A leader who hasn’t grasped the basics of effective communication is like a pilot who hasn’t quite grasped the basics of takeoff and landing. Being able to communicate effectively with those you intend to lead, as well as with your fellow leaders is paramount to your success. But makes for effective communication? Is it something you’re born with, or is it a learned skill? I’m here to tell you that you can learn how to become a more effective communicator. Here are five skills that you can master, starting today, that will make you a better and more effective communicator.
Make the Complex Simple
Most topics tend to be somewhat complex for people who may not have attained the same level of expertise as you in that topic. If you leave your audience confused (and yes your audience can be a single person you’re talking to at a party) then you haven’t communicated very effectively, now have you? That’s why the best communicators are those people who can discuss difficult to understand topics and ideas, yet present them in such a way that almost anyone can understand them.
Take Neil deGrasse Tyson as a perfect example. Sure his scientific prowess gives him a firm foundation, but he has built a stunningly successful career by explaining difficult to understand scientific concepts to people without a background in math and science. How can he do this? He’s mastered the art of turning the complex simple. You can only do this is you truly understand the topic. Put another way, if you aren’t an expert in something, you’re not going to discuss it in a meaningful way.
Be Excited About Your Subject
If you’re not excited about your subject then how do you expect your audience (even if it’s an audience of one) to get excited? You don’t have to be bouncing off the walls to make the point that you are truly excited about your subject matter, but you need to show enthusiasm and excitement. But what if you have to discuss something you really aren’t excited about?
A great communicator will be able to draw on excitement and enthusiasm in almost any situation. This is a skill that you can master – it’s a little bit like being an actor. You don’t want to be disingenuous though, so if it’s a topic that you simply cannot bring up any excitement then it’s better to stay away from it. Simply put disingenuousness is never good communication.
Communication is More than just Talking
Part of communication is talking. A bigger part is made up of listening and watching. You can learn a lot about a person’s experience and interests by taking the time to hear what they have to say. Communication is a two way street and if they sense that you aren’t listening to them then your ability to communicate effectively will diminish drastically. Listening can also key you into how to steer the conversation for better communication. If you take clues from what they are saying and what their body language is telling you, then you can adjust the conversation to keep the lines of communication open, rather than closing down.
Use Open Ended Questions to Draw People In
One way to prevent delivering a monologue, particularly when communicating with individuals or small groups, is to use open ended questions. A common mistake people make is to use questions that can be answered in a word or short sentence. A good communicator will chose open ended questions that allow for the free flow of ideas, as opposed to extended moments of awkward silence.
Always Plan Your Follow Up
Good communicators never leave a situation without having a follow up plan in place. This could be something as simple as scheduling a time for a phone call or to meet up for coffee or dinner, or more of a substantial plan. The point is to always ensure that you never leave a situation without some type of follow up in place.
Learning to be a better communicator is possible. We’ve given you five ways to improve your communication skills. So what are you waiting for? Start putting them to work for you today, and you’ll be on your way to becoming a better communicator.