Mastering Communications Skills

Have you ever heard the phrase 'It's not what you say; its how you say it'?

Communication is one of the most important tools in the modern workplace. Knowing how to communicate confidently and effectively, either written or verbal can be the key to getting ahead in your career.

On top of this, being aware and in control of your non-verbal communication, including body language and presentation can increase the effectiveness of your message.

Verbal Communication Skills

Communicating verbally can be nerve-wracking, but incredibly rewarding. You have a lot of control as to how you are received with your intonation, presentation and word choice.

DO

Remember that every interaction is a verbal communication. Whether it's having a chat in the kitchen or saying goodbye as you leave the office, think about what it is you're saying ('the message') and how you would like it to come across.

Think about your audience. What presentation style would suit them best? If you try and enforce a particular style that does not match with your audience, you may find that the message you are trying to convey is lost and your audience is not swayed to your point of view.

Mimic. If the person across the table from you is sitting up straight – make sure you are too. Sitting slightly to the left – you sit slightly to the right. Many studies have been performed that showed by 'shadowing' your opposite, you can increase your confidence as you feel you 'fit in' more and increase their confidence in you as you appear less as an outsider. Don't go overboard– you don't need to scratch your nose when they do! Exercise judgement!

Engage. No one likes a speaker who stares at the wall or above their heads. Move around your presentation area; look at your audience members individually (without staring them down). Use real world examples, if possible ones that focus on something you've done that the audience might not be aware of. All these tools build rapport and increase your audience's buy in of your message.

DON'T

Write your entire speech word for word. If you do, you are more likely to become focussed on your notes and easily get lost. Keep your speech notes to dot points that will help you remember your next point.

Neglect the non verbal communication. Is how you are dressed how you want to be perceived? Are you smiling and making eye contact or are you staring at the floor.

Fidget. When you are nervous, be it in an interview or presentation situation, we are all more likely to fidget. Fidgeting behaviour can communicate that you are bored, or that you are unable to deal with pressure. Think about what you do when you are nervous, ask your friends and family and brainstorm ways to control it. To avoid fidgeting with jewellery, make sure you only wear a watch and (if applicable) wedding/engagement ring.

Butt In. If someone is asking you a question, make sure you wait until they have finished it before you answer. Whilst you may be keen to answer, butting in makes you appear rude and uninterested in other's opinions. In a meeting context, use your non-verbal skills to signal to the meeting chair that you have something you wish to say, either by raising a hand or make eye contact and raise an eyebrow.

Written Communications Skills

Whilst not as nerve wracking as verbal communication, written communication can been tricky as you are not physically present when the message is delivered.

DO

Keep emails as brief and to the point as possible. Whilst you want to be personable, waffling on for 3 lines before you get to the point could cause the point to be lost completely. Everyone is pushed for time these days so make sure what the email about is front and centre rather than making your colleagues search for it.

Read your emails before sending. Typos are a curse of the modern era, as is auto correct. You MUST read your emails thoroughly before sending them to make sure any such errors are picked up. Emails containing errors do not inspire confidence in your abilities.

Keep work correspondence formal. Avoid too many exclamation marks, smiley faces and keep your prose official – even if the colleague you are emailing is a friend. Remember that your email is the property of your company and should reflect the company's communications standards.

DON'T

Write in anything other than proper English. Text-speak is for teenagers with mobile phones. 'Can u poss com up to my desk l8r' will make you look immature and unprofessional, not forward thinking.

Put anything in writing you don't want someone else seeing. Once it's in writing, it's out there. Never say anything defamatory, derogatory or rude in writing as you will lose control over it. Telling a colleague how annoying your boss is via email is grounds for gross misconduct. Your email is not your property and is most likely monitored.

Reply-All. Unfortunately most email programs put this next to the button for 'Reply'. Take your time to ensure you are only sending the email to the person intended.

Fire off an irate reply. If you receive an inappropriate email, wait a minimum of two hours before you reply. By replying straight away you give the sender the power in the argument, whilst also running the risk of saying something you don't mean or want said in public. Making them wait for a response, and delivering a calm and well-thought response will maintain your professionalism and dignity.

Always remember that communication is one of your most effective tools at your disposal. Use it well!

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