“The most important investment you can make is in yourself.”    -    Warren Buffett
Relationships, Social Skills
Interpersonal Communication Skills

Effective Communication: How to Improve Your Communication Skills

What is communication?

Communication is the process of exchanging information, ideas, feelings, emotions, and thoughts.

How are we communicating?

Through speech, behavior, body language, writing, attitude and other signals.

You know how effective or positive your communication is by the feedback and the response you are getting.

I want to point out to you that there is no such thing as “lack of communication” because people are communicating something all the time willingly or not. There is, though, miscommunication, poor translation, misinterpretation (misunderstanding, distorted) and disregard.

Miscommunication: means to be unable to make yourself understood, to get your message across.
Poor translation: you say one thing and the other person understands something completely different.
Misinterpretation: giving another meaning to words, gestures and attitudes other than what the person intended to send.
Disregard: ignoring the other person, pretending not to understand, hear or see the other person.

Unfortunately, most things that people are communicating are in one or more of the four categories mentioned above.

Therefore, learning and becoming a master communicator is a big step in upscaling your interpersonal skills and has a great deal of influence in your personal life and career.

If emotional intelligence is mostly about you and your internal universe, to be a great communicator is also, in equal measures, about those you’re communicating with. You need to know how to make yourself understood and to understand others as well.

Become a master communicator

1. Avoid the following mistakes in your communication:

Allowing your thoughts to drift away when someone is talking to you.

To pay attention, to listen and to stay focused on something other than your internal thoughts doesn’t come easily to the human mind. Most of the time we get distracted, we get self-absorbed, we get bored and sometimes, even annoyed when we have to listen. However, you can’t communicate, effectively if you don’t listen.

Finishing the sentences of the other party.

It is one thing to complete people’s sentences sometimes! But if you do it often, people will start avoiding you because they could feel that you either believe that they are incapable of doing it for themselves, either that you want to brush them off, either that you think you are smarter than them.

Responding the first second when people finished speaking.
If you don’t take a moment to think before you answer, it means that you haven’t been listening. It means that all you did while they were speaking to you was to prepare your response.

Doing something else (multitasking) while people are talking to you.

People want your attention. They want to know that you are hearing them, that you are paying attention and when you do, they feel important, when you don’t, they feel disregarded, disrespected and used.

Giving meaning to other people’s behavior, acts and words based on subjective personal opinions or limited knowledge.

We are “sizing -up “ people the second we see them, and we are continuing to do so while they are interacting with us.

This is not a bad thing in itself. We need to have an idea of who they are and how they are. However, to become a master communicator, go beyond the obvious, go beyond what you think and believe to be true.

For example: Just because somebody is scratching their nose doesn’t mean they are lying to you.

Pay attention to cultural differences.27 cultural differences

For example:
There are cultures where is considered disrespectful for younger people to look elderly in the eye when speaking.
There are cultures where women don’t shake hands apart for the first time when they are introduced to somebody.

Speaking in other people’s name.

I know you might be well intended, and you probably want to help, but avoid speaking for others if they didn’t ask you to do it.

Being judgemental.

28 judgmental

Willingly or not, we all judge. It’s in our nature. Some people are more judgemental than others, but we all have a dose of being judgemental.

This fact is intriguing, is it not? Most of us are good people, well intended and we don’t judge because we are mean or out of some misguided sense of superiority.

So, why do we judge people? What makes us feel entitled to judge?

The main reasons for judging others:

Hope – hope makes us judge others because we want to believe that faced with a similar situation we would know better what to do, how to behave.

The sense of guilt – sometimes we feel guilty even for things that are not caused by us, and this is happening when we go a step too far with being sympathetic and empathetic to people, which make us feel responsible for them.

Because we don’t know where is this sense of guilt coming from, we are washing our hand of it by judging.

Firm belief– when you believe that something is true, you could expect others to share the same view, the same belief.

