In business, the importance of good communication goes beyond just being able to converse fluently. Learning the art of communication is the key to getting ahead in the workplace and winning against competition. This art involves enhancing your understanding, engaging your audience more effectively, and getting the results that you want.
By improving your communication and conversation skills, you can make your bosses like you more, get your co-workers to cooperate with you, close deals with business partners, and create a more professional image among others. Here are some tips for you to be more confident and effective in communicating in the workplace and in business:
1. Understand and Be Understood
Effective communication requires understanding, both on the part of the speaker and the listener. Your audience should ‘get’ your message and be convinced of what you want to do or happen. This can be achieved by following these tips:
- Don’t beat around the bush. It will only confuse your audience. Be direct, clear, and concise.
- Listen. Communication is a two-way street. You need to be a good listener if you want to be a good communicator. It’s not only the spoken messages that you need to take note of. You also need to ‘listen’ to non-verbal cues for feedback.
- Know your personal communication style and how it affects your audience. Assess your communication skills first. Recall your past conversations, presentations, and other instances when you had to convey messages. Determine where you are most effective and where your audience is most responsive to you. That’s the style you need to focus on and enhance.
2. Be an Engaging Communicator
The art of meaningful conversations has been sidelined by high tech gadgets and social media. It’s ironic that even if modern technology allows us to be connected 24/7, it takes away precious moments that only face-to-face conversations can create.
Here’s what you can do to rediscover the joys of meaningful and engaging conversations:
- Use the mirroring technique. If you want to make somebody feel that you hear them right, reflect back what they have just said. Paraphrase to see if you understood them correctly. This method not only prevents confusion but gives people the impression that you are an engaging conversationalist.
- Ask questions. People appreciate the genuine interest. At every opportunity, encourage them to talk about themselves. As you get them engaged in a lively chat, you may carry the conversation on to other topics or the subject matter you actually want discussed. The important thing is to make a connection first by making them feel important, so they have a chance to warm up to you.
Ask non-threatening open-ended questions. This way you get them to elaborate, which, in turn, provides you ideas on how to move the conversation to even more engaging topics.
- Find common ground. You have to be perennially curious. You’d inevitably discover common interests as you get deeper into your conversation. Build upon these commonalities to keep the conversation interesting.
- Exude confidence. There were times when you chose to be silent because you fear that you might mumble or be taken in a different light. This fear is the common stumbling block for a meaningful and free-flowing conversation. The trick is to be spontaneous and straightforward.
- Put away your phone. Your mobile device is the biggest disruption to an otherwise lively conversation. If you are constantly fiddling with your phone, people will see you as being aloof or indifferent.
- Reflect back their body language. Mirroring someone’s gestures gives them the impression that you are trustworthy. The goodwill that is built creates rapport necessary for an engaging conversation.
3. Be Confident While Talking
You may believe that confidence is an innate gift, but confidence can be learned. Here’s how you could be confident in everyday conversations.
- Practice. The secret of doing everything well is doing it often, and conversation is no exception. If, for example, you are anxious about talking to your boss for a raise, it would help if you practice beforehand what you’ll say.
If you are to speak in a meeting, try recording yourself to check your pacing. It also gives you the opportunity to evaluate your voice for emphasis, volume, and clarity.
- When making a point, don’t sound like you are asking a question. When making a proposal, don’t end your sentence with an upward pitch. This makes your statement weak and vulnerable to contention. Maintain an even and firm tone by finishing up with a period.
- Slow down. TED author, Carmine Gallo, suggests that the ideal speech rate is 190 wpm. At this rate, you’d sound like you’re having actual conversations with your audience. Any faster and you’ll sound disinterested, like you want to get things over with as soon as you can.
- Do away with filler phrases. You may be starting your sentences with useless phrases such as “Well,” “I mean,” “I’m sorry but…” and “You know”. Be wary that these prefaces can ruin an otherwise confident tone.
- Show gratitude. A “Thank you for coming” is enough to pave the way for fruitful exchange.
Thanking and congratulating an employee for his contribution not only inspires him for being given due credit but also encourages him to do better in his job.
