Is communication a critical tool for an individual Can you really outperform your peers by just improving your communication skills? Well, according to McKinsey’s Social Economy Report, the answer is yes. So, How do you become a skilled communicator? “You may ……….” Wait, hold the thought and read below.
A lot of individuals have issues with building the skills needed to be called an “Effective Communicator”.
- One of the major concerns in achieving the goal is anxiety management. While public speaking or in a new setting, people often find themselves uncomfortable to communicate well.
- Another problem is raised by an individual’s pace of communication. Sometimes, talking too fast or slow could affect the message received by the audience.
- Moreover, a lack of structured communication can affect the decoding of the message as the main points can get lost in the explanation.
- Lastly, thinking of improving verbal communication as a short task rather than a goal could mislead people. The focus has to be on developing the skill and not on immediate results or endless hours of content watching.
This article focuses on discussing support, resources, and practical ways to help an individual improve their verbal communication skill set.
One of the major issues faced while communicating is constant apprehension. Anxiety isn’t inherently a bad thing but excessive anxiety could impair your communication. So, whenever anxiety starts to kick in, just acknowledge it instead of resisting it. A few things that can help you reduce your anxiety levels:
- First, see public speaking as a conversation rather than a performance. For example, you could start by asking questions; they could be rhetorical, just asking for opinions or polling. For example, if you are going to speak about productivity, you could ask “How many of you feel that your productivity drops down significantly during the second half of the day?”. This will not only make the audience more involved in your speech but also help you get an idea regarding what the audience’s mentality is.
- Use inclusive language. For instance, avoid using terms such as “guys” or citing examples that a major sect of the audience would be unable to relate to. This would avoid distancing your audience from you and your speech.
- While you are giving a speech, be present-oriented and don’t think about what you have to communicate in the latter half of your speech. This will drastically bring down your anxiety levels.
- Finally, take a deep breath to calm down.
Pace of Communication
The pace of communication affects messaging and can be a major disadvantage in a formal setting. According to American Express, the speed of messaging could create a negative impression. If while presenting an idea or giving an interview, one speaks too fast, they could be perceived as impatient or nervous and their points might get lost. Either way, the listener would lose attention and could misunderstand the message. A few ways to improve the speed of communication, not talk too fast or slow:
- One can start by focusing on fillers. These are the “umm,” “so,” and the “silences” individuals encounter while conversing. The main thing is these arise when you try to connect ideas or bridge sentences. Thus, you can start by creating a list of linking words and using them in everyday life.
- For example, you are giving a presentation to a peer group about enhancements in the progress of the project. In scenario 1, you say, “We have reached a roadblock with objective 3, umm, we should brainstorm about this to resolve the issue.” Whereas, in scenario 2 you mention, “We have reached a roadblock with objective 3, consequently, let’s brainstorm to resolve the issue.” In scenario 2, your message is clearer, and with the help of a linking word – “CONSEQUENTLY” – you have established a second part containing an action that would catch the listener’s attention.
- Furthermore, another step in improving the speed of messaging would be to record oneself using Zoom, or another video recording platform while pretending to converse to one’s audience. This would do two things for you – boost your confidence in delivering your message and identify the fillers, pauses, as well as points where the messaging is going incorrect. One can also use these videos to track progress and engage with mentors based on the observations for improvement tips.
- However, if you would prefer professional guidance and require a more robust feedback system for video practicing then, there are applications available that would engage with the videos to provide real-time feedback with the use of Artificial Intelligence. Both Orai and Speeko are two such applications and you can find many more on the web. Lastly, focusing on structuring the messaging beforehand and drafting bullet lists or notes for the practice would be a beneficial step in improving the speed of communication. Please remember to only list phrases as pointers and not complete sentences as that would not assist in improving verbal communication skills.
Structuring your conversation
You might be an elegant speaker but if your speech isn’t structured it would be difficult for the listener to comprehend and remember whatever you are saying. We process and retain structured information 40% more reliably and accurately than non-structured ones.
Having a structure would help you to communicate effectively and it increases processing fluency which is how effectively the listener would process the information. So, it is the key to having successful spontaneous and planned speaking. There are a few structures that could be followed while communicating.
- Firstly, The “Problem, Solution, Benefit” structure. Start talking about what is the problem, then talk about a way/ways to solve the problem, and finally, talk about the benefits of solving it. Set expectations and provide a structure to keep the listener on track, and this structure helps with that. This could also be re-framed as “Opportunity, Solution, Benefit”. The PSB structure is best suited for formal settings, presenting opportunities, demos, business meetings, elevator pitches, and academic talks.
- Secondly, The “What? So What? Now What?” structure. Start by talking about what the problem/idea is then why it is important, and then what the next steps are. This is a good structure for answering questions in general.
- Lastly, The “Issue, Illustration and Invitation” structure. Once you outline the issue then try to back it up with the help of an illustration. The usage of illustration would help the reader retain the information shared in a better manner. Then, “invite” the listener to participate in the discussion or think about something by asking a question. Now that you are aware of these three structures, try thinking if whatever you are going to say falls into any of the following structures.
While on the journey of becoming an effective communicator, you now need to understand how to set communication as a goal.
- Let’s use the SMART goal technique where each letter means the following: S – Specific, M – Measurable, A – Attainable, R – Relevant, and T – Time-based. To make the communication goal-specific one needs to identify the problem areas to focus on. A good example of a specific goal would be, “I want to improve on my pauses during public speaking.” Additionally, to further define the goal one needs to recognize a measurable standard to track progress. A specific and measurable goal would look like, “I want to improve on my pauses during public speaking by replacing them with linking words and I would track my progress by recording videos.”
- Further developing on the goal, one now has to tailor it to make the goal attainable. The goal would thus need to be reasonable and well-defined. An example of a specific, measurable, and attainable goal would be similar to, “I want to improve on my pauses during public speaking by replacing them with linking words, and I would do so by working on feedback after recording myself once every 10 days.”
- In addition to creating a specific, measurable, and attainable goal one now requires to focus on establishing relevance in the goal. Since the goal needs to align with long-term objectives and one’s values, an example of it now would be, “I want to improve on my pauses during public speaking by replacing them with linking words, and I would do so by working on feedback between every recording which I would track every 10 days.”
- Lastly, to complete the communication goal as a SMART goal, one requires to set a realistic end-date to prioritize and increase motivation. Hence, an example of a SMART communication goal would be, “I want to improve on my pauses during public speaking by replacing them with linking words, and I would do so by working on feedback every day for 15 minutes and recording a new video every 10 days to track my progress.”
In conclusion, both verbal and non-verbal communication is important. You can definitely overcome the problems surrounding communication – anxiety management, structuring your thoughts, usage of filler words.
Hope you make use of the tactics such as the SMART technique & resources discussed in the article to improve your communication skill.