Communication skills are one of those things most of us all believe we have developed pretty much by the time we have learnt to talk and write, however, the real skills of an effective communicator are far more subtle and much broader than those learnt through the course of our day to day development.
Skilled communicators have a level of perception of the interest, attention span, cultural and social differences in their audience that is almost like a sixth sense, they know when to speak and, as importantly, they know when to be quiet and listen to other words or even simply watch the body language of other participants in any situation. After all, silence can be just as strong a form of communication as speech.
Beyond this, the skilled communicator will spend a lot of time developing their skills, thinking about what was said and not said, how it was received and delivered and always looking for lessons that can be taken from any encounter. For these individuals, they will never be satisfied with their level of communications skills, even though they are often the most skilled in any situation.
Some people are fortunate enough to be either naturally talented at these things or develop the skills quickly, others will get help and build them from there, while yet others may never become the communicators they could be, continually struggling to find the right mix or, worse still, believing they are great communicators and not recognising all of their flaws.
These days, also, it seems you can get coaches for pretty much any aspect of you personal or professional life, there are the obvious ones such as sports coaches and leadership coaches, then there are coaches who will come in and help you adapt to a new job, a promotion, a lifestyle change etc. But, have you ever stopped and considered whether a communications coach could be appropriate for either you or someone in your team?
How To Build Communication Skills
So, the question is, are you one of these people, would you like to be one and, if so, how would you get started?
If you really do want to develop your communications skills, there are a number of ways to go about it;
- Observation is usually a great place to start, identify as many good communicators as possible, in the media, in your work and social lives, then really watch how they conduct themselves and listen to how they deliver their communications. The subject is almost irrelevant with the really good communicators, it is in the subtle changes of phrasing, the body language, eye contact, everything they say and do. You will find that through this you will begin to identify their strengths and once you have done this, you can start to adapt them to your own style. Observation of others mistakes and shortcomings is also a good way to learn, see what they do that does not work and try to avoid it.
- Feedback is also a great thing, find one or two really good communicators you trust and who will be honest with you, ask them to give you feedback after meetings or presentations, look for solid, constructive feedback, not simply criticism, and after each feedback session, try to keep the comments and suggestions in mind for the next opportunity to try them.
- Consider employing a coach to help you with your communication skills, this could be an external professional who can work with you to hone your skills between events, or it could be someone to take the role of the feedback team mentioned above. The nature of the coach will really depend on your own situation and your aspirations, some public figures feel that they must have a coach who is detached from their day to day situation for that person to be objective and, equally, you may feel that you don’t have the right level of trust in your colleagues, or that you simply don’t see anyone around you who can help. External coaches can be completely honest and direct since they are only there to help you grow as a professional, they do not depend on you for their day to day livelihood since they are usually engaged for a specific activity and may then never deal with you again.
Whatever route you choose to follow, do however remember that your communication skills are like any other skill you develop, you must keep practicing and working on your abilities otherwise they will fade away.
Share your experiences
Do you have any experiences with building your communication skills you would like to share? If so, we would love to hear from you.
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