How to improve communication skills today, with no training

How to improve communication skills

If you want your business, team or organisation to be successful, you need to learn how to improve communication skills among its members. Communication is vital whether you’re kicking goals for a sports team , flipping burgers, responding to an emergency, performing an operation, negotiating a business deal or performing some other role.

“A wonderful fact to reflect upon, that every human creature is constituted to be that profound secret and mystery to every other” -Charles Dickens, A Tale of Two Cities.

You may believe you are equipped with every communication skill you need. You still have some fifth grade foreign language up your sleeve. You probably learned the phonetic alphabet in your girl guides training, in case you need to contact someone via ham radio. You even know how to swear in sign language, should the need arise. Plus, you send more email than anyone in your company.

But would it blow your mind if I told you, email is not the only way to communicate in the workplace? In fact, probably one of the biggest communication blunders I see is people choosing the wrong medium to send their message.

You may be equipped with good workplace communication skills, however, sometimes we all need a reminder to follow best practices. Here are 7 things you can change today, which will make you a better communicator in business or at work:

  1. Make sure you choose the right channel. If you require an immediate response, for example, sending multiple emails marked urgent is probably not the best way to contact someone. If your message is both important and urgent, pick up the phone and call for an immediate response. Email is overused because it is easy; not always the best choice.
  2. Mind your language. Remember, not everyone speaks the language of your organisation and not everyone in your organisation is trained in the same field. Avoid the use of jargon when you can, as this language will only confuse anyone who is not familiar with it.
  3. Cut down on your email. Before you click send, you should consider if an email is necessary at all. If you want to receive less email, you need to send less. Email is great if you need to keep a record of your conversation but remember there are other ways to connect with a colleague or client. Phone calls, instant messages, SMS, in person, online project workspaces etc.
  4. Share your calendar, tasks and status. Most workplaces these days have a way to share calendars with your colleagues, share your tasks and change a presence indicator to show when you are busy. Sharing calendars, tasks and your status can reduce your unnecessary incoming and outgoing personal communication. For example, your colleague will usually be able to see when you must not be disturbed and what you are working on at the time.
  5. Keep it simple and brief, stupid (KISS). An old saying but still as relevant as ever. Keep your messages clear and concise. Think about your message and whether or not you can be clearer or more concise with your wording. I also keep my messaging brief, as I learned from Leo Babauta’s example. In his book, The Power of Less, Leo suggests limiting your email to a maximum of 5 sentences. Since I have put that into practice I get a better response to my messages.
  6. Plan your meetings ahead of time. Whether you have scheduled a team meeting or a phone call to your client, it always helps to plan ahead. It is surprising how many people attend meetings or make phone calls, without achieving the desired outcomes or scheduling any firm follow up agenda.
  7. Choose one focus above all else. I remember when I was asked to present my time management training at our local library. I received a call from a friend of mine, Kerrie Phipps, who said she would be coming along that night. I admitted to Kerrie that I was slightly nervous because I had not hosted one of these workshops before. One of the tips Kerrie gave me was to focus on one objective for the entire night. My objective was to inspire my audience to take action on one thing they learned from that night. In my experience, most of your presentation will be forgotten. For that reason, you really need to focus on one thing. As yourself, “If I want my audience to remember just one thing from my presentation, what would that be?

You probably already know how to improve communication skills but good communication takes practice. You can make small changes today, which will have a significant impact on your effectiveness as a communicator. Great communication can make you a better leader and more effective at almost any role you pursue.