Self-preservation – sometimes when we judge makes us feel like the bad even never happened.

Ways to change a judgemental impulse:

Be curious or naive – curiosity and naivety are childlike states, therefore, are tolerated by most people. Your perspective seems innocent and harmless.

2. Set the frame for your communication.

If you need a plan of action, make one. When you have a particular goal in mind, don’t leave things to chance because you will get random results.

Communication is not always about getting something instantly, especially when we are talking about day to day communication (with your family and friends for example). Sometimes we want to build a good relationship, sometimes we want to prepare the grounds for a future goal, sometimes we want to make ourselves liked.

Know your intention and purpose and base your communication on them to make sure that your vanity will not stay in your way.

Establish who is the leader and decision maker. Where there is no head, the legs don’t know where to go!

3. Factors that can influence how efficient and constructive your communication is:

Trust issues – build trust with people and not only to trust you as a person but to trust your ideas as well.

Fear – inspiring fear in people will make them run away from you. Inspiring respect will make people feel ashamed to let you down.

Emotional instability – In one hand are your emotions and no matter how many techniques and trick you learn to improve your interpersonal skills, will mean nothing if you don’t have the courage to implement them or if you get angry, or you lose your patience too soon.

On the other hand are the emotions of the other party.

For example, some people will not tell you openly what they want; or they will tell you what they think you want to hear; or out of shyness, fear and embarrassment they will say nothing all together.

Model your behavior and attitude in such a way that you manage to bring out not only what people are not telling you, but to bring out the best of them. Leave them room to put their emotion in order so you get the best results for both parties.

Personal interests – every person, no matter how selfless they are, want to get something out of the things they are doing.

Secondary gain or losses – When you win something, you lose something as well. Make sure you are willing to pay the price for want you want.

Status – know your value and worth, know your position and use them as leverage points.
Remember that every time that someone looks down at you, somebody else looks down at them and that every time you look down at somebody else, someone else is looking down at you.

Being modest and respectful doesn’t exclude to be a powerful leader but makes you a much stronger one.

If you are on the other side, someone else is the leader, don’t let yourself bullied, intimidated or taken advantage. Choose to follow those leaders that deserve your respect and admiration.

Know your audience – you can have the best speech, the best offer or the best intentions but if the audience is not the right one for your message, you will get nowhere.

Language – even though words don’t count that much in your communication, the little they do counts.

Pay attention to semantics. Some words sound similar but mean different things; some words have multiple pronunciations, and some words have multiple meanings.

Use the proper language for the audience in front of you. Avoid using jargons and rarely used words.

You want to make yourself understood, therefore, talk the other party’s language, be specific and stay on topic.

Information overload – The more information you give people, the faster you lose them. Every piece of information you’re offering needs time to be processed by the other party.

Voice qualities – The tone, the punctuation, the volume and the sound of your voice are more powerful and affect more your communication effectiveness than the words you’re using.

With the help of language, you’re making yourself understood, with the qualities of your voice you’re attaching emotions to your words.

Communication Tools you can use to build strong interpersonal skills:

#1 Verbal communication.

29 verbal communication

Verbal communication means to express yourself using words through speech or in writing.

A few rules to follow when using verbal communication to ensure you are understood:

Think before you speak.

30 think before speak

People have this false idea that you need to talk and respond fast, right the next second the other person finished talking. Yet, the truth is that when you do, apart from the fact that you might sleep up things you will come to regret, you’re sending a message to the other person, and the message is that you are not listening.

Take a few seconds to think about what the other person said, evaluate your answer and only then reply.
Don’t worry to take the time you need! People will appreciate it and will see it as a gesture of respect.

Use simple words, easy to understand for most people.
We are more emotionally attached to those words that we’ve learned first.

Pay attention to your mood (mental state) because your mood is choosing your vocabulary.

Improve your vocabulary because you are perceived as smart as your vocabulary is. This doesn’t mean to use fancy words. It means to have enough words to describe what you want to convey.

