improving communication skills in the workplaceAt the end of the day, so much of your success in school or at the workplace depends on your ability–or inability–to communicate. More than a few professionals have fallen victim to poor communication, regardless of talent or accomplishments. In this way, your skills and experience take a backseat to how you interact and build relationships with others and what comes out of your mouth. Which makes communication skills something everyone needs to improve.

To help you sharpen your communication skills, we’ve provided the following five tips:

1. Don’t be afraid to go face to face.

In multiple studies, researchers have found that purely electronic communication–as opposed to good, old-fashioned face-to-face communication–yields weaker relationships and less empathy between those involved. You miss out on the non-verbal cues that tell so much of how a person really feels. In addition, electronic communications are just too easy to ignore.

If you want to be heard and understood, visit them in person. Your communication will be that much more memorable.

2. Remove distractions when someone is talking to you.

At least half of communicating is listening. And you can’t listen when your brain is somewhere else. Just try talking to a teenager when they’re busy on their iPod–it doesn’t work.

To make sure you hear and understand what people are saying to you, get rid of any distractions–a smartphone app, a video, an email you’re only halfway done with. The better you listen, the better you can respond.

3. Speak from their point of view.

It is one of the great paradoxes of human communication: the more you focus on others, the more liked you become. Which seems completely backward. If you want other people to do what you want, you should just keep pounding them will all your reasons until they give in, right?

Wrong, apparently. The legendary Dale Carnegie put it this way:

“You can make more friends in two months by becoming interested in other people than you can in two years by trying to get other people interested in you.”

The best way to sell people on your ideas is to forget why you want it and tell them how it will benefit them. This takes a little bit of analysis. What do they want? What motivates them? Once you’ve figured this out, you’ll be amazed how quickly people agree with you.

4. Restate to make sure you understood.

Assumptions are dangerous. What we think people mean is not always what they actually mean. A good way to compensate for faulty assumptions is to restate what others say. By saying, “So what you mean is you disagree with me because of…,” you show them you are trying to understand their point of view. This method can go a long way toward building relationships and keeping your foot out of your mouth.

5. Follow up and follow up again.

Again, avoiding assumptions is a great policy. Don’t assume that they understood you the first and they’ll do whatever you asked them to do. Follow up with them gently until they actually get it done.

The intention of follow-up is not to distrust that person’s intentions. Rather, it’s to reinforce their motivation, with all the other tasks they have to worry about, to complete your task. It’s a kind reminder, a show of support.

But be careful about the forcefulness and the frequency of your follow-up. If you do it too much or in heavy tone, you can start to be perceived as bossy, intimidating, and overbearing. These are bad characteristics for a communicator.

So what are your communication strong points? What are your weak points? Share in the comments below!

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