Effective communication is much more than just the exchange of information; it’s about understanding the intentions and emotions behind a discussion, which requires active participation from all the parties involved. People having a conversation must pay attention in order to ensure that the message is being interpreted in the way it was intended. Active listening is required to help an individual feel understood and heard, and so is emotional intelligence, empathy, self-regulation, and other soft skills.
When it comes to your business, a team with top-notch communication skills will prove valuable in more than a few aspects. Good communication is important for effective teamwork, which is key to your organization’s commercial success. When people work as a team, they support and encourage one another and brainstorm together to find solutions. But what happens when there’s a breakdown in the communication process? Communication barriers can lead to ineffective collaboration, which can cause unnecessary arguments and halt progress. That’s why it’s so important to understand the fundamentals of effective communication with your staff members – even if they’re not on your direct team!
What Is Effective Communication?
Effective communication is the process of exchanging ideas, thoughts, and information so that both parties are fulfilled in their best possible manner. This can be boiled down to one thing: presenting your views clearly with consideration for how they will be understood by others who hear them! It’s often easier said than done because people have many different ways of communicating their thoughts, needs, and ideas.
The good news is that it’s never too late to improve your communication skills, and that goes for your staff as well. Take a look at five of the most important elements of effective communication.
Effective communication requires a combination of skills including:
- Stress management (in the moment)
- Appropriate nonverbal communication/Body language
- Engaged listening
- The capacity to effectively communicate with self-confidence
- The ability to identify and understand the emotions of all individuals involved in the communication (including your own)
Tips for Improving Communication Skills
Below, you’ll find tips that will help you and your whole team communicate effectively. Since there are many factors that contribute to a good communication system, you need to take a look at certain aspects of your behavior, and then evaluate and improve them. Here’s what you should do to overcome barriers to effective communication:
1. Manage Stress in the Moment to Improve Communication
Individuals who feel emotionally overwhelmed or stressed are more likely to misinterpret conversations, send confusing nonverbal signals, and lapse into unhealthy, mindless patterns of behavior. Both professional and personal life might cause stress, which is one of the most common barriers to effective communication. While it’s not always possible to eliminate the underlying causes, it’s important to manage stress before it hinders the entire communication process.
Learn to recognize the symptoms of stress:
- Tight muscles
- Clenched hands
- Shallow breathing or forgetting to breathe
- Inability to focus
- Digestive problems
- Appetite changes
- Sadness, irritability, depression
- Take a time-out from the conversation to calm down and re-examine the conversation.
- Pause to try and de-stress: Close your eyes, take a few deep, cleansing breaths and relax your muscles.
- Find a quiet place to meditate. If you can’t do it at work, do it at home or while you’re in transit – you can even use apps to help you with that!
- Talk it out. If the source of your stress is work-related, talk it out with the person involved or higher-ups, if needed. Being able to communicate your thoughts and issues is an integral part of the entire communication process.
- Go walking, running, or work out. Physical exercise works wonders on both your physical and mental health. It can help you destress and keep yourself strong and healthy at the same time.
2. Appropriate Nonverbal Communication / Body Language
Nonverbal communication is just as important as verbal communication, and it needs to reinforce–not contradict–what is being discussed. When you say one thing and your body suggests something else, listeners may feel as if you are not being truthful. For instance, if you begin discussing how happy you are with a staff member’s ability to take a month off and travel the world, but your hands are folded in front of you and you avoid making eye contact, you are speaking one thing and your body is saying the opposite.
If you want to develop effective communication skills, mastering nonverbal communication cues is a must. It’s not that easy, since many of them happen without you even noticing, and it may be difficult to interpret someone else’s behavior, especially if you don’t know what you’re looking for. However, just like with verbal communication, it’s something you can learn.
- Avoid sending negative nonverbal communication signals (tapping your foot, crossing your arms, and looking away) because doing so could cause the other person to become defensive.
- Concentrate on using open body language like uncrossing your arms, sitting on the edge of your chair, and maintaining eye contact.
- Use your body language as a means to emphasize and enhance your conversation. A smile while patting a staff member on the shoulder to congratulate him or her on a promotion is a great way to use your body language to accentuate your message.
- Be mindful of your tone of voice. Poor communication often involves a person saying a certain thing, with their tone of voice betraying their true feelings or intentions. It also applies to written communication, where it’s possible to understand someone as being hostile or dismissive.
- Remember about individual differences. It’s safe to say that people communicate in a similar manner, but they’re never the same in expressing their emotions and conveying their ideas. Their nonverbal communication habits also differ depending on their age, gender, religion, ethnicity, culture, and emotional state. Be mindful of those factors whenever you’re interacting with someone.