Avoid using negation as much as possible. Our subconscious mind does not understand “No.”
“Don’t do [that]” vs. “Stop doing [that], do [this] instead.”

#2 Non-verbal communication – body language

31 nonverbal communication

Verbal communication is done mostly by your conscious mind, and nonverbal communication is done primarily by your unconscious mind.

Your unconscious mind not only sends a message to the other party through your body language but also gives meaning and reads the body language of those around you.

Forms of nonverbal communication:

  • Facial expressions.
  • Body movements.
  • Gestures.
  • Eye contact.
  • Voice qualities.
  • Touch.

How to improve your interpersonal skills with the help of nonverbal communication, your body language:

Adopt open body postures – the other party feels these postures as being friendly, confident and sincere.

Nod your head to approve what you’ve heard or to let the other person know you understand.

Move your hands when you speak. Your hand movements are making a visual story out of what you’re communicating in words.

Avoid fidgeting or shaking your limbs. These are signs of distress or impatience or lying.

32 remember to smile

Remember to smile!

Claim and occupy your space. Your personal space is as far as you can draw a circle with your hands around yourself.

Claiming and occupying your space is telling to the other party that you are confident, that you have self-esteem, that you are in control of yourself.

Be congruent. What you are saying should match your body language and the other way around.

Pay attention to your feet. A trained eye will notice many things about you and your intentions from the position of your feet because your feet are the last part of your body that you are thinking about or trying to control.

Create closeness, warmth and involvement between you and the other person. A cold, stiff body language will create a cold, rigid relationship or interaction.

#3 Listening

33 listen

There is no effective (positive) communication without listening.

If you have the habit of interrupting people when they speak, or you’re not listening, what you are communicating is that you are not interested in them or that you are not respecting them or that they are not important to you.

You need to know that listening doesn’t come naturally, so, of course, it will happen to you to lose your focus from those who are speaking. Don’t blame yourself for it, just get back from where you’ve left it and ask questions to find out what you’ve missed.

One of the greatest pleasure in life is to talk, to share your ideas, experiences, views. So, if you enjoy talking, remember that the next person does too!

Rewards you get for being a good listener:

  • You’re making people feel important; therefore, you become important to them.
  • You have the chance to understand other people better.
  • You are gathering information about people, information that can become leverage points later.
  • People will respect you more and will want your company.
  • You will have a complete picture of what people want.

How to listen actively:

  • Be prepared to listen, to search for new information and not to confirm what you already know.
  • Don’t dismiss new ideas; validate people’s opinions and views to make them feel included and to open up to you.
  • Don’t interrupt unless absolutely necessarily. As an example, if you don’t understand something, you can interrupt to ask questions.
  • Give useful feedback. Useful feedback to them, not only to you.
  • Give your full attention to the people you’re talking.
  • Paraphrase what people are telling you to make sure you’ve understood correctly.
  • Use eye contact and body language clues to let people know you are interested. Clues such as: nodding your head, leaning forward toward them, point your feet at the person speaking.

If you are not yet a good listener, don’t beat yourself up about it. As you’ve discovered earlier, listening doesn’t come naturally to us. Listening is a skill, and you can learn it through practice and patience, patience especially with yourself.

#4.  Asking questions

34 ask questions

There are two types of questions:

Open questions – these are the questions that will reveal to you what people want, feel, how, when and so on.

Closed questions– are those questions that are not giving you too much information because the answer can be only yes or no with little variation.

The main purposes of asking questions can be to:

  • Clarify what people told you.
  • Get back on the listening mode if you drift off.
  • Show your interest in the person speaking to you or the subject of the discussion.
  • Go around saying things that you don’t know how will be received.
  • Offer help without being intrusive or making people feel that they are incapable of handling their problems by themselves.
  • Avoid unnecessary confrontations.
  • Open up the door to new possibilities.
  • Show empathy and compassion without sounding like you are pitying the person you’re speaking.
  • Suggest possible actions and solutions.
  • Test the “water” before you’re introducing an idea.
When not to ask questions:

If you want to get out elegantly from a conversation, the fastest way is just to listen and don’t ask any questions and don’t make any statements.

