Good communication is key in every aspect of life, be it business, professional, or anything else. Clear, open, and frequent communication prevents mistakes, keeps relationships strong, and heads off hurt feelings or offense. But for something that’s so crucial in helping us all get along, it seems like it’s often in short supply.
Fortunately, each of us can improve our communication by simply practicing these five skills. If you put them into practice in the course of any given day, it will certainly make someone’s day. If you use them when posting comments on social media, you will probably blow readers’ minds.
A lot of miscommunication stems from ambiguity, and the best way to deal with ambiguity is to deal in specifics. The article“Be a Better Engineering Communicator” even touches upon the idea that this may be the single most critical skill to master.
Avoid vagueness; nail down some details and make sure you express them clearly. Use specifics. Saying “Let’s do this someday” isn’t helpful. Saying “Let’s do this next Monday, first thing!” is specific.
Not just hearing them- actually listening. The thing about communication is that it’s a two-way street (sometimes even more than two), and that means you not only have to be clear in what you’re saying, you have to make sure you’re clear on what the other person is saying. This skill dovetails into the next one, which is …
No doubt you’ve encountered this one. It’s where one person is giving their side of a story, and someone else chimes in with “yeah, but … ” and proceeds to argue against them. If you really break it down, a “yeah, but” is shorthand for “Okay, you said some words and I acknowledge that words were said, but they’re wrong words and here’s why”. It’s dismissive and tells the listener that you’re not paying attention because you’re too busy trying to get your OWN point across. Not good.
It’s amazing the traction you can get by simply treating everyone like they’re important. And the best way to do this is to show respect. What does that entail? Making eye contact, for one. Eye contact tells the other person that they have your attention. Remembering their names is another good tactic. That shows people that you undoubtedly think enough of them that you went to the trouble of remembering their names.
There’s a sub-category of respect that’s applicable to e-mails. When you’re writing out an e-mail, make sure it’s free of spelling and grammatical errors. A sloppy, careless e-mail conveys an attitude of not caring, which in turn can be rightly seen as a lack of common courtesy and respect.
A smile or an upbeat tone goes a long way towards making the other person feel at ease. A friendly posture is a non-threatening one, which in turn means less reason to be defensive. This is not manners (besides, we already went there); this is speaking and behaving in a way that puts people at ease and in a good mood. Ask them how their day is going, or how their weekend was. In other words, be human, and address your listeners as fellow humans.
Good communication is the grease that keeps the wheels of society turning smoothly and without friction. By sharpening these five skills, you’ll have a lot of grease to put to good use!