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Have you ever realized that we operate on communication autopilot each and every day? Think about it! You cannot not communicate. Even when you’re silent, everything you do with your body sends a message. When you think you are doing nothing, you are still sending signals.
So obviously, we communicate with other people every day. However, to become a really good communicator, like with any skill, you have to practice it. Being seen, being heard, and being understood are not givens. You have to work hard to ensure that you are sending the correct message, and that it is understood.
Communication serves five major functions. We use it to express feelings. We use it to inform and to influence. Sometimes we communicate simply to meet social expectations. In other words, people expect us to talk! And we sometimes communicate in order to imagine, whether for ourselves or to inspire greater creativity in others. And to do any of these things effectively, it follows that we need to communicate effectively.
Effective communication is particularly important in the workplace. It can bring real benefits, such as reducing unnecessary competition within departments. It also helps employees work together more harmoniously. This in turn results in more productive teams. And that leads to an enhanced service for customers.
In the workplace, you are often judged on how effectively you communicate with others and how you project yourself to the people around you. This involves a lot more than simply being careful with the words you speak.
As well as watching your words, you need to pay attention to your nonverbal cues and gestures. These can make or break relationships and may have a significant impact on your success. So, to enhance your effectiveness as a communicator, ensure you pay particular attention to a number of key nonverbal cues.
A poor or slouching posture exudes indifference or carelessness. It tells the other person that you’re really not very interested in what they’re saying. And if you speak with a poor posture, you can undermine what you’re trying to say. At worst, your posture will distract the listener. To be perceived as confident, you must stand tall. It gives the outward appearance of credibility, strength, and vitality.
Try to be in sync with the person you’re communicating with. This doesn’t mean that you have to imitate them! However, remember that, when we like someone, we naturally match and mirror their voice, tone, tempo, body posture, and movements. This helps to establish a good rapport with the other person. And if you don’t ‘move in sync’ with your teammates, it can make you look like you're not interested in them, are not a team player, or, in extreme cases, that you are lying. You are marking yourself out as being different from them.
Have you ever communicated with someone who stood rigid with a poker face while they were talking? Even if they are telling you how enthusiastic they are about their project, their body gives off the message that they don’t really care, even if this isn’t the case. So when someone is talking to you, be sure to give them physical as well as verbal feedback. If you don’t give feedback physically, people think you don’t care, that you’re stuck up, or a host of other negative attributes.
Have you ever had a situation where a person’s words say one thing, but their body says something else entirely? Perhaps they’re trying to tell you how calm and in control they are, while they fidget and twitch and nervously glance around them. You get confused by the mixed messages.
So make sure you match your verbal and nonverbal messages. Don’t say, “Yeah, that sounds great” in a monotone voice, while you cross your arms and roll your eyes. Speak enthusiastically and lean forward to show how engaged you are with the idea.
You don’t have to walk around all day with a great, big grin on your face. But, at the same time, don’t under-estimate the power of a smile! Smiling demonstrates confidence, openness, warmth, and energy. It also sets off the mirror neurons in your listener, instructing them to smile back.
However, don’t be accused of being a ‘perm-a-grinner’. If you smile too often, you might be perceived as insincere and misleading. Find a suitable balance.
Even if you do manage to control your nonverbal cues, there will be situations when communication is difficult. For example, when you’re communicating with a client or your boss, or when making an important speech or presentation, it's natural to sometimes feel uncomfortable, awkward, or nervous.
The most common negative physical reactions are ‘butterflies’ in your stomach, trembling or shaking, and a warbling voice. Although they can feel unpleasant, these are actually natural physical reactions to stressful situations. But bear in mind that they are merely short-term physical feelings. They are only temporary and last from a number of seconds to no more than a few minutes – maximum.
Don't view them as negative. This is not your body going into lock-down because you are anxious or nervous. Instead, your body is simply gearing up to work at peak performance. So although you may be pumped full of adrenalin, have the shakes, and feel sick in your stomach, view all of these as signs that your body is ready to give you the very best performance it possibly can for you to deliver a knock-out presentation, win over that client, or whatever.
So get out there and practice your communication skills. Smile at and talk to strangers. Practice making a presentation. Lead a team in a project. Coach or mentor a colleague. All these activities, with practice, can enhance your skills and make you a better communicator!Back to Top
CEO of Personal Skills Training, Senior Coach at Kevin J Reid Coaching, Co-founder and Communications Director of The Counsel.ie, and Lead Collaborator of LeitrimMade.com
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ABOUT THIS DIGITAL MARKETING MODULE
Organizations are more likely to perform well when their employees work together effectively. To be successful in today’s workplace, it’s important to develop good interpersonal relationships with your colleagues, and to be able to collaborate with them successfully when the need arises. It’s also important to be able to communicate well with your colleagues, so you can get your message across and ensure it is understood.
In this module, you will learn about the personal skills you should cultivate in order to collaborate successfully, such as the ability to listen actively and to ‘lead beyond your authority’. You will also discover strategies you can use to improve team collaboration, such as holding regular meetings and sending fewer emails.
You will learn why good communication matters – and how you are communicating even when you are silent, before you utter a single word. You will also be introduced to strategies you can use to communicate effectively and improve your day-to-day interactions with others, including observing body language, asking short but impactful questions, and using pauses for effect.