5 Ways to Improve Your Communication

Good communication skills are one of the most sought-after soft skills employers are seeking these days. It is no wonder given the influence of technology on communication and seeing the level of discourse on social media. Those skills are so important that restaurants are replacing teens with senior workers because they connect better with the customer. Effective communication is essential to good leadership, effective negotiations, and is the foundation of successful relationships in the workplace and beyond. How can you improve this essential skill set?

One of the hallmarks of effective communication is conscious communication. Conscious communication is deliberate, rational, outcome-oriented, mindful communication. It involves being more intentional and aware of what you say, how you say it, and the outcome you want to achieve. It means being less impulsive with your communication, in person, in email, and online. Conscious communication requires more forethought and less reaction, more self-awareness, and greater impulse control.

Why bother learning how to communicate better? Here are the benefits of this type of communication:

  • Greater professional success
  • Better leadership
  • Stronger relationships
  • Reduced incidents of foot-in-mouth syndrome
  • Increased trust by breaking down communication barriers
  • Engaging more productively with your internal and external customers

Former Navy Seal Dan Crenshaw demonstrated this type of communication in his response to a recent slight about his eye patch. He could have chosen to be reactionary and strike back but, instead, he consciously took the opportunity to promote a message of forgiveness and grace.

How do you become a more conscious communicator? Here are 5 ways to improve:

1.) Listen– Listening is a critical part of communication that often gets overlooked if you are only focused on your point of view. Miscommunication happens frequently when listening is skipped over. Consciously focus on what the other person is saying and take the time to listen to the person or persons with whom you are communicating. Respectfully listen by not interrupting and give people your full attention.

2.) Control your emotions- This is a critical step if what you are discussing is something emotionally charged for either party. Controlling your emotions can be challenging when stress levels are high. Be aware of your emotions and how they influence your communication. Slow down, take a few deep breaths and consider how you want the communication to go. If you feel strongly about the topic this becomes even more important. Passion is great and it can also get in the way of how people receive what you are saying. Impulse control is very important in order to avoid creating conflict or saying something you may regret.

3.) Don’t jump to conclusions- Thinking we know what someone is going to say or thinking that we know what they mean can get in the way of consciously listening. Challenge yourself to let people tell you what they are thinking instead of jumping to conclusions so you can respond appropriately. Ask good open-ended questions if you are unclear about what they mean and allow the conversation to unfold naturally.

4.) Consider other points of view- Even though you may not agree with someone it does not make their point of view invalid. I have not met anyone who has all the answers. Most people believe that what they have to say is important and it is a sign of respect and maturity to hear someone out before responding. It also provides an opportunity to consider something you may not have thought of yet.

5.) Clarify before responding- To be a more effective conscious communicator, ask for clarification before you respond. If you do not agree with the point of view you heard, resist any temptation to be snarky in your clarifying question. This step allows you to clarify what you heard and form your response accordingly. It will significantly reduce the chances of misunderstanding and miscommunication.

You have the power to be a great conscious communicator. With the increased stress that comes at the end of the year, with holidays, family gatherings, and the deadline to get things finished by the end of December, chances for miscommunication, misunderstandings, and misinterpretation rise dramatically. Try practicing the 5 steps above and see how your communication and results can thrive. We would love to hear about your experiences.

Sue Kenfield works with organizations, teams and individuals to improve communication skills. She transforms complex human dynamics that interfere with organizational and individual performance and success. She is a speaker on emotional intelligence, leadership, communication, and collaboration. Contact us to learn more.