Great communicators aren’t defined by whether they’re extroverts. They don’t have to have the gift of gab and be able to keep a non-stop patter going. But they do have one thing in common – they put effort into improving their interpersonal skills. It is important to them to build and maintain positive, constructive relationships and they do that through a focus on communication.
The top 10 skills good communicators develop also include:
1. They are aspirational. They understand that what people need most is to be heard, appreciated and encouraged. Everything that comes out of their mouth or shows up in print is designed to make things better rather than tear events or people down. Since readers and listeners respond well to upbeat, optimistic news, they strive to focus on the good things as much as possible.
2. They ask questions. Too often, we believe people are stronger and more competent when they are directive, assertive and commanding in tone. But that can get old. The best communicators know how to strike a balance and ask more than they tell. Questions draw people out. They generate more and better information. And some studies show that leaders only get a small fraction of the information they need to effectively do their jobs.
3. They are sincerely interested in others. How do you take a sincere interest in others? (For some people this does not come naturally.) Back to #2 – you ask questions. You also make a point to remember key components of the person’s life, like what they do for a living, how many kids they have, whether they found a new place to live, etc. And you take the time to have a personal conversation with them now and then. We are usually “oh-so-busy” worrying about getting our own needs met that we often overlook the fact that we’re dealing with another human being. They deserve our attention too.
4. They avoid million dollar words. Nobody likes to feel dumb. So when we say “utilize” versus “use” or “compensate” versus “pay” we may think we’re flexing our language muscle. But we can come across like we’re putting on a show: Pretentious Language-itis. Let’s make communication easier for others. The fewer barriers we build, the smoother the process will go for everyone.
5. They have a purpose. Good communicators have a goal for each interaction. It may be subtle, but it’s still there. The goal could be to make the other person feel more comfortable, understood or supported. The purpose might be to reach an agreement, make a decision, apologize. The more challenging the interaction, the more important it is to have that objective clearly defined, even if it’s just in your own mind. It’ll keep you on track and help you feel more confident.
6. They are consistent. People never have to wonder about who they are, what they stand for and how they’re going to behave. They don’t flip-flop. Change is not something they are afraid of, but they also realize that people like to know what they can count on. It’s important to them to give others a sense of security, knowing that uncertainty makes it hard to trust and can make communication difficult.
7. They are credible. They do what they say they’re going to do. They don’t lie through omission. People see them as an authority or resource. Credible communicators don’t inflate or overstate. If anything, they will under-promise and then over-deliver.
8. They see the big picture. They try to keep things in perspective. Good communicators don’t get wrapped around the axle over experiences that aren’t relevant to the bigger goal. They ask themselves, “What’s at risk?” and keep their eye on the ball. Roadblocks or speed bumps in life don’t slow them down from achieving what’s most important.
9. They have a positive attitude. They are the epitome of Dr. Seligman’s learned optimism. They see bad things as temporary. They don’t apply negative events or experiences that impact one segment of their life to every segment. And they work to avoid taking things too personally by letting criticism roll off their back.
10. They listen with an appropriate style. Listening is the most important communication component. Good listeners are aware of the right style or approach that’s called for depending on the situation. The five listening styles are:
- Appreciative: when someone is telling you a joke or a story.
- Empathic: when people need understanding as they discuss a problem or concern.
- Discerning: to gather complete information, like when you return from vacation and are debriefed on events that occurred in your absence.
- Comprehensive: a big-picture approach where you’re trying to spot a trend or pattern, understand meaning or organize information.
- Evaluative: to critique information, make a decision, decide if someone is right or wrong. (Source: John Wiley & Sons, Inc. Personal Listening Assessment)
These are learned skills. Many of us must work on one or more of the above to improve our interpersonal communication. Don’t feel like there’s something wrong with you if they all don’t come naturally. It comes down to what you decide is most important at home, at work and in our community. Since organizations find that good communication skills lead to better relationships with customers, co-workers and constituents, isn’t it worth putting some effort into developing one or more of these traits? A little bit of focus is all it takes to move the needle and get noticeable results!