Remember:

  1. Put your questions into a frame of curiosity and naivety because you shouldn’t sound like you’re conducting an interrogation.
  2. Avoid questions starting with “why” unless your purpose is to force people to justify or excuse themselves. Use instead the word how.
Tag questions.

Use tag questions when you want to:

  • Confirm that something is true or not,
  • Encourage a reply,
  • Soften your statement,
  • Give room to the people you’re speaking to express their opinion if it happens to be different than yours.

#5. Finding solutions.

35 solutions

Successful people that have good, solid interpersonal skills don’t search for problems and who’s fault they are. Successful people are searching for solutions.

Steps to follow to be a solution orientated person:

Step 1. Identify the problem. Know, in full honesty what is the problem.

Some people will lie to you for various reasons, and there is no way that you can solve imaginary problems!

Deal only with the truth.

When you are faced with a problem, be honest about it if you want to solve it.

Step 2. Find, who are the parties involved, needed to address the problem.

Plus:
What are the consequences for all the parties involved?
Who has the power to take the decisions?

Step 3. Define the problem and the possible obstacle to solving it.

Here is the best place for the critic and the pessimist in you to be put to good use.

The critic (on the positive, constructive sense of the word):

  • How did the problem appear?
  • What were the contributor factors?
  • What has been done too much of or too less?
  • Can [this] be true?

The pessimist:

  • What are the obstacles to change the situation?
  • Who or what are the most likely people or things to fight against a possible solution?
  • What are the secondary gains in keeping the problem unsolved of those that could be against solving the situation?
    (If possible, find the secondary gain and try to satisfy it in a different way other than being stuck with the problem.)

Step 4. Together with all the parties involved, find out the goal of solving the problem or situation and what would be the best outcome.

If each party involved wants a different outcome, work out a consensus through negotiation.

Step 5. Generate ideas and options for solving the problem.

Come up with many options to solve the situation. Don’t go overboard, though with the number of choices because when you get at the step of choosing the best options, you can get overwhelmed.

Step 6. Choose the best option to solve the problem.

Depending on your desired outcome make the criteria for the best solution. (Whatever you put on your list, make sure that your criteria are doable!)

Then, based on the criteria, analyze each option with pros and cons, the best case scenario and worst case scenario, benefits and consequences, secondary gains and losses.

If possible, combine two or more options for the best result.

Step 7. Agree to the option with all the parties involved and develop the plan of action.

  • What steps do you need to take to solve the problem?
  • Who is responsible for each step?
  • Who is the “general manager” of putting the plan into action? This is the person to go to for unforeseen situations or obstacle; the person who is mediating between all the parties involved;
    the person who will keep everybody in line.
  • How do you know when the plan is working or not working?
  • Set checkpoints along the way to be able to measure the effectiveness of your plan and to know that you are on the right track or not to get to the desired outcome.

Step 8. Make a plan B in case the plan A is not working as expected.

The plan B will be less detailed at this stage because if you need to switch to it, you will incorporate the learnings from the plan A.

Step 9. Start implementing the plan. Take action!

Tools to use in problem solving:

Role-playing and imagining the outcome, the steps and the feasibility of each action need it to get to the desired outcome.

Get creative. Think outside the box in each direction possible. (I want to remind you that creativity, among other things, means to get silly, so get silly and amazing things will come of it.)

Leave your vanity aside. Your purpose in this situation is to get fast and easy to your goal and not to make a statement about your pride.

Avoid arguing. Use your negotiation skills to get an agreement.

Ghader information about how other people have done it; use your past experiences about similar situations and implement what worked then; ask for help those people that you think might know better the subject than you do.

