Have you ever thought that effective verbal communication is necessary in almost every field of life?
We always need good communication to do everything from performing at work properly to ensuring our romantic relationship functions smoothly. Yet, many of us struggle with this skill, but it is not too difficult if we can only remember a few important details.
Clarity of speech, remaining calm and focused, being polite and following some basic rules of etiquette will all aid the process of verbal communication.
This is not an elocution lesson – which I shall pursue later – but a focus on the process of verbal communication.
The most effective leaders and managers tend to have excellent verbal communication skills, and can converse confidently in almost any situation.
26 SIMPLE TIPS TO IMPROVING YOUR VERBAL SKILLS
These top tips provide some useful suggestions on how to develop your own skills in this key area.
- Relax. Your communication will always feel less forced if you are calm. If you get nervous when you speak in public, take some deep breaths before you start.
- Think carefully about what you are going to say before you say it. Try to use clear, positive, straightforward language to avoid any misunderstandings.
- Moderate your voice so that it is calm and soothing. Practise speaking without raising or (if you have a tendency to mumble) lowering your voice.
- Ask a trusted colleague or friend for feedback on your communication skills, and use this constructive criticism as a basis for improving your skills. Alternatively, record yourself speaking in a given situation (e.g. at a meeting, presentation or team briefing) and analyse what you do well/less well.
- Make eye contact. Making and maintaining eye contact is crucial when speaking to people, whether one-on-one or in a group setting. It shows attentiveness and interest in what’s being said. Increased eye contact is associated with credibility and dominance, so it is important to maintain solid eye contact when speaking to individuals or to a group. However, when addressing a crowd, you should not look at one person for more than 5 seconds. This is considered too personal/intimate for a group setting.
- Take a class in public speaking or visit a vocal coach to learn voice control techniques and exercises.
- Learn from mentors. Enlist help from managers or leaders you respect. These mentors can provide constructive coaching feedback.
- Watch TED Talks on youtube. Learn how to present by watching innovative thinkers featured in TED Talks in 18 minutes or less.
- Join Toastmasters International. Join a Toastmasters club, and build your skills in a “learn-by-doing” meeting. Toastmasters International has been around 90 years helping members improve their communication, public speaking and leadership skills.
- Practise. Volunteer to make a presentation or speech, and go to networking events to perfect your conversational skills with strangers. Always respond when someone communicates with you, even if it is just to say thank you. By reciprocating, you automatically appear more approachable. Instead of emailing your colleagues, and only when it is practical to do so, get into the habit of leaving your desk to speak to them face-to-face.
- Connect personally with colleagues. Spend a little time talking about non-work topics, even if it is just a couple of minutes to ask how their commute was or to chat about the weather. By showing an interest in their lives and opinions, people will respond positively to you.
- It’s a good idea to familiarise yourself with current events by watching the news so that you are never stuck for a topic of conversation. It’s also a good idea to keep up to date with what is happening in your industry, so sign up to newsletters and blogs, and read relevant business texts and journals. Develop a repertoire of stories that you can draw on in any situation. Make sure that the people you are telling the story to have not heard it from you before! Pay careful attention to what other people have said and respond accordingly. Help conversation flow by answering questions with a comment and a return question.
- Use people’s names in conversation where possible, to help build rapport (but not so much that it sounds false).
- Don’t monopolise conversations. Give others a chance to speak and let the conversation flow naturally. Also avoid bringing a conversation back to your original topic if it has naturally progressed onto another subject.
- Speak assertively – avoid using vague words such as ‘maybe’, ‘try’, ‘might’ and ‘perhaps’, replacing these with definite statements. For example, ‘I will get that report to you by the end of the week’ sounds much more positive than ‘I’ll try to get that report to you by the end of the week’. These words don’t instil the listener with much faith in your abilities: using confident language will help to ensure that others perceive you as someone who gets results.
- Don’t waffle. Everyone’s time is precious, so get straight to the point by ensuring that your communication has a purpose, speaking decisively, using as few words as possible.
- So don’t get off on tangents. Verbal communication is different than other forms of communication in that it is easier to get off topic, which can make it hard to remember what the conversation was really supposed to be about. This is confusing for your listener. So, stay on topic.
- Avoid using ‘filler’ words such as ‘uh’, ‘um’, ‘er’ and ‘like’. Don’t be afraid of silence – it is better to pause and think about what you are going to say than to use these words, which can give the impression that you lack confidence and conviction in your message.
- Offer to coach others with their verbal skills – you never know, you may learn something new.
- Make sure your body language reflects rather than contradicts what you are saying. For example, if you are trying to motivate people into accepting an organisational change, telling them it is a good thing while sitting with your arms crossed and frowning will send out mixed signals and will dilute the effectiveness of your message.
- Practice open/relaxed body language. Your body language should be relaxed. This means that you should not cross your arms or stiffen your body. When addressing groups of people, it is important to use your hand gestures to emphasize your message. Try not to be overly animated, but don’t keep your arms stiff at your side either.
- If you’re speaking to someone you can’t see (e.g. on the telephone), it is vitally important that you pay attention to your tone of voice and the words you use, as you won’t have the non-verbal signals that help to ensure understanding.
- Eliminate slang, jargon and vernacular speech from your business language. Even though this may be widely used within your organisation or industry, it may not be accepted by people on the outside.
- Smile. A smile will come across in your voice and make you sound interesting and enthusiastic, even when the person listening can’t see you. As a result, people will respond to you in a more positive way.
- Avoid sarcasm. From the standpoint of a listener, a sarcastic remark requires a process of decoding and interpretation before they can understand what has been said, what has been meant, and if the two are the same.
- Similarly, try to incorporate humor. Everyone likes to laugh, so humor can be a great way to lighten up your conversation and make your listener more receptive to your message.
Summarising – Giving a summary in the end is quite important. A summary is an overview of the main points or issues raised during the talk. Summarising can also serve the same purpose as ‘reflecting’. However, summarising allows both parties to review and agree the communication exchanged between them up to that point in time. When used effectively, summaries may also serve as a guide to the next steps forward.
Hence, it is important to Be EMPOWERED and EXCEL.