the speaker and what he or she is saying, instead of mentally composing your rebuttal. If you can do this, your listening prowess will immediately improve.
Becoming a better listener takes time, practice and commitment. We often recommend this exercise as a way to sharpen your skills: First, choose a person with whom you would like to strengthen your relationship. Begin by asking an open-ended question to get the conversation started. Then, listen while you apply the five steps listed above.
Start small. Strive to listen for five minutes during which you are not allowed to interrupt, or give advice or hijack the conversation by telling the speaker your side or story. Keep the conversation going by giving the speaker verbal and nonverbal signals that you are listening, and asking additional questions.
Remember, interpersonal communication is a two-way street. People often need you to listen to them before they will be willing to listen to you. As Stephen Covey said in his book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, you should seek first to understand, then to be understood.
May 25, 2020 Updated August 20, 2020
One of the most satisfying parts about watching a child grow up is observing how they learn to communicate. Maybe they start with some baby sign language and then move on to basic sounds and words. There’s also something refreshing about communicating with a small child: they always cut to the chase and tell it like it is. While that’s not always going to be appropriate as an adult, we could all learn a thing or two about effective communication from those little straight-shooters in our life. Regardless of your age, here are four ways you can learn how to communicate better.
Get Comfortable With Small Talk
Is making small talk fun? Not necessarily. But is it an important skill? Absolutely. It’s something we have to do at various points throughout our daily life, both in professional and personal situations. If you’re not used to chatting with strangers or even coworkers, it may seem awkward at first, but once you get used to it, it becomes second nature. Not sure where to start? The “triangulation method” is a safe bet. According to Josh Ocampo at Lifehacker, “This method involves three points: you, your partner, and the observable thing in front of you — in other words, your common ground.” So find something that ties you and the other person together — even if it’s something basic like the weather or the weekend — and go from there.
When in doubt, always keep it simple. If you know you will be attending a work event or function where you will be meeting and mingling with people you may not know well, you can keep the conversation easy and light with talks of favorite books, current movies, upcoming travel plans. Always steer clear of heavy topics like politics and religion, and certainly stay away from office gossip.
Listen to And Hear the Other Person
We learn early on that it’s important to be a good listener, but that involves more than just sitting there quietly with your eyes directed towards the person speaking. You should actually make the effort to actively listen to and hear the other person. Actively listening involves doing so attentively while someone else speaks, then paraphrasing and reflecting back what is said, all while withholding judgment and unsolicited advice. “We’re often so afraid of not being heard, we rush to keep talking,” Dr. John M. Grohol writes on PsychCentral. “Ironically, such behavior makes it all the more likely we won’t be heard.”
Pay Attention to Nonverbal Cues
While you can’t really pick up on nonverbal cues when speaking with someone over the phone, or corresponding via email or instant message, it’s an important component of in-person and video calls. Nonverbal communication includes things like your body language, the tone and inflection of your voice, and eye contact. Not only should you pay attention to the other person’s nonverbal cues, but also keep track of your own. Grohol provides the following examples of nonverbal cues:
- “Folded arms in front of a person may mean they’re feeling defensive or closed off.
- Lack of eye contact may mean they’re not really interested in what you’re saying, are ashamed of something, or find it difficult to talk about something.
- Louder, more aggressive tone may mean the person is escalating the discussion and is becoming very emotionally involved.
- It might also suggest they feel like they’re not being heard or understood.
Someone who’s turned away from you when talking to you may mean disinterest or being closed off.”
So as much as you love a well-timed eye-roll, it’s not always the best option for in-person conversations.
You can be as present as you want in the conversation but if your body language is sending the message that you’d rather be anywhere else but right there with your conversation partner, well, that’s just not going to foster any sort of communication. Keep away from your phone, try not to be distracted by what’s happening around you, concentrate solely on the person you are speaking with. You wouldn’t want to be speaking with someone who keeps looking out the window or checking their phone, try to keep your own actions in mind during the conversation.
When effectively communicating with someone, make sure that you’re not just physically present, but mentally there as well. This means doing things like asking the person appropriate, thoughtful and relevant questions to keep the conversation moving, and being forthright and honest with your own responses. If you don’t know the answer to something, don’t be afraid to let the person know. Stay away from distractions, like checking your phone or watching TV, and give the other person your undivided attention. Remember that learning how to communicate better involves both improving your conversation skills, as well as understanding how to be a more effective listener.
