Blog posts, news, and tips

Make Yourself Heard!

By Michelle Zoia

According to a report published in 2016 by Nielson, the average adult in the United States spends about 10 hours and 39 minutes per day consuming media. Countless forms of communication bombard us throughout most of our waking hours—whether it’s social media, music, news, entertainment, texting, phone calls, e-mails, etc. Each day we experience the wonder and challenge of communicating in an increasingly globalized world, but we must remember not to neglect our face-to-face communication skills despite the saturation of digital communication—especially in the professional environment.

Now more than ever, it is the perfect time to remind people to take a step back and reflect on their own face-to-face communication proficiencies—not only as a positive, mindful practice but as a reflection on the quality of their communication skills as a career-driven individual. According to Businessnewsdaily.com, good communication has topped the charts in becoming the number one soft skill employers seek in prospective employees.

Here are some great principles for being an active speaker that can be applied to all communication types (be it verbal, nonverbal, or written):

  • Embrace criticism. Assume that all criticism is constructive criticism. While some people might use criticism to “get your goat,” so to speak, only you control how you react and respond.
  • Be tactful. Having the sensitivity to what is appropriate given the situation can make all the difference. If you have any doubts about how a message might be received (remember to consider their filter!), it may be best not to state or write it.
  • Be honest. Sincerity goes a long way, but remember that tact and honesty should go hand-in-hand. Don’t embellish or elaborate, keep it succinct.
  • Respect confidentiality. Assume from the onset that all conversations are to be kept confidential unless you know the message is public information or the individual has explicitly stated so. This practice helps establish your credibility and character with your listeners.
  • Attack problems, not ideas. Problems are inevitable, but it’s essential to remember to separate the people from the problem. Personal attacks reflect poorly on your character and put the other person on the defensive. Instead, address the issue and frame the conversation as us versus the problem and you will be far more likely to persuade them.

Remember that listening plays a significant role in effective communication. By listening, we don’t mean just hearing (a passive process). Listening is an active and engaged process meaning to pay attention to the message with thoughtful intention. Apply these skills in communications to improve your active listening:

  • Pay attention. Make eye contact, stop other activities, give nonverbal feedback, and wait until the speaker is done to form your reply. These steps are essential to active listening and help you absorb more information from the speaker.
  • Consider your posture. Maintain a relaxed and open posture. Don’t fold your legs or arms and face the individual speaking to show them that you are open to their message.
  • Ask for clarification. What, when, why, and how questions cannot be answered with a simple “yes” or “no” and are a great way to encourage the speaker to elaborate on their message and shows that you are actively listening to them.
  • Show empathy. Showing that you understand another person’s experiences and emotions allows powerful communicators to redirect others to finding solutions rather than pointing fingers.
  • Give feedback. Remember that this is an important component of communication theory. Whether you realize it or not, you are constantly giving feedback to the speaker. Be aware of what message you’re sending and monitor yourself throughout the listening process.

The key to using these skills to become a more effective communicator is to practice. Some of these techniques may not come naturally to you, but what might be challenging now will become a natural process of communication with practice. Use these practices to help build respect and improve your relationships in both professional and non-professional environments.

Curious to learn more about communication skills on the professional level? Check out our booklet Soft Skills Solutions: Make Yourself Heard! Professional Communication Skills. You’ll find great assessments for measuring your communication skills and more information inside.

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