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Having excellent communication skills is a gift that will carry you far beyond what you could ever imagine. Yehuda Berg, a well-known international speaker and author once said,
"Words are singularly the most powerful force available to humanity. We can choose to use this force constructively with words of encouragement, or destructively using words of despair. Words have energy and power with the ability to help, to heal, to hinder, to hurt, to harm, to humiliate and to humble."
Language is a gift used to convey meaning to others, and understand others. It is the transfer of thoughts. Being able to effectively understand others and to clearly convey your message is a talent any aspiring entrepreneur and business owner will need to succeed. And not just nay communication will do. There's a reason English courses are often called "Language Arts". Because, like any art, there are seemingly infinite ways to do it, but some are much more eloquent and effective than others. Now, there are really five key skills required for better communication skills:
- Nonverbal Communication
- Verbal Communication
Interested in improving your art form? Let's dive in!
Ultimately, empathy is the single most important thing to have if you desire better communication skills. Sympathy and empathy often get used interchangeably, however I'd like to stress the important difference: sympathy is understanding from your own perspective where empathy is understanding from the other's perspective. To really understand why a person thinks the way they do, you need to put yourself in their shoes.
You can develop this skill by making intentional effort to talk to strangers and try to move past the normal small talk. Begin to get an understanding of what their daily life is like, and just observe how it makes you feel... Imagine if the same things were happening to you. How would you react? How would you respond?
If you were to ignore everything else on this post, practicing empathy alone, and really putting it into practice will grant you far better communication skills. Not only that, but it will be nature deepen the relationships with those around you.
Furthermore, consider your own biases. Take time to look within and understand where you are bias (we all are) and understand the reason for that bias. This is a small tactic you can use whenever that will force you to strengthen your "empathy muscle" and make a habit of intentionally trying to understand the "whys" behind actions and thoughts.
I'm sure we've all heard the saying "you have two ears and one mouth for a reason", but anyone could listen in one ear and out the other all day long. To have excellent communication skills one must put into practice active listening. This is especially hard to do when listening to someone speak about something that really bores you. Stop, and think "why is this important to them?" Remember, the most important skill to have is empathy, this will allow you to actively listen to anything, because there's always a reason that is important to someone why they are sharing with you what they're sharing. Make it your goal to find it.
To practice this keep in mind a few things. Remember to always maintain friendly eye contact, never interrupt, and visualize what the speaker is saying. Listen as if you are going to be quizzed on everything they just talked about. For even better active listening, wait for the pauses and ask clarifying questions. This will also help you uncover the meaning why they are sharing this with you.
Even if you are extremely disinterested in what they are saying, pretend as though you are. Oftentimes, of actions guide our feelings. If we behave a certain way about something for long enough, eventually our feelings tend to be guided in the same directions as our actions.
Nonverbal Communication Skills
In psychology there's evidence to suggest that 55% of communication is nonverbal. 38% is tone, and only 7% is tone. So, nonverbal communication is hugely important! For me, and for many others getting better at nonverbal communication is very difficult. I know from my own experience, improving my nonverbal communication skills put me into a lot of uncomfortable situations at first. Situations that made me feel vulnerable and awkward. However, overtime improving my nonverbal communication skills opened so many more doors to me. It allowed me to feel confident, and as if what I said was worth being heard.
Nonverbal communication is mainly about body language. Open body language will naturally invite better communication. Why? Primarily because others will feel comfortable around you. And, we humans are more open to people we feel comfortable around. Make sure to not make this look too forced. Especially facial expressions. Consider practicing in front of a mirror. Try out different facial expressions and neutral positions and find something that looks and feels somewhat natural for you!
Also, remember better communication means confidence in what you have to bring to the table. Avoid fidgeting at all costs. Fidgeting shows a lack of confidence of what you have to bring to the table. Not to mention, it simply makes you more nervous. No matter how nervous you may feel, or how unconfident you feel, do not let it show! Do not feed the feelings of doubt and worry. Be mindful of them, and recognize the feelings for what they are: feelings. And then act as how you wish you felt.
I had the privilege of reading a fantastic book that completely changed my thinking about confidence. In The Confidence Gap, Russ Harris talks about the separation between feelings and actions. Often as people we tend to think we have to do what we feel like doing, but this is so far from the truth! Self-control and mindfulness allows us to choose what we want to do, regardless of how we feel. And the beautiful thing is if you don't show it, no one knows how you feel on the inside. You could be nervous as a bee and no one would know.
Alright, so on to the 38%. The next thing to master to get better communication skills is your tone. No one enjoys listening to a monotonous speaker for too long (unless you're trying to fall asleep). The human brain needs stimulation, and this is where fluctuating your tone comes into play. Tone allows you to bring a sense of emotion into what you are saying, and peak interest of those listening. Isn't it cool that with just fluctuation our tone we can build suspense, create excitement, allure curiosity, and highlight importance?
First, to get more tone in your voice open your mouth. This might sound obvious, however its very easy to speak with lips barely open. Opening your mouth allows for proper pronunciation, and more volume. These two things are needed to build the right sense of tone we want to get better communication skills overall.
Second, take deep breaths before speaking. focus on breathing from the diaphragm, not the chest. Feel the pressure build and tighten your core. I find it helpful to imagine this feeling as a sense of boldness. As if regardless of what happens, I'll be alright. Now how does that effect your tone? Well, if you're timid of what you have to say, you'll say it in a timid fashion, a fashion without tone or volume.
Lastly, a practical exercise to increase your tone is to read the same passage repeatedly, but in different pitches and speeds. Start by reading the passage in a low tone, then slowly work your way up to a high tone. After that read the passage again aloud at a slow pace, then once more at a fast pace. Just take the time to get used to the vocal and tempo ranges of your voice. This will allow you to become familiar with what your voice is capable of.
Verbal Communication Skills
So back to the 5%. Vocal communication is still important to develop if you want better communication skills overall. When it comes to vocal communication, above all always remember to think before you speak. Don't be afraid of pauses. Take the time to gather your thoughts so that you may respond in a clear and concise manner.
Consider the perspective of the audience so that you may choose words that will reach them well. Furthermore, regardless of the audience's perspective remember to speak with confidence, When it comes to verbal communication, when I say speak with confidence I mean to say what you truly believe to be the truth, regardless of how others may take it. This is no easy task. Oftentimes, speaking the truth can lead to a lot of habilitation, but in the end choosing to speak to please others rather than to convey meaning and truth is to forego all honest communication and relinquish the possibility of a true relationship with whomever you are speaking. Which is worse?
At the end of the day, better communication skills come by trial and error, and being honest of your shortcomings when it comes to dealing with others. Getting to watch your communication skills grow over time is such a neat thing, and it simply being able to be an exceptional communicator fills you with a sense of pride, and belief in your own abilities. Furthermore, being able to communicate successfully reassures your belief in the value of what you have to say, and allows deeper relationships with business partners, associates, friends, family, and whoever. Take care friends!
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Catch you on the flip,
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