Search and give a voice to the wisdom provided by your emotions and intuition.

Put the optimist in you to work:

  • How is the outcome worth pursuing to you?
  • What will be your benefits?
  • Why can you do it? How easy will be for you?
  • What make your believe that your plan of action will work? What make you trust your plan of action?

#6. Get yourself in tune with your environment.

36 tune with environment

Most of us want to be loved, accepted and appreciated in our environment. It is a basic need, a need that is giving us a lot of pleasure and satisfaction.

Getting in tune with your environment is improving your ability and willingness to:
  • communicate in a positive way,
  • find constructive ways to move forward,
  • put your mind in a flexible thinking mode,
  • like, love, appreciate and accept the people around you and the place you’re living.
How to sync yourself to your environment:

Be aware of your energy because, sometimes, even your positive energy can drain people around you.
Do your best to start your interactions with a similar energy as the people you’re interacting with and build them up, gently to get to your level.

Allow people to be who they are. Offering acceptance will bring you acceptance. We all need that because no one is perfect.

Avoid being self-centered.
Yes, you are the center of your universe! If you’re not, you become the doormat of others. However, remember that you don’t live in a vacuum, there are other people around you, and you need them as much as they need you.

The sense of belonging comes with feelings of fulfillment, being useful, being wanted, serving a deeper purpose other than just being alive for the sake of it. Belonging is a gift, take it and take care of it.

Accept your environment.
Your environment will feel to you according to the things you chose to notice about it.
If you chose to notice and to pay attention to the positives, it would feel positive.

At the end of the day you have only two choices about your environment, you either adapt to it, either you move on.

Adapting to your environment doesn’t mean surrendering or to complying, it means to involve yourself in the change, to be part of it if your environment needs changing. Seating aside and complaining about it or being unhappy about it or criticizing it doesn’t bring change; it doesn’t make your environment more pleasant to live.

#7. Manners and Charm.

Good manners and charm are alway the perfect starting point of your communication with other people.

#8. Self-management.

37 self management

Self-management means to modify and adapt your behaviors to your needs. It is a tool in your communication skills because self-management is building your grounds to your flexibility skills and your abilities to collaborate.

A few examples of self-management in the context of using it as a communication tool:

  • Meeting your deadlines,
  • Arriving on time,
  • Coming up with ideas to solve problems and situations,
  • Keeping a long-term job,
  • Starting your own business,
  • Being able to balance your professional life, family life and social life,
  • Independent learning and skills improvement,
  • Staying on your allocated budget,
  • Building things with no rewards today and expecting the rewards in the future,
  • Taking actions that prevent following problems.

A few ways to prove your self-management skills when you want to apply for a new job or to build trust and willingness in your communication with other people:

  • Receive challenges as opportunities to better yourself, to gain experience and to upgrade your skills.
  • Finish what you start and give examples of how you’ve done it in the past.
  • Act and behave like a professional; show self-confidence and self-esteem.
  • Exhibit a positive attitude.
  • Present your willingness and an open mind for collaboration with specialists and experts to do things that you don’t know how to do them.
  • Have prepared a list with your accomplishments so far and how are those accomplishments can be helpful in the new context (a job, for example.) Showcase points from your list with modesty.
  • Be diligent in your task, work, goal, to be good enough for the first try.
  • Show that you can plan the future and, at the same time, to live in the present moment. A passionate dreamer will remain a dreamer and rarely will achieve any of those dreams.
  • Give examples of your ability to stay focused on your tasks or goals.
  • Don’t criticize or put yourself down in front of other people.
  • Know at any point in time what are your goals, your purposes in life and your desires from your future.
  • Act with enthusiasm and passion for what you do.
  • Find your real values in life and improve those that are only theoretical. (Theoretical values are those that you want to have but you don’t act as you have them. You can find what are your real values by making a list with the people and the things you’re spending your love, time, energy and money. Don’t worry if you discover that your real values are way off from what you thought or wished; it happens to almost all of us.)
  • Show that you have the skills to accept criticism and compliments. (You could be surprised how many people don’t know how to accept a compliment or praise which makes the people offering it very uncomfortable.)
  • Be interested in how will improve the quality of life for other people your assignment, job, task. (Be interested, especially when you’re applying for a job because somethings can become a new passion for you, but other things can step on your values, principles, and morals.)

