We hear it all the time: employers consider the ability to communication well is the most important skill set a candidate can master. In fact, many recruiters, hiring managers, and HR pros feel that communication skills are the most important traits an applicant can highlight during a job search.
But how do you improve your communication skills? How do you go from being an average communicator, to one that will instantly impress not just a potential employer? And your manager and co-workers once you have the job? To answer these questions, we asked members of the Young Entrepreneur Council this question:
What is one strategy you’ve used to greatly improve your communication skills?
Here are their helpful answers…
1. Schedule Time for Communication
I set aside time each day to connect with team members and check in with them. I often get so busy that too much time goes by without communicating with those around me. It helps to schedule the time to ensure that I am assessing how those around me are doing. This gives them an opportunity to share what’s on their minds, too, which makes for better two-way communcition.
2. Anticipate and Prepare for Questions
Nothing helps develop better communication skills than public speaking. And when it comes to public speaking, I write down the answers to questions I might get asked. I then adapt it to the audience I would be interacting with. While interacting with people during meetings, I am always ready with questions I need to ask. I also consider outcomes I need to achieve and feedback I need to provide.
A large part of how we communicate has to do with our thoughts, of which the average person has 70,000 every day. Meditation has helped me to develop more control over my thoughts, which has helped me to think and communicate more clearly. I rely on meditation especially before an important meeting in which effective communication is critical.
4. Practice Active Listening
The best conversations are those in which both parties really listen to each other and communication flows. In active listening, no one is rehearsing what they’re going to say when the other person is talking. So we really listen, and are able to bounce ideas off each other and feel more comfortable communicating. When you listen to someone, you are telling that person that they are important.
5. Seek Feedback
I ask others what I can do to improve my communication with them. When I start seeing the same responses, I realize that’s where I need to focus on making the necessary changes. Without others, I wouldn’t necessarily know what I was doing wrong in terms of communicating. Bottom line: ask for feedback and then deliberately incorporate what you’ve heard into your communication style.
6. Learn and Adopt the Communication Practices of Others
Successful communication is so contextual. I try to maintain and improve my skills by continuously learning. I then adopt the various ways in which other people communicate. This especially critical in interactions that are cross-cultural. To truly be a great communicator, you must be able to cross significant boundaries and differences.
7. Be a Straight Shooter
Although you may beat around the bush to soften your words, your tactic is more likely to hurt than help. This doesn’t mean you should drop all cordiality, but don’t sugarcoat things thinking that you’re sparing your employees’ feelings. If your co-workers can’t rely on you to give them your honest opinion 100% of the time? They won’t feel comfortable communicating openly with you.
8. Get Out of Your Comfort Zone
In today’s world, communicating goes way beyond just typing someone a message. One of the best ways to improve your communication skills is by challenging yourself to try different channels. For example, I’m very comfortable communicating through email, chat and phone. To take my skills to the next level, I’ve immersed myself into creating videos, live webinars and even hosting workshops.
9. Attend Networking Events
By getting out and meeting new people, I get lots of practice in being succinct when introducing myself and being attentive and listening to others, which are critical parts of communication that are often forgotten. Everyone wants to be heard. So if they feel like you are listening, you can build a better bond with that person.
10. Ask People How They Prefer to Communicate
Everyone has a different learning and communication style, and to be a great communicator, you should tailor your approach to your audience. Do they prefer back-and-forth emails? Slack chats? In-person discussions over coffee? You can try to guess what someone may prefer. But it’s often much more effective to just ask. Plus, they’ll appreciate the thoughtfulness.
11. Recap Your Conversation
It can be very easy to misinterpret things during a conversation, especially when you are not face-to-face with the other person. After every conversation, I immediately write down notes of what was discussed and send a recap to the other party. This allows me to confirm that both of us fully understand everything that was communicated and nothing was lost in translation.
12. Hire a Coach
There are executive coaches who specialize in communications and speaking. The best ones will work with you on everything from voice fundamentals (up speak, filler words, etc.) to higher level messaging. There are different communication strategies for solo presenters versus panelist versus being on TV. Coaching can bring out your personality while making you sound more professional.
13. Don’t Take Notes During Meetings
While in meeting mode, many people are focused on taking notes and getting down all the important information. When doing this, you can miss an opportunity to connect. Try putting the pen down. Then really listen to what your peers are saying so you can understand, react and provoke a meaningful conversation. (And then take notes immediately afterwards while things are still fresh in your mind.)
14. Learn From Great Communicators
Even naturally great communicators can improve their communication skills by actively observing and borrowing best practices from other highly effective communicators. Barack Obama and Rush Limbaugh may be on opposite ends of the spectrum politically and temperamentally. But both are experts at the art of communication. By studying what wach does well, I have learned a lot.
15. Write Like You Speak
In most cases, when you communicate in a language that belongs in academic essays, it will come off as if you are trying too hard. It is best to write like you would normally converse, and it will be interpreted as more genuine. Provide enough context to communicate well, of course,, but also make sure to cut right to the chase.
Young Entrepreneur Council (YEC) is an invite-only organization comprised of the world’s most promising young entrepreneurs. In partnership with Citi, YEC recently launched BusinessCollective, a free virtual mentorship program that helps millions of entrepreneurs start and grow businesses.