Whether you are an aspiring leader or in a support role, developing your communication skills can impact your success. First, let's take a look at the complexities of communication. It's more than the words you use. It's how and when you choose to share information. It's your body language and the tone and quality of your voice.
These are things you should consider as you strive to improve your interactions with others:
Know the outcome. Before you begin planning what you will say in an upcoming meeting, consider what you want the outcome of your communication to be. What actions do you want others to take? How will you move people? That's the term used in Daniel Pink's "To Sell Is Human: The Surprising Truth About Moving Others." Pink contends that we are all in sales today. "Whether we're employees pitching colleagues on a new idea, entrepreneurs enticing funders to invest or parents and teachers cajoling children to study, we spend our days trying to move others."
Build a reputation. In the workplace, other people's perceptions of you don't form based on a single encounter. But never forget how valuable a good first impression is! In order to gain respect and be seen as a trusted authority, eager team member or dedicated employee, you will need to build your reputation over time. Every interaction -- from how you greet your co-workers in the morning to how you summarize a status update in an email -- contributes to how people view you.
Avoid flaunting power and intellect. Compelling communicators don't strong-arm people into paying attention or dazzle listeners by showing off how much they know. Leave your ego at the door when speaking to people. Establish an even playing field, and place yourself at the same level with your listeners. Avoid a condescending tone of voice and terminology your audience will not immediately understand. While you may be the smartest, most knowledgeable person on a particular topic, wait for the invitation to share your expertise.
Master the art of listening. The most adept communicators are experts at listening and reading between the lines. Mastering the art of listening isn't easy. You will most likely feel tempted to share your own insights, opinions or assumptions while listening to someone. Avoid commentary or interjecting. Instead, ask open ended follow-up questions. This provides evidence that you are hearing and listening to the person. It shows your respect for the person speaking and for the information they are sharing. Practicing good listening skills will help you gain the respect of those you encounter.
Earn respect and trust. Earning respect and trust from your colleagues, managers and customers doesn't happen automatically. Your title and role don't give you any special privileges. If you work hard to exceed expectations and deliver with integrity, you are on your way to establishing the right to be trusted. Consistently repeat these steps to earn the right to be heard.
You've read them before. What you really want is concrete help in improving your communication. There are thousands of books on the topic of communication. These self-help books can arm you with more insight and tools to improve your understanding of the intricacies of communication, but there is nothing as powerful as practicing what you learn.