As humans, communication is the most fundamental thing in our everyday life. It is the act of delivering a message through a mutually understandable medium. We use it to express our feelings, emotions, ideas, knowledge, and a lot more. We use it to also share and relay information.
Men throughout history has studied the art and science of communication, and have created many creative ways to communicate. There’s the written, oral, pictures, sign and body language…the list goes on. Communication has become a formal field of study and research, and this field is continuously growing as new theories and mediums of communication are being developed.
Authors use it to share their knowledge and creative insight to their audience; teachers use it to impart academic knowledge and values, vision, and principles to their students; co-workers and business partners use it to brainstorm and challenge new ideas, and come up with that game-changing plan that will set the company to new heights; aspiring employees use it to win the favors of their job interviewers, and hopefully land that work they’ve always wanted.
With the help of technology, communication has never been easier. Smartphones let us call our friends, workmates, boss and loved ones everywhere we are. Social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter lets us share our thoughts to our friends and followers with just a click of the mouse. Messenger applications such as Brosix lets individuals or groups of people chat in real time without going through all the trouble of meeting each other physically.
What communication research has done for us is to help identify our weaknesses in our skills in expressing ourselves and sharing insights in the right way. Many people still struggle in communicating themselves, especially when faced with the public or a person in higher authority. Many still lack the confidence to carry a conversation, which ends up on a lot of awkward moments. Even with technology making communication a lot easier, we cannot deny that we still need good communication skills to be effective at work and relationships.
You may have some of them, or maybe you don’t, but it’s a great way to assess yourself on communication areas that you need to improve. We also identify some weak points that do not involve talking, since communication is both verbal and nonverbal. Most of these points are usually seen in the workplace, but it can happen even in casual set-ups. Then, we list some of the things you can do. We hope that as you identify your weak points, you’ll be able to overcome them and eventually become a good communicator to achieve more results in work and life.
In communication, listening is just as important as talking or speaking. When you are a good listener, you make the other person feel that his or her ideas are important. This will build trust and the person will look forward to talk with you again. On the other hand, the person may feel disrespected or ignored when you are not a good listener. When you don’t maintain eye contact, look around, or focus on other things, especially your phone may have an effect how you communicate with others.
Some ways to be a good listener are maintaining eye contact, focusing on what the other person is saying and let the person feel that what he is saying is important. Even though his ideas are farfetched and seemingly impossible, the other person will think that you are reliable and trustworthy because you don’t immediately shrug off his ideas. Also, remembering what the other person said will also help build that trusting relationship.
Again, communication involves verbal and nonverbal elements, and both are important. Nonverbal communication usually involves the posture, tone, gestures, facial expressions and body language. The message received and understood by the other person may not be the same as the one you intended to deliver when your nonverbal actions are not consistent with your verbal ones. Posture plays a big part here: when you slouch, lean away, mumble, stop or look elsewhere when you are talking, the other person may translate that into not taking your word seriously.
Be sensitive with your physical actions when talking to another person. Maintain good posture, lean forward and make sure you know what you will say. Giving a firm handshake is also a good thing to practice. You are letting let them know that you are taking your word seriously, and they will do it, too. Also, always be sensitive to the other person’s gestures, so you will know how to respond well. These may take a lot of practice and time to perfect, but when you start to be conscious on your nonverbal cues, your communication skills will definitely improve.
Our relationships with people are measured in different degrees, and the way we approach and communicate to them should be different as well. When we talk with our friends, we use our casual tone of speaking – we do not exert much thought and effort on how we do it because of our relationships with friends. But when it comes to people with authority, our elders, our boss at work, and maybe even our parents, our communication style should be different. There’s respect shown by our tone and gestures, and we put more effort in using the right words and actions, so that the person will understand our message. However, some people fail to see this, and when you treat your boss and friends as equals, without reservations on speech and actions, the results may not be good. This may not give a good impression on them, and may affect your work relationships.