Insightful quotes about communication
“Don’t use words too big for the subject. Don’t say infinitely when you mean very; otherwise you’ll have no word left when you want to talk about something really infinite.” ― C.S. Lewis
“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”
― George Bernard Shaw
“When you give yourself permission to communicate what matters to you in every situation you will have peace despite rejection or disapproval. Putting a voice to your soul helps you to let go of the negative energy of fear and regret.” ― Shannon L. Alder
“One of the most important things you can do on this earth is to let people know they are not alone.”
― Shannon L. Alder
For a few years, you couldn’t open your news feed without seeing an article dedicated to helping boomers and gen x-ers manage millennials. Millennials were a tough group to crack—they were digitally native, entrepreneurial and more likely to move around than their predecessors.
It took a while for some professionals to learn how to gel with millennials at the office, and also how to help them succeed.
Fast-forward a few years, and the question is no longer how to manage millennials, but how to turn millennials into excellent managers. The younger generation has come into its own in the workforce; in fact, in 2015 this age group surpassed gen x as the largest in the workforce.
Watch on Forbes:
Millennials have been leading the charge in the evolution of workplace culture and digital innovation, and now they’re stepping up as company leaders. Today, millennials hold 20% of all management jobs. Furthermore, 40% of millennials want to serve in leadership roles. If you are looking to become a better communicator and leader, consider these five truths to gain an edge over your competitors.
1. Get Comfortable With Virtual Communication
Company communications are no longer just a matter of face-to-face conversations. Today’s global workforce is becoming increasingly flexible, which means companies must adopt virtual communications strategies to maintain team functionality. Moving forward, young leaders will not only be tasked with communicating with internal teams via video conference, but also with clients and prospective customers.
How company leaders present themselves on camera will have a direct impact on company success. The best way to improve video and virtual communication proficiency is through practice. Tasking young managers with leading internal virtual meetings on a regular basis will help them prepare for a future when video conferencing, and even VR, will play a major role in their day-to-day responsibilities.
2. Slow Down When You Write
Chalk it up to texting culture or less time, but emails in today’s work environments have become pretty lax. In fact, many older employees gripe about the diminishing standards of written communication. An easy way for young leaders to earn the respect of their peers, and elders, is to spend time on their writing.
There are certainly email etiquette rules that every professional should follow. But to really position yourself as an effective communicator and strong leader, you should pay special attention to responding in a timely manner, using proper grammar and concise language, and copying all parties relevant to the conversation.
3. Pay Attention To Your Body Language
As a young leader, it’s your job to help your team members and direct reports grow into their roles. Young leaders must not only know how to listen to their colleagues; they must also be able to encourage team members to voice concerns and opinions.
Make yourself open to questions and discourse; if your team sees that you are open to conversation and critique, they will be more comfortable with speaking up.
You can communicate a sense of presence and openness through your body language. The next time a direct report approaches you with a question or concern, try mirroring their movements, because this will subliminally signify total presence.
You cannot be a solid communicator if you do not know how to listen first. The professional workplace today is full of distractions: employees are juggling multiple devices, email accounts and inter-office communication systems.
There’s a lot of digital noise, which can make it hard to focus on someone else’s message. Something as simple as putting down your phone during meetings and face-to-face conversations will not only help you focus on what is being said; it will also send the message to your team members that you value them and care about what they have to say.
5. Embrace Differences
As a young company leader, you might be managing people both younger and older than you. Working with a variety of age groups means you have to navigate distinct communication preferences and styles.
Your older colleagues and direct reports may prefer face-to-face communications, whereas any millennials or gen z-ers who fall under your guidance may prefer to communicate updates and ask questions over messaging applications.
While you have the opportunity to set the tone for your team, it’s also in your best interest to meet them where they are most comfortable, which means you’ll need to communicate across a variety of media every day.
Communication practices in the office are changing rapidly. Today, how you present yourself across social media and in virtual meetings can have a big impact on the amount of respect you earn from your colleagues.
Effective and meaningful communication is vital to human growth and function. However, the 21st century’s emphasis on speed has often produced quick results at the expense of quality and durability. These days we want our food faster and our coffee in an instant. Communication, like many other facets of human life, has been affected by our need for speed. The push for instant gratification has seen the rise of instant messaging. While getting the word out quickly does have its benefits, too often we focus solely on what we say rather than what we hear.
Why Listening Well Is So Important
A poll of 100 mental health professionals revealed communication problems is the most often cited contributing factor for divorce (65%). When considering divorce, 56% of women said their husband’s lack of listening was among their top communication complaints.
