5 Essential Skills That Improve Your Ability To Communicate

What does it mean to communicate? Let’s begin with a definition:

Communication is a learned behavior, enhanced through training and experience, that is the foundation for all performance competencies, notably process improvement, whose model reflects a continuous cycle of information transmitted, received, analyzed, and returned to its origin, then repeated with increasing efficiency to attain the desired resolution.

. . . and all of this is accomplished through a heartfelt “Good Morning.”

We really don’t need a heavyweight definition to showcase the importance of communication.

We simply need to begin our day.

From the moment you wake, you are reading, writing, speaking, or listening. Sometimes all four at once.

Knowing when and how, more so than what to communicate is the essence of effective communication. As a learned behavior, your continued success will be enhanced by developing the following five essential skills into strengths:

Listening

Active listening is the ability to listen beyond what is being said, to sense both the content and feelings expressed to clarify understanding.

This requires you to be attentive, to demonstrate a potent interest in what’s being expressed or shared. It is the desire, interest, self-discipline, and concentration to receive the information being sent to you.

Listening will ask you to be patient, another consistent trait among great listeners.

Develop patience by resisting a primal impulse to respond. Practice breathing . . . you can’t speak and take a breath at the same time.

Avoid long, dramatic, deep breaths that may send the wrong message and generate anxiety. When you feel the urge to respond, simply breathe in through your nose, as you would in a subtle relaxation exercise.

Remember that while not everyone will be an effective communicator, you can always employ proper active listening techniques.

Whole-Body Communicator

Reflect for a moment on some of your past or present colleagues. Could you sense from the moment they walked in the room whether they were in a good mood or bad?

Witness the power behind non-verbal communication.

Our current mood aside, non-verbal communication plays a huge role in our one-on-one exchanges, as well.

Always place yourself in a position to openly exchange information. This includes:

  • facing the speaker/listener with an attentive posture
  • convey a positive, encouraging attitude through body positioning and facial expression
  • nod your head in acknowledgement of what’s being expressed
  • maintain good eye contact

Eye contact is something that society has become less accustomed to over time. Go for it anyway . . . it demonstrates genuine sincerity, so set a new standard among your team.

Tall Tim Example: I was participating in a Staff Meeting with several other leaders. When it came time for individual input, many of my peers used that opportunity to check their phones, or review documents they had prepared for the meeting.

I always resist the urge to do those things and instead listen attentively as leaders share their information. This includes establishing eye contact.

As one leader began contributing details, her eyes engaged briefly with mine. She stumbled slightly as she spoke, then looked at me again and asked, “What is it?”

I didn’t understand her question, so with a subtle shake of my head I responded, “Nothing . . . why?”

“Well,” she said, “You keep looking at me.”

The leader sitting next to her chimed in, “Yeah, you were looking at me when I was speaking, too.”

I wasn’t looking, I was listening.

Establishing eye contact communicates confidence and trust in that what is being expressed, is being received.

With the current state of society and technology, we don’t always communicate face-to-face.

When you do, make sure it is also eye-to-eye.

Choose Words Thoughtfully

This skill is often phrased as “choose words carefully”.

That feels cautious and threatening: Be Careful!

I’d rather you Be Thoughtful.

Pause to consider the intended outcome of your communication. View it from a third person perspective:

Does the dialogue represent a genuine sense and feel for the overall message?

Do my words represent clarity of content, impacting the listener or reader with the desired intent?

This becomes more challenging in verbal communication when emotions can override consideration.

Your skill will improve with practice and preparation. Again, establish trust and self-confidence in what, and how you will communicate your message.

Then remember to think before you speak.

Be Personal

The world can feel like a cruel and heartless place. So can our attempts at everyday communication.

Why not enhance your skills through a spirit of optimism?

Demonstrate genuine interest in someone’s well-being by asking a personal question, even something as simple as “How are you?”

If their answer is, “Miserable”, and you follow up with “Great! I’m calling to ask” . . . you might lose a little credibility there.

A thoughtful verbal or non-verbal gesture sets the proper tone, showing that you care about more than just the content or required action you’re communicating.

You care about the person’s well-being, their interests, or contributions to the team.

Be open to a return gesture and respond genuinely with, “Thank you for asking.”

Because the pace of life moves so fast, it’s easy to forget we’re people taking care of people. Slow it down for a moment and share your genuine interest in another person’s welfare.

Be Yourself

Our fifth skill can be summarized in three words: Believe in yourself.

There is only one incredible, unique, non-replaceable you.

It takes determination and effort to remain authentic.

But genuine authenticity is your foundation for expression. People will listen to and trust what you say if they sense it is coming from the heart. They may not agree with it, but they will respect the message.

It’s natural to emulate the style of others.  Most of that will influence technique . . . pace, dictation, hand gestures, varying tones, etc.

What remains consistent among all effective communicators is confidence in their unique voice and an unwavering passion for expressing how they feel.

If you believe in yourself and desire to make meaning through words and expression, you possess the ability to become an effective communicator.

Continue to develop your potential. As with other aspects of behavior, repetition will make being authentic feel like second nature in no time .

And In The End . . .

If I were to simplify the sentiment of our five skills, it would be a subtle encouragement to “think enhance, before enforce.”

Maintain the proper perspective by asking, “What is the intended benefit of what I’m communicating?”

It may be something very personal, such as convincing an interviewer that you’re perfect for the position. This calls for active listening, thoughtful word choice, and a confident belief in yourself.

If your team is working through change, being conscious of your whole-body communication is critical to building trust in the unknown. Your value is that of a walking role model for confidence, trust, and enthusiasm, ahead of being an enforcer for shifting behaviors.

Practicing these skills will develop habits, leading to a second nature appreciation for the simplicity within a pleasant, “Good morning.”

Thank you for spending your Tuesday with Tall Tim Talks!

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