3. Engaged Listening
It might be surprising, but effective communicators listen carefully. Communication requires engaged listening; therefore, planning your next sentence, checking emails and text messages, or just thinking about what you want for lunch interferes with your ability to focus. Staying focused from one moment to the next ensures that you do not miss any of the nonverbal cues used during the conversation. It also makes the sender feel heard and helps you get a clear message.
Good listening skills are an integral part of better communication habits. Active listening can be challenging, especially if you’re dealing with two or more persons at the same time. Still, it’s one of the basic skills needed for effective communication, and it helps you receive the intended message.
- During discussions, concentrate on the here and now.
- Practice active listening and pay attention to what the other person is saying.
- Let the speaker know you are listening with small gestures like nodding your head or short verbal responses.
- Listen for the subtle changes in the speaker’s voice, pay attention to his or her body language and other nonverbal cues. These actions tell you how the person feels and what they are trying to communicate to you.
- Whenever you find it difficult to concentrate on a conversation, repeat the words in your head. This will reinforce their message and make it easier for you to remain focused.
- Do not interrupt or attempt to redirect the conversation to address your concerns.
- Provide feedback. Clear communication involves clarifying uncertainties, so ask questions or react to what your interlocutor is saying. If you need to check with someone whether you understood them correctly, try repeating what they told you but in other words. This way, you’ll show them that you’ve been listening, and you’ll be able to extract relevant information from your conversation.
- Favoring your right ear can help you pick up on the subtle emotional nuances an individual is portraying. This tip works because the right ear is connected to the left side of the brain, which contains the main processing centers for emotions and speech comprehension. Try standing (or sitting) straight with your chin down while tilting your right ear towards the individual speaking.
4. Display Self-Confidence
Displaying self-confidence with assertive expression makes communication clear. Express opinions in an open and honest format. The goal of effective communication is not forcing your opinions on anyone else or winning an argument, it is about understanding others.
It’s important both during group meetings and one-on-one interactions. As a team member, you have the right to express your feelings and share your own ideas. However, remember not to go overboard with your behavior. Be confident, but not self-centered, arrogant, egotistical, and rude. You want to establish better relationships, not make enemies.
- Expressing anger is ok, just respect others and try to find a positive way to communicate how you feel. Remember to be professional at all times in your work environment – good interpersonal skills are just as important as effective communication skills.
- Realize that your thoughts are just as important as everyone else’s. Be respectful towards other people, and expect the same treatment in return.
- Be assertive. Some people tend to agree to everything and with everyone in order to avoid conflict. However, they often end up being stressed and angry. Don’t let anyone take advantage of you and establish healthy boundaries – it’s completely normal to say no, and it’s one of the most important skills a person should develop.
- Be aware of your needs and wants. Open communication is key, you just need to express yourself in a clear, respectful manner.
5. The Ability to Identify and Understand All the Emotions Related to a Given Conversation
It’s basically impossible to communicate without feeling emotions. Effective communication skills involve mastering your own feelings and being able to empathize with others. This means you need to be attentive and observant to your interlocutor and the social context you’re in.
It’s easy to get preoccupied with work-related issues in a professional setting. However, your co-workers may be influenced by some internal and external factors that may impact your conversation. Ineffective listening skills make it impossible to identify and understand the emotions of the individuals involved in any discussion.
- Solving this problem requires learning how to become an effective listener by paying attention to voice intonations, body language, gestures, facial expressions, eye contact, and body movements. Even an individual’s breathing and muscle tension are an indication of how they feel.
- Remember that the people you are conversing with are watching your movements and reactions. After all, effective communication requires a great deal of observation.
- Be aware of your own emotions but don’t let them take control of you. Strong emotions are sometimes unavoidable, but showing them at work will be likely considered unprofessional.
- Keep improving your emotional intelligence. Observe how you react to certain people and stressful situations. Try to look at them as objectively as possible and train your empathy skills. Be understanding – everyone is going through something, even though they don’t show it.
- Be patient. Everyone is different, which means that your interactions with one person are likely to differ – even if just slightly – from interactions with other people. Still, you’re working towards the same goal. Innovative ideas won’t guarantee your company’s growth and success – good communication skills and an effective decision-making process play a huge role in it. It may take time to come up with the best solution. Do it with kindness and respect, and it will be worth it.
Help Your Staff Communicate More Effectively
While effective communication skills are a major factor of good communication throughout a successful business, communication avenues are second only to the ability to communicate. Our team chat feature makes interoffice communication simple and seamless. You can learn more about it here.
Use your verbal and written communication skills to convey information in a clear, unambiguous way. This way, you can improve teamwork and build trust with staff members, clients, and colleagues. Good communication increases positive outcomes, helps boost morale, and eases tension in the workplace by increasing its problem-solving capacity. Ultimately, effective communication skills help build strong relationships and create a friendly work environment.