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There are occasions when some conflicts become explosive and the situation may progress far more quickly than expected. In these circumstances, it may be important to slow down and listen. Listening well allows you to accurately gauge the situation from the other party’s perspective, discover the other party’s true concerns or needs, and respond in a manner that may quell the emotionally heated exchange. Poor listening skills, however, often contribute to poor communication.
Types of Listening Skills
In an effort to become a better communicator, learning and practicing different types of listening skills may be necessary. In many cases, we listen in order to learn facts, uncover emotions, or analyze a particular issue. Of course, the type of listening skill you choose to employ at a particular time will depend greatly on the setting, the audience, and your communication goals. After considering your circumstances closely, you may decide to use one of these types of listening:
Active listening – This skill encourages the listener to focus his or her full attention on the speaker. It involves repeating what the listener believes the speaker said, but in the listener’s own words. The listener may also express his or her understanding of the speaker’s psychological response to the situation. For example, an active listener may say “I understand you are upset that I borrowed your notes without asking.” The speaker may then confirm or clarify the listener’s understanding.
When listening, you may sometimes become distracted by your own thoughts. Perhaps you may be overly concerned about what you are going to say in response, or you may believe you already know what the speaker is about to say. However, active listening involves setting aside judgment during the listening process and using nonverbal communication—such as facial expressions, gestures, and other forms of body language—to show the speaker that complete attention is being paid to his or her message.
Reflective listening – This strategy is often confused with active listening as it too involves giving the speaker undivided attention, using nonverbal cues, and asking questions in order to confirm ideas or provide further clarification. However, while active listening encourages the listener to express what he or she thinks the speaker says or feels, reflective listening encourages the listener to reflect or mirror the speaker’s psychology and emotions so the speaker feels as if he or she is being listened to.
The goal of reflective listening is to provide support while trying to understand the speaker’s perspective. This approach can be crucial to maintaining romantic, business, and social ties as it demonstrates sensitivity to the speaker’s emotions.
Key points to remember during reflective listening include:
- Step back from your own emotions
- Look past the speaker’s behavior for underlying causes of the behavior
- Empathize with the speaker and mirror the speaker’s emotions
- Avoid using the word “why” when asking questions as this may be misinterpreted as the listener passing judgment or imposing his or her own beliefs on the speaker
Critical listening – This listening strategy is often used when the aim of the listener is to evaluate and analyze what is being said. Critical listening is often employed in situations that involve decision-making or problem-solving. Unlike active listening and reflective listening, which are both non-judgmental listening skills, critical listening involves the use of personal judgment.
Critical listening can be an excellent tool in academic or business contexts in which the primary goal of communication is to garner accurate information, compare it to what is already known, and apply it to situations in which it may be beneficial. A critical listener will ask questions about whether the information being transmitted is credible, logical, or being used for manipulation. As critical listening is usually results-oriented, it may be best used when neither the speaker nor the listener is overly concerned about his or her emotions during communication.
Ways to Apply Listening Skills
While it can be important for good communicators to learn good listening skills, it may be equally important to learn how to apply these skills effectively. To facilitate meaningful communication, it is recommended that the listener face the speaker and maintain eye contact. Not only can this approach minimize possible distractions, it can give the speaker the impression that his or her message is being taken seriously.
Listening well allows you to accurately gauge the situation from the other party’s perspective, discover the other party’s true concerns or needs, and respond in a manner that may quell the emotionally heated exchange. Poor listening skills, however, often contribute to poor communication. A good communicator should also be relaxed during conversation. Though an effective listener may be mindful of interrupting the speaker and only ask clarifying questions when the speaker pauses, he or she may send nonverbal cues to the speaker that can significantly affect the flow of communication.
Good communicators are also encouraged to keep an open mind, picture what the speaker is saying, and give appropriate feedback at appropriate times. This practice may put the speaker at ease—particularly if he or she is relating a difficult issue—and may prompt the speaker to provide more information than expected.
As social beings our quality of life is often dependent on meaningful communication with others, and the application of effective listening skills can be a big part of that effort. When properly used, these techniques can help enhance our marriages, families, careers, and more.
If your goal is to become a better communicator as you carry out your role as parent, partner, teacher, supervisor, or friend, try applying these strategies to your life. You may discover improvements in your personal relationships in the process. Being a good speaker is commendable, but if you want to be a good communicator, you may want to stop talking for a moment and listen up!