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How to develop effective communication skills

How to develop effective communication skills

Communication is a broad subject, isn’t it?

Perhaps you’ve already realised that developing effective communication skills is an ongoing process. Those that make it a life-long learning journey become masters of communication and they know the secret.

Expression and communication is an art.

If I lined up 20 people, I bet at least half of them would have something that they want to express and haven’t. This could be because they don’t want to hurt someone’s feelings, or because they’re not sure how to say it in the right way.

The other half could be people who express everything, often hurting people’s feelings. They need to develop how they communicate empathetically and thoughtfully.

Generally, people find it easier to communicate about facts rather than emotions. That’s their downfall.

Emotions are what touch people. They form connection and influence. When you can articulate emotion successfully, you can build incredible relationships.

At POD HR & Training, we provide customised training for businesses across Sussex on the art of communication. We answer questions on this on a daily basis. I wanted to write this article to help you know the best route to developing effective communication skills.

team sitting around a desk discussing work

Developing business communication skills

We thought this was a great place to start when teaching you communication skills! Lets face it, communication can make or break a business.

All it takes is one message being delivered in the wrong way and employees can leave, customers can go to competitors, and costly errors can happen.

Let’s not be glass half empty here! Let’s look at the positive.

Developing business communication skills provides a HUGE opportunity to save money, make more money, and be the absolute best in your field.

Why wouldn’t you want to improve in something so incredibly beneficial??

When I work with companies across East Sussex and West Sussex, I often conduct communication risk assessments. That may sound very regimented and boring, but I promise you it’s far from it!

It’s actually a very eye opening exercise which shows businesses how much time and money they’re losing through communication mistakes. This then reflects how well they can do when they master it!

You’d be amazed at how the risk values add up. Communication errors can cost thousands of pounds a week. It’s no surprise that one of our most popular bespoke training packages is based on communication!

4 colleagues talking on sofas

What does it mean to have effective communication skills?

So many people are quick to say they’re great communicators. Perhaps they are. However, I’ve not met anyone (myself included) that can’t improve their communication skills!

If you can check off every one on the following points, then congratulations! You’re a master at communication. If there’s still a few you’re missing then there’s room for improvement.

  • You can consciously use language and match other people’s preferred language style either Visual, Auditory, Kinsaesthetic, or Auditory-Digital.
  • You listen well and understand what the person is intending through deeper questioning and clarification
  • You know the purpose and suitability of closed, leading, multiple, open, and probing questions and can flex between as required.
  • You can get to the root of problems using language, with methods such as Meta model.
  • You can adapt your tone, phrasing, and amount of detail to the person you’re communicating with.
  • You can communicate assertively without generating resistance
  • You can articulate emotion with ease
  • You know how to identify if someone is a sensor or intuitor. This basically means are they big picture communicators or do they like the specifics. A big picture communicator hates getting bogged down in specifics. A specifics person will be dis-engaged with airy fairy big picture stuff. If you have ever seen anyone switch off in a meeting, there is a good chance it could be for this reason.
  • You can hear the gaps in information and identify key questions to get all of the pieces of the jigsaw
  • You can find agreement even in times of disagreement
  • You know persuasive language patterns
  • You can use language that influences at a deeper level and impacts mind-sets
  • You’re confident at public speaking and can tailor style to your audience

I could go on for ages about communication, but I’m going to stop myself here! Making yourself a master in communication is one of the best investments you can make in yourself.

woman talking to customer over headset

How to develop business communication skills

If you want to improve communication in your business, here are a few tips to get you started.

1.    Choose your method of communication carefully

So many challenges arise because people use emails when phone or face-to-face would be more appropriate.

Emails are great for factual messages. They’re necessary for important and legal messages so that there is a written trail.

However, emails are terrible for relationship building. Why?

Because people can’t hear the tone behind the words.

Emails can be received radically differently to how they were intended. I promise you, emails can be one of the biggest relationship killers in business. Words have power. Choose them carefully.

I’d recommend making it a part of all of your training programmes or inductions. Once you’ve decided on your communication ethos as a business (for example, what’s suitable for email and what’s better face-to-face), make this clear to every single employee.

Just this one act alone can save you thousands and prevent any heart wrenching conflict.

2.    Clarify

One little word that has a mountain of importance.

You’d be amazed at how many times I hear ‘I didn’t tell them to do it’.

Yes, perhaps you didn’t tell them. However, our minds are processing millions of bits of information each and every day. How do you know your message was clear unless you ask?

They may be a different type of communicator, with a different communication preference. Perhaps you’re naturally visual, and others are auditory.

The point is, we’ve all had different experiences in life which shape how we perceive new information. The only way you know that your message has been received in the way it was meant to is to clarify.

After communicating something important, recap the key points and ask:

“Just make sure we’re both heading in the same direction, what’s your understanding of what we have discussed and agreed today?”

This gives you clarity and an opportunity to fill in any gaps. You should NOT be asking:

  • Do you understand what I mean?
  • Can you remember all those points?
  • Is that clear?
  • Does that make sense?

Do you know why you shouldn’t be asking these questions? Because they’re closed. They only require a yes or no.

What does yes or no tell you? Not a lot.

If you really want to ensure that your communication has been received and understood, ask them what they took from it.

That way you’ll hear it for yourself and know whether you’re understood properly or not.

3.    Work on your non-verbal communication

Body language speaks volumes. You may not realise what message you’re sending just by walking through the office.

Casually meandering through might imply you’re not busy. Leaning back might mean you’re disinterested.

Looking at your watch might indicate a lack of enthusiasm.

Obviously, you doing these things may not actually mean you’re not busy or you’re bored. These behaviours mean different things to different people.

This is because we’ve all had different experiences in life and received different information. Basically, we all have our own model of the world and therefore see it differently.

Sitting with your arms folded may reflect boredom to half the room, and the other half could be thinking you’re cold, whereas you’re actually doing it because you find it more comfortable. It depends on who you’re communicating with.

When you’re working on developing your communication skills, it pays dividends to start to notice how you communicate when you say nothing at all.

4.    Ask for feedback

If you have direct reports, there’s nothing more valuable than their feedback.

Ask them what works well about your communication with them and what can be improved. In doing that, you’ll broaden your mind and learn how others process the information you give them. Subconsciously, you’ll consider that when you next communicate, making you better and better the more feedback you get.

These 4 tips will get you started in the world of business communication, and they’re barely appetisers!

Communication in business is so important. We run customised training and bespoke training on a wide range of communication subjects, including:

  • Adapting communication styles
  • Questioning skills
  • Listening skills
  • Communicating in rapport
  • Communicating to resolve conflict
  • Influential language
  • Presentation skills
  • Communication skills for leaders
  • Neuro Linguistic Programing for leaders

A great way to get started is to notice more about who you’re communicating with. Notice their words, choice of words and tone, how fast they talk, how much detail and how many pauses they use. In doing so, you’ll be improving how you communicate with them because you can match their preferences.

two employees talking over headsets to customers with their manager watching

What did you find interesting about this article? We’d love your feedback and questions. Show us those great questioning skills!

We’re always happy to help people in this subject because we’re so passionate about it.

If you want to give us feedback or ask us about developing communication skills, contact us on contact@podhr.co.uk

Thanks for reading, the fact you’ve reached the end means that you committed to your communication and you’ll become a master in no time, if you’re not already!

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