Improving your communication skills fast-tracks success

By
Alexandra Lawrence and John French

Overview :
Good communication increases your impact, creates buy-in and builds relationships.  

Your ability to communicate, will either make or break you. If you pay close attention, you will soon realise that every time we communicate, we receive feedback. And the feedback we receive will largely depend on what we project in the first place.

When a person has good communication skills, they are generally understood; they build good relationships more easily, and they have a strong ability to influence others. Are these three goals not worth striving for? Put simply: if you learn how to improve your communication skills, your life will become a lot easier and simpler and far more successful.

All you need is an open mind: the ability to communicate effectively, and to improve your communication can be taught by and experienced communication coach.  Willing communicators, just need to pay attention, develop their listening skills, and learn about the complex psychology of communication in the workplace.

Let’s look at what communication goals and skills we should be aiming for.

What are the goals of good communication?

Essentially, regardless of whether it’s face-to-face or digital, great communication has three main goals:

  1. To land our key messages in a way the other person understands;
  2. To get our various stakeholders to buy into what we’re proposing them to act on; and
  3. To sustain our relationship with them – or even better, to strengthen it.

When we are able to achieve these three important goals, we are far more likely to achieve our own personal or professional goals.  

Goal 1. Getting our message across

Just because we open our mouth and words come out, or we write something down in our written communication, it doesn’t necessarily mean our audience will necessarily understand us. There are so many factors that can get in the way of understanding from either side.

Just for starters, we might:

  1. Not be clear on what we’re trying to say, in which case it’s unlikely our audience will be either
  2. Not explain ourselves very well or jump all over the place, creating confusion
  3. Use big words or technical jargon that the audience doesn’t understand
  4. Not articulate very well so the words come out slurred or too fast
  5. Be saying one thing with our words while our tone and body language are saying something else, in which case body language and tone win out

In return, our listeners might:

  1. Not be listening in their home language – a common challenge in South Africa
  2. Misunderstand what we’re saying because they don’t have context for it
  3. Be distracted by their own thoughts or by something going on around them
  4. Be feeling tired or stressed, which makes it difficult to absorb anything
  5. Be emotionally ‘triggered’ or stressed by our words, tone or body language, short-circuiting their ability to take in our message

We might not be aware of what our listeners are struggling with, but if we think before we speak and pay attention to their response, rather than just talking at them, we’ll notice that our message just hasn’t landed the way we intended it to. Then we can take further action to find out why.

Goal 2. Creating buy-in

Your listener might get your message loud and clear, but if they feel you aren’t taking their needs into account, you won’t easily receive their co-operation. Very few people fall for the “hard sell” approach these days.

Rather take time beforehand to consider what drives your clients and colleagues, which might be achieving results, doing things right, receiving recognition or creating a safe and supportive environment.  Then find a way to link your goal to theirs, ideally creating a win-win scenario or, at the very least, a compromise that they can hopefully buy into.

Goal 3. Maintaining the relationship

When we consider others in our communication, we show them we care. It stands to reason that they will be more likely to care about you in return. You should do what you can to make sure they feel safe enough to ask questions or offer suggestions. Feeling heard is a basic human need and when we provide the platform for that, they are more likely to be willing do their best for us.

You simply can’t force anyone else to consider your point of view, or take any particular action, but you can certainly take responsibility for your part of the process and learn how to communicate and influence better yourself. And often, when you provide a good example when you communicate information, or start your conversations off well, others unconsciously follow it.

Communication skills courses
You can attend our enjoyable communication skills courses

Take these first steps

These new ideas and approached to good communication may seem a little overwhelming at first, but it all starts with awareness and then deciding to take some baby steps in the right direction.

Communication skills are merely habits that we have acquired over our lifetimes, and we can change them at will, as long as we have the discipline to form and create new habits that replace the old limiting ones.

You can make a fresh and good start to improving your communication by immediately considering and trying the following:

  1. Start setting GOALS for each communication. If you don’t have a target, you will never achieve what is intended.
  2. Start becoming aware of how you communicate. Have you ever really thought about things like your facial expressions, your tone of your voice, how you structure your verbal communication, or even your hand gestures? Each one of these things is a powerful form of communication. So, make sure you use a friendly tone whenever you communicate, and remember how important your body language is when you are communicating face to face,
  3. Consider your listener by putting yourself in their shoes. Imagine how your listeners might think and feel when receiving your message, and what they might do in response to it. This will help you to frame your communication messages more sensitively. When we consider our listeners, we consider their needs, and they in return tend to be more open to what we have to offer or motivate.

In conclusion

Perhaps the greatest lesson that we can ever learn about communication is that it really has nothing to do with us. Communication really has everything to do with the person or people you are communicating with. They need to be stimulated enough to listen to you; they need to understand what you have said, and they need to be motivated enough by your words to take action. Great communication skills can make this happen.

If you want to improve your communication skills, or for more information on our various communication skills training programmes, e-mail the Communication Guru John French at john@johnfrench.co.za

Here is a link to Communication Guru, John French’s LinkedIn profile: https://www.linkedin.com/in/john-french-73499939/

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Free Guided Relaxation mp3

Free guided relaxation for your personal stress management

Stress Management is a vital module in all of our training programmes because stress is the greatest enemy of effective communication. Listen to this 8 minute beautiful guided relaxation by Jenny Ibbotson. It will help you to manage anxiety and develop a habit of calmness.

RELAX. ENJOY.

Stress Management is a vital module in all of our training programmes because stress is the greatest enemy of effective communication. Listen to this 8 minute beautiful guided relaxation by Jenny Ibbotson. It will help you to manage anxiety and develop a habit of calmness.

RELAX. ENJOY.

Free guided relaxation for your personal
stress management