It’s no secret that solid communication is the foundation of success within an organization. It’s the glue that holds teams together, the fuel that keeps projects on track, and, when conflict arises, the first line of defense. When communication is good, mistakes are minimized and outcomes are maximized.
But what specifically can individuals do to foster effective communication?
Here are 5 Practical Communication Skills:
SKILL #1 – Specificity
Whether you’re communicating face to face or via technology
DO present all the information you can that might be relevant and make it as clear as possible. When in doubt, use the “what, why, how, who, and by when.”
DON’T expect people to read your mind. Avoid giving ambiguous instructions like “take care of this” or “tighten this up” as they do not establish specifically what your expectations are.
SKILL #2 – Active Listening
When you’re getting briefed or instructed
DO stay focused by taking notes and asking questions. Clarify when you’re not sure about something you hear.
DON’T make assumptions. A good rule of thumb to make sure you’re on the same page with someone is to repeat back what you heard; for example, “So to recap what you just said, I need to proof the report, update the slide deck, and send it to you by 9:00 AM Friday… Is that correct?”
SKILL #3 – Assertiveness
Don’t be afraid to be assertive. While this may be uncomfortable for many, there is a way to be both respectful and direct. For example: “I realize this project is high priority, however there isn’t enough time allotted for me to realistically complete the task. I can’t have it to you tomorrow, but I will have it to you by Thursday at 4pm.”
SKILL #4 – Avoid Multi-tasking
Various studies have shown that multi-tasking actually decreases productivity. Instead of feeling tempted to take on two or more things at once, try to:
Minimize distractions – put aside conversations, tasks, and projects that aren’t related to the task at hand.
Prioritize – when making your to-do list, rank each task on a scale of 1 to 3 (3 being high priority, 1 being low priority), then tackle the 3’s first, the 2’s next, and 1’s last, focusing on completing each task before moving on to the next.
Change your environment – if you can’t focus due to a loud common area, high-stress environment, or anything else that you can’t control, change your environment. Move to a different room, go to a coffee shop—whatever you need to do to refocus.
SKILL #5 – Be Aware of Your Communication Style
When it comes to communication, self-awareness is a super power. Take time to identify your communication strengths and weaknesses.
Pay attention to how your tone, volume, word choice, and body language affect others. If you’re often misunderstood, or feel you’re being perceived negatively, ask others for feedback on how you can improve.
Check your non-verbal behaviors. Sit up straight. Face the people you’re interfacing with. Look them in the eye. Smile. Match the energy of the room.
For more tips on fostering effective communication we recommend these video programs: