The ability to communicate effectively is one of the most useful skills a person can have, both inside the office and out. For some people, communication comes easily; for others, it’s a daily struggle. The good news is that everyone has the potential to become a great communicator, whether they are born with natural talent or not. Because communication is a skill, it is something that can be developed and practiced.
Here are some of the top traits that great communicators have in common—and how you can acquire those qualities to improve both your professional and personal life.
1. Build relationships.
You might be stellar at public speaking and getting a point across, but if your audience doesn’t trust you, your message is probably for naught. It’s important to build a trusting, personal relationship with your audience so they see the value in the message that you’re sending. One quick way to do this is to think about how your message will affect the person or people to whom you are speaking, and then make sharing that insight a top priority. Your audience is much more likely to listen carefully and take you seriously if they know that your message will directly impact their lives.
2. Listen and retain information.
Great communicators listen just as much, if not more than they speak. It’s necessary to actively listen to what someone is saying so that you can then respond to them appropriately. If whomever you’re speaking to says something and you respond with something completely off-topic or otherwise inappropriate, you’ve just damaged that personal relationship that hopefully, you worked hard to build. No one wants to listen to someone when they know that person is not listening to them in return. So make sure you are actively listening to what the person is saying- not daydreaming or thinking about what you’re going to say next. Be present and in the moment.
3. Pay attention to nonverbal cues.
Listening isn’t just hearing what someone is saying; it’s paying attention to how they say it, including the inflections in their voice, their facial expressions and their body language. Think about how many different meanings can be behind the word “okay.” It can be an enthusiastic response accompanied by a smile and nod of the head. It can be long and drawn out with an unsure inflection in the person’s voice, or it can be short and curt, with an undertone of anger. You need to pay attention so you can accurately understand what a person is trying to say, even if they’re not using their words to say it. You’d be surprised at just how easy it is to miss these clues if you’re not paying attention.
4. Ask questions.
It’s okay not to understand what a person is saying. The difference between a great communicator and a poor one is that a great communicator will take the time to ask for clarification if they don’t understand something. There’s no point in having a conversation with someone and not understanding what they’re saying, but continuing to nod your head as you do. That’s a total waste of time for both of you because no one is getting the message. Instead, say things like “what do you mean?” or “can you elaborate on that?” Both of those questions should offer further clarification. Your audience will appreciate your willingness to truly understand what they’re trying to say. This goes a long way in building the trustworthy relationship great communicators strive for.
5. Do their research.
In my opinion, there’s nothing worse than listening to a dynamic speaker who has no idea what they’re talking about. Not knowing your content in depth is one of the best ways to lose your audience. If your information is incorrect, it doesn’t matter how good your voice projection and eye contact are. Your audience won’t trust you. They won’t see their value in anything you’re saying, so they’ll stop listening.
Take the time to research so that you’re confident in your information. No one expects you to memorize an encyclopedia, so if you’re not sure about something, say so. If you don’t know the answer to a question, admit it and say that you’ll look for the answer and get back to them.
Transparency will lead to respect from your audience, and they’ll thank you for it.
What did you learn about communicating effectively? Start practicing these skills at home and in the office, and enjoy worthwhile relationships with your friends, family, and coworkers.
Amanda DiSilvestro is the Editor in chief for Plan, Write, GO. She has been writing about all things digital marketing, both as a ghostwriter, guest writer, and blog manager, for over 10 years. Check out her blogging services to learn more.