To build up your power of self-management remember the 12 P’s of success:

  1. Perseverance,
  2. Patience,
  3. Practice,
  4. Positive thinking,
  5. Persistence,
  6. Partnership,
  7. Purpose,
  8. Proactive,
  9. Progres,
  10. Principle,
  11. Peace of mind,
  12. Politeness.

#9. Take responsibility for your actions and what is happening in your life.

38 take resposibility

Taking the responsibility for something doesn’t mean that you are the blame for it or that is your fault.

To take the responsibility means to be the determining factor in your life. You are not a puppet in somebody else’s hands; you are a cause and when you are the cause, it is in your power to change the effect.

#10. Offer and receive feedback.

39 feedback (10)

Sometimes feedback can sound harsh. You’ve done the best you knew how to do at that moment in time. So, it is only naturally to feel criticized and to take things personally even though the intention of the person offering you the feedback was only to help you to improve.

Take feedback as a response from your environment to your actions and behaviors and nothing more.

When you don’t like the response, try again in a different way, and this time, use the wisdom and the knowledge of the person offering you the feedback as well.

When you are the one offering feedback, do it in such a way that the person in front of you keeps his dignity and self-respect.

#11. Friendliness.

40 friendliness

To show your friendly side is imperative for effective communication. Plus, many of your interpersonal skills are based on your ability to offer, show and develop your friendliness.

What means to show your friendly side in the context of communicating with other people?
You are:
  • Able to accept the peaceful coexistence of different opinions and views.
  • Outgoing and pleasant in your social interactions.
  • Having a positive attitude and demeanor.
  • Showing interest in other people.
  • Kind, helpful, understanding and cordial.

The purpose of adopting a friendly attitude in your communications is to gain respect, make friends and win allies.

#12. Confidence.

Have you ever listen to a nervous speaker? Stumbling, making mistakes, being unsure?
Isn’t it true that no matter how uncomfortable was for the speaker, you felt uncomfortable too?

Being confident gives you credibility, it gives power to your ideas, it helps people to relax around you, you are dependable because you seem to know what you are doing or what is to be done.

Confidence comes from trying, failing and trying again. It originates from the successes you have; therefore, confidence needs practice and action.

#13. Respect.

To be respected by others starts with yourself. The way you are treating yourself teaches other people how to treat you.

Respecting yourself includes:

Taking care of your one human power vehicle: your body. It takes you everywhere you need to go and, depending on the quality of the fuel you’re giving to it, it is fast or slow.

It is inappropriate to tell nasty things to other people, is it not?
If you agree with me, then know that is equally inappropriately to say nasty things to yourself as well. “Clean spring” your internal dialog as you clean spring your kitchen.

Give yourself positive feedback: “[This] worked, [that] didn’t. I need more of [this] and less of [that].”
Blaming yourself will not take you anywhere else than where you are, I mean it will, but not forward nor up words…

Talk nicely to and about other people because what you are saying about and to others is a reflection of yourself. The portrait that you are painting for others is painting your own portrait as well.

Ghader around yourself people that like you, respect you, admire you, accept you as you are. Remember that is a big difference to be challenged to do better compared to be constantly bashed for your shortcomings.

Respecting other people includes:
  • Leaving others room to grow and to better themselves.
  • Acting and behaving in a way that brings out the best in people.
  • Offering constructive feedback.
  • Using language that allows people to keep their dignity and self-respect.
  • Validating people’s opinions and views. (I will say this again: validating people’s opinions and views are not the same with agreeing with them, it means that you accept that people are entitled to them accordingly to their life experiences and situation. )
  • Give people credit and the merit of what they are doing right.
  • Value people’s time and willingness to be on your side.