- Smile. A smile makes your voice more pleasant. It displays your confidence and mastery of the subject matter; and that you are friendly, composed, and approachable.
- Maintain good posture. Hold your head high and roll your shoulders back. Get your message across clear and strong by sitting or standing up straight.
4. Slay that Business Meeting
Meetings are great venues for you to get recognized. For this reason, you shouldn’t be quiet in meetings. Your colleagues may mistake your silence for lack of interest.
But it could be that you are either shy or afraid that your opinions might be challenged. Here are ways to get out of such a predicament:
- Get involved even before an actual meeting is called. This way you’d learn about the underlying issues going around in the workplace, and you’d know what to expect and suggest during the meeting itself.
- Be succinct. If you are anxious about being interrupted, make it clear to the participants that you will be concise. Preface your statement with something like “Please allow me to bring up three items.” If people knew right away, they wouldn’t butt in because they’d know when you’re done.
- Don’t self-edit. If you will hesitate to talk, you will end up not saying anything at all. Get your issues off your chest at every opportunity. Uncovering your emotions and sentiments can be extremely liberating.
- Don’t be afraid to challenge ideas. Probing shows that you are interested. Ask questions like “How do we quantify your research results? or “Have you considered revising our online form, so we could capture that data?”
5. Do Presentations Like a Boss
Are you anxious about an upcoming presentation? Here’s how you could prepare yourself for the day:
- Come prepared. The main concern is for you not to lock up. So, it would help if you prepare an outline and notes written on index cards.
- Keep the listeners engaged. You cannot just bombard your audience with information. Be a storyteller. Sprinkle your presentation with actual experiences that your listeners could relate to.
- Keep it simple and sweet. If you were given a full 60 minutes to speak, it doesn’t mean that you have to spread your presentation to cover the entire time.
- Make your visuals work for you. Don’t read off a PowerPoint presentation. It’s a surefire way to lose your audience.
Don’t put everything you have to say on your visuals. This will only lead to your audience reading your slides rather than listening to what you have to say.
- Use body language. Put in mind the acronym AWeSoMe when checking your body language:
- Approach your audience with an eyebrow flash. The upper half of your face is perceived to be more trustworthy than the lower half. Engage your audience by opening your eyes slightly wider than usual, tilting your head to one side, and doing the eyebrow flash.
- Win your audience with a smile. An authentic smile builds confidence and trust. It keeps your audience engaged and more open to what you are sharing.
- Steeple with your hands. Steepling is basically putting your hands together to make a little rooftop, like when you are praying. It’s a good gesture to convey confidence and strength during negotiations.
- Move to keep your audience attentive. Move forward to emphasize a point. Break, pause, and move backward if you are moving on to another topic or when you are about to wrap things up.
6. Get Them to Like You and Have Them Do What You Want
In the workplace, people depend on each other to finish tasks and beat deadlines. It is inevitable that there’d be tension and friction; and there will always be that one co-worker who’ll be curt, callous, or cold towards you.
Here’s how to win your colleagues over:
- Get to know your co-employees. Learn about their lives and interests outside of the workplace. A good time to do your “research” is during lunch and coffee breaks. Spend your free time conversing with as many different people in your group as possible.
- Be friendly. Mention their names during conversations. Greet everyone with a “Good morning”. Before engaging somebody in a discussion, say “How are you?” and be genuinely interested in their answer.
- Deal with interpersonal issues. There will always be that office mate that you just can’t stand. Sadly, your paths will cross one way or another, and avoiding them will just worsen the situation. Before a conflict blows out of proportion, talk to your colleague to thresh out your differences.
- Don’t gossip. Avoid saying something negative about a peer. If you have to say something at the back of a co-worker, it should be nothing else but praises. You will be loved more for doing just that.
- Be gracious to accept criticism. When someone criticizes your project or idea, always keep an open mind and thank them for bringing it up. Don’t justify yourself. You win others over by being receptive.
Being able to converse thoughtfully builds your confidence and credibility. You can then be assured that every time you speak up, your co-workers will be eager to listen.
On your way to building up your communication skills, keep this guiding principle in mind: treat everyone with utmost respect and consideration. For having that trait alone, people will love being around you.