5 Steps to Better Communication
The Public Speaker’s 5 expert tips on improving your interpersonal communication skills.
We live in a goal-driven world. We create vision and glory boards, hang motivational posters in our offices, and pin inspirational words on Pinterest, My friend Mallory recently set a goal to run a 10k by summer. She created a blog about it and updates her Facebook status almost daily. “I ran 1.5 miles without stopping today!” She announces. “I’m officially a runner!” and “One step closer to my goal.”
Although effective communication is how we achieve all of our goals, it’s often overlooked when it comes to goal-setting. In school we’re taught reading and writing, yet rarely (if ever) are we taught to be smart about what we say and how we say it. We aren’t taught communication skills.
Some people think that good communicators are born with those skills, but research suggests that with effort and practice, all of us can easily improve our communication skills.
What are some areas you might want to focus on? Perhaps you want to get better at first impressions and introducing yourself. Or maybe you’d like to be more comfortable and engaging when making conversations. Perhaps you’d like to work on being more inspiring and motivating, or better at keeping in touch, or better at giving and receiving feedback, or you’d like to brush up on your diplomacy skills.
Step #1: Establish a Timeframe
Like any goal, set a deadline.
Is the morale on your team waning or worse, dismal? Donut Monday or Smoothie Tuesday isn’t really solving your problem. Better to deal with it before you lose your best people. Pick a date to have a meeting, and block it off on your calendar.
Do you avoid delivering feedback because you figure it won’t change anything anyway? Then you’re missing out on some key opportunities, both for you as well as for your colleagues and employees. Check out my episode on the Importance of Feedback for the 4 steps to delivering effective feedback, then schedule a meeting to create a detailed plan of improvement for your feedback delivery.
Step #2: Create an Objective
All communication plans begin with your objective. Why do you send that weekly status email to your boss? Why did you set up a video call with your top customer? Your objective for the morale meeting is simple – to make people want to come to work every day. Your communication goals for this meeting should be based on that. Although the goal is simple, achieving it may not be.
Step #3: Plan Your Words
Consider your goal. Do you want ideas from your team? Do you want to hear reactions to your ideas? Do you want to address recent events? What first steps can you take to help you move closer to achieving it? Start by creating an outline of the main points that you want to communicate. Remember your audience and frame your words keeping in mind their point of view. Many people freeze at this step feeling unsure what to say. It’s best to jump in, write a first draft, knowing you’ll edit it later. Identify all the topics you want to cover during the meeting along with your approach. If necessary, write your opening and closing lines.
By breaking your goal down into manageable tasks, it’ll be much less overwhelming. Think of each completed task as a victory. (I love the feeling of checking off a completed task, don’t you?) This will give you a sense of satisfaction and motivate you to move on to the next step.
Step #4: Plan for Objections
Of course, the path to your goal will not always be smooth. You may encounter some obstacles and it is important that you do not give up when that happens. Identify potential problems or potential reactions ahead of time and think about how you would address them. What if the meeting gets heated? What if no one is willing to talk? What if they suggest something you simply can’t do? You can’t predict every obstacle, but highlighting some potential troubles will reduce your chances of being blindsided. Also, having prepared responses to these potential roadblocks will help you get back on track more quickly, rather than going off on a tangent.
Step #5: Don’t Get Discouraged
Figure out what will motivate you when you need it the most. For some people, a cheering section works best. Friends, family, or coworkers can remind you what you’ve accomplished and shower you with good wishes. Or maybe you need to take a look at your glory board to remind yourself of your past achievements.
When you’re working toward a goal like running a 10k, it’s easy to come up with a plan to get there. When you get discouraged you can call a friend, take to Facebook for support, or take a day off. When your goal is about communicating, it’s not quite so easy, but definitely not as hard as you think, either. Run your ideas by a mentor or a trusted co-worker. Set up a dry run of your speech with supportive friends. Shut down your computer and go for a walk to clear your head.
Believe in yourself. If you start to doubt your ability to achieve your goal, draw on your reserves of strength, focus, and determination. Celebrate your goal when you achieve it, because improved communication will improve your productivity and is the key to your overall success.
This is Lisa B. Marshall, passionate about communication; your success is my business.
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