#14. Empathy and sympathy.

Whatever message you have to communicate to other people will be well received when they feel understood by you, when they believe that you “get it.” You “get” their situation, feelings, past, present, future, challenges, limitations, and behaviors.

As part of being empathetic and sympathetic is to acknowledge the elephant in the room.

Another part is to forget the expression: “I’ve told you so.” Just because they failed by doing how they thought is right, it is in no way indicative of how wonderful your option could be.

(Apply this principle to yourself as well. When people tell you: “I told you so” or “I knew it,” remember that they are not, for certain, right either. If nothing else, your method is already tested by you, theirs is not.)

When you speak, think of how people might feel. Feel not about what you are saying, nor about you, but how do they feel out themselves as a result of your words.

If you don’t like how other people are behaving, ask yourself why are they doing what they are doing before jumping to judgment.

#15. Flexibility and an open mind.

41 flexibility

Being flexible gives you the power to influence people around you.

Being flexible is a communication skill and tool, and it means to think and behave accordingly to the situation. Almost every situation is unique, therefore, when you are willing to vary your thinking and behaviors, you are the one that understands the situation and because of it, you are the one you are the means to change it or to improve it.

How to increase your flexibility skills:

Accept the fact that no two situations or people are the same. Take into account the differences and adapt your message to them.

Tailor your message to suit the context. There are many situations when the message is entirely right, but the context is not.
For example: delivering a bad news at a joyful event if the news can wait.

Be aware of the changes that are constantly happening. Nothing stays the same forever., so don’t fight the change, embrace it and adapt to it.

For example, we have a hard time to readjust to the changes that people are making about themselves or their lives no matter if the changes are in good or in bad. It takes some effort on your part to reorganize yourself to the new situation.

Keep an open mind to the different options that you have to communicate your message. If there is a problem, there is a solution too; if the situation is different or changed the difference comes with new options as well.

Be ready to try new things. Use your enthusiasm and your self-confidence to take a chance. (The self-confidence that I’m talking about is the confidence that, as you’ve done in the past, you are able to deal with whatever else you will be faced in the future.)

Question and doubt your beliefs when you notice that things are not going too well for you.

If you are in a position of authority, allow your subordinates to tell you when they need further information or instructions, or when they can contribute adding new options and ideas.

As an employee being flexible can translate as willingness to:

  • Come in for meetings,
  • Further training,
  • Accepting feedback and improving work results,
  • Check in with your supervisors,
  • Follow instructions even when you think you know better,
  • Take decisions when you are asked to by the leader or the situation is asking it,
  • Be helpful and make compromises for achieving a common goal,
  • Share the responsibility for collaborative projects.

#16. Establish, and use the proper channel to communicate for your purpose.

42 proper channel

Today’s world gives you so many channels to deliver your message. You are no longer restricted to a face to face communication or using a mediator.

Let’s see some of these channels to communicate: 

1. Face to face communication.

43 face to face communication

Advantages.

A face to face communication allows you to use almost all your communication tools because it involves a multitude of senses and knowledge:
  • Your body language,
  • Language skills,
  • Your voice qualities,
  • Making people feel important,
  • Reading and giving meaning to the other party’s behavior, plus checking in with the other party if your reading is right or not. Clearing up misunderstandings on the spot before they are taking a life of their own.
  • Building credibility and trust,
  • Offering the grounds for creativity,
  • Useful feedback for all the parties involved, plus, instant feedback that can speed things up,
  • Addressing sensitive issues that people might not feel comfortable to “leave a trace,”
  • Getting in sync with the other party and building rapport,
  • Redirecting the attention to neutral points to cool things down and then coming back to the sensitive matter,
  • Giving a better chance to your ideas by making people like you first and only then to embrace your views.

