We all have something to say, but how we say it (or choose not to say it) can make a tremendous difference in the workplace or our personal lives. If you feel your communication skills are not up to par, consider working through the following to make you more effective at sharing your thoughts both at the office and among friends.
The first step in good communication is to listen to what others are saying. If you are so focused on saying your piece, you’ll miss important points and could even offend those around you. Listen to the points colleagues or friends are making. When they have finished their thought, go ahead with your own. It also helps to build relationships if you can address another’s comments in your own.
For example by saying, “I agree with Mary that we should expand our target demographic…” will be much more effective and demonstrate that you are a team player better than the more self-centered, “I think we need to…” By acknowledging that you are listening, others will pay more attention to what you say in return and respect your style of communication. Besides, being a good listen is just plain polite.
If you say everything that crosses your mind exactly when you think it, it’s unlikely anyone wants to speak with you. Everyone suffers from ugly thoughts and sometimes even positive or neutral thoughts come out sounding bad if you don’t put the right amount of thought into your presentation. It’s the proverbial foot in mouth that can be avoided simply by thinking a thought before saying it.
Planning what you are about to say can go a long way in avoiding embarrassment on your part or someone else’s hurt feelings. It is also crucial when you are trying to deliver constructive criticism or negative feedback. Softening a blow with a compliment can make a hard statement much easier to swallow. Just be sure your point is clear. Stopping to think before speaking gives you time to filter your thoughts and ensure that you are sharing exactly what you mean to say.
Speak All Languages
You can’t possibly know every spoken language in the world, but some styles of language are more universal. It is important to speak with not only words, but your body, face and tone as well. If you are telling a joke, you should smile. If you are serious about a situation, your tone and body should express that.
Others will listen to your words, but they are always tuned in how you are saying those words to get a full understanding of your message. If you’re truly engaged in what you are saying, the rest should follow easily. It’s easy to see when someone is faking enthusiasm, so don’t. If you feel it, great. If not, don’t pretend. Everyone will know your real thoughts on the matter regardless.
Get to the Point
In the business place, there is little time for long rambling thoughts or stories. Eliminate most of the idle chatter in a professional context and get to the point. Stories and random thoughts are great among friends at the water cooler or lunch table, but they don’t belong in the conference room or office. Of course, you don’t need to speak only in short bursts, but a few extra sentences to introduce a thought are much more appreciated than a fifteen minute narrative.
Your message should be clear both at home and at work. If you’re simply relaxing with a few friends, think about how much more you enjoy a brief funny story than a long, slightly boring one. Keep it simple. Not only will your friends appreciate your wit, but they’ll also appreciate your not monopolizing the conversation. Plus, you’ll have the details you failed to share as fodder for a future conversation.