This usually happens between people born in different generations, where the generation gap comes to play. When your boss is born as a boomer and you’re a millennial, there is a good chance that his or her principles and values are different than yours. When your approach to them is not appropriate according to their standards, they may misunderstand everything you say. The opposite is also true – when boomers approach millennials in a way that is not appealing to them, the result will most likely be a disconnect.
When you approach someone who’s a generation older than you, always respect him or her. If you’re a boomer and you approach a millennial, learn to understand his or her principles and values, and eventually you’ll be able to connect with the person. No generation is better than the other, and by respecting and understanding person from different generations, you’ll be a step closer in being a more effective communicator, and achieve better results in work and relationships.
Words are always powerful. The difference between getting that job, earning the respect of your boss, or even giving a good speech to your audience and failing to convince them of anything is in the words you use. One communication weakness people still have are hedges, hesitations, and “wimpy words.” Words like, “uh..”, “umm…”, “sort of…”, and other words that express uncertainty and ambiguity. When you use them when talking to your boss, you’re not being sure and convinced in whatever message you try to deliver, and he or she might not receive it well. When you use them in your job interview, they will find that as a liability, and your chances of getting that job will close to zero.
Be clear and direct when speaking to others, especially people with higher authority. Have more conviction and drop the wimpy words. One way to avoid them is to be prepared in what you will say. Writing them down first and practicing to a mirror also help. Ask them politely if they understand what you just said. By doing these, people will take your word more seriously, and they will understand that your opinion or message is important.
There are different mediums in communication. They can be in the form of written, oral or even in gestures and body language. Some people are better at written communication, and others have more edge when using speech. Some news and messages are better delivered in written, and others in oral. Many people are not aware of this – their message might not be completely understood by another solely because delivered using the less effective medium.
When delivering a message to others, first consider the better medium – either talk to him or her directly or write a letter. There are advantages and disadvantages for both, and the it’s always case to case. See if your message will be delivered more effectively when emailed or when you talk to the person. In the workplace, most communications happen in email, but if you think that your message is better delivered through speech, then use it. By being aware and knowing what medium is best, you’ll be able to overcome this weak point in communication.
There will always be a time when you need to go through a difficult conversation. Maybe you’re an employer and you have to fire somebody, or an employee asking for a raise, or just someone who needs to deliver bad news. Difficult conversations are unavoidable – one way or another you’ll go through it. And because it’s a make-or-break situation, you must be prepared. Every word and gesture will count. If you don’t, it may lead to bad consequences: possibly a damaged reputation, depression, and breakdowns which may worsen if you don’t fix the situation.
In difficult conversations, all the more you must be conscious and sensitive in your words and gestures. Use a neutral tone, maintain eye contact, and be aware of other person’s reactions. If delivering bad news, use the sandwich method: tell positive things about the person, then the bad news, and finally speak words of encouragement to him or her. W
hen firing somebody, tell him or her the bad news but encourage the person in the end. Although we understand that technology is present and we can have these difficult conversations online, it is better to have it direct and face-to-face, because nonverbal elements matter in these kinds of talks. People may not receive your message well in the first, due to a burst of emotion, denial or other reasons, but he or she will eventually understand. The relationship may not be the same with the person, but what’s important is that you have delivered the conversation well.
Although tardiness does not directly affect your communication skills, your reliability and trustability may decrease when you are habitually late on meetings, especially if it is you who set the time. There’s a thing called word of honor, and when people take your word seriously but you can’t follow through, it will be difficult to win their trust again. Being always late is offensive to some people, as they think that your time is more important than them, but theirs is just as important, too. In the workplace, tardiness can be a big issue that affects your employment, and you might lose your job because of this.
Do your best to come in time in meetings, and if you can’t make it, always inform your co-workers or boss ahead of time, so they know that you will be late. We’re pretty sure they’ll understand. When you’ve built your trust with others, do everything to maintain that trust, and one way is to practice punctuality. Be a person of your word and always follow through, and more people will trust you.
There are a lot more weak points in communication that might hinder you from achieving the best results in your workplace, but the mentioned points are a good start in being a more effective communicator.