Disadvantages and how to deal with them:

Limited time.

A face to face communication has a time limit, and many important things can slip out of the conversation, therefore, be meticulous in your research before the meeting and write down all you need to discuss, your questions, possible objections and so on. Plus, take notes during the meeting.

Misinterpretations of body language or voice qualities.

There is a craze these days about knowing how to read people’s body language using your conscious mind; then to give meaning to the minute movement or expression of the other party.

Unless you need this skill (reading people’s body language accurately) in your profession, and you earn something directly out of it, I will suggest allowing your unconscious mind to do this job because it is trained to do it from the thousands of years of human evolution.

Your unconscious mind knows well how to read people and gives you the signals you need. Just pay attention to those signals (feeling, emotions, and intuitions.)

Plus:

  • It is an unnecessary added job for your conscious mind which could take your attention from other important things.
  • If you’re caught doing it, you can lose people’s trust.
  • You can easily miss read people if you don’t have the proper training to read people.
  • No to mention the time and energy lost in giving meaning to irrelevant things for the communication purpose.
  • How to deal with misinterpretations of body language or voice qualities:

Use questions to clarify things.

Even when you know that other parties had some devious intentions, give them the chance to rectify and do right by you.
Listen to your feelings, emotions, and intuition to read people and then check with them if you are right or not.
Remember that you are not in a competition to see who can trick the other party better. Your purpose is to communicate your message effectively, so have leniency for people and collaborate with them.

Interruptions.

Some interruptions are meant to destabilize you, to lose your focus and train of thought. However, most interruptions are innocent, unintended.

No matter what kind of interruptions you are facing, you need to be prepared for them; they are inevitable.

The solution can be:

#1. Again, ask questions such as:

“Are you doing it intentionally?” if you suspect that the interruption is done on purpose.
“Can we move forward and discuss [this]?”
“Do you realize you are interrupting the process of […] with [this]?”
“Can we get back on the subject because [give a good reason like “I need to go in 20 minutes,” “otherwise you could be disappointed with the outcome of this meeting,” “Nothing gets done if we don’t solve [these] issues.”

#2. Take notes to know where you are at each point of the interaction.

#3. Set boundaries assertively to prevent future interruptions of the same kind (example: talking on the phone, deviating from the subject, changing the list of priorities.)

#4. Acknowledge the interruption and validate the behavior of the other person.

“I get that you might have some other things to do now, yet we are here to […] so you will deal with [that] later.”
“I see that you can’t help yourself to [answer the phone or your emails, pay attention to…], however, you need to be focused on [this] because we are losing valuable time.”

Greater monetary costs.

A face to face communication can be costly and there in not too much you can do about it.

Anger.

Some people don’t know how to express what they want and how they feel other than being angry or they get angry easily.

Be the wise person in the room and keep your calm. Shift the attention from the sensitive issue for a few minutes to give people the chance to cool off and get back on track.

Did you know that this way of changing the attention about sensitive or uncomfortable issues is one of the traits of a successful marriage for example? When one partner gets angry, the other one makes a remark about something completely irrelevant and unimportant that happens around. “Have you noticed what the beautiful ceiling in this room?”
It is not about avoiding a subject. It is about allowing to the other person to get calm in an elegant manner.

Ask people to take it easy in an assertive way.

“I don’t feel comfortable working this way. I want you to keep calm and [give me your reasons, solutions, alternatives].”
“I won’t allow myself to be subjected to [this] kind of behavior. It is disrespectful to yourself and me as well.”

Lack of flexibility on the other party.

People come prepared to get, exactly what they want and nothing less. They have their mind set on something and don’t want to make any compromise on that.

Use your negotiation skills to come to a common ground.
Point out the advantages and the disadvantages to the other party for each option, their option and your option.
Emphasize people’s higher purpose, to make them more flexible about what they want, and then start the conversation from there.

Examples of possible higher purpose:

  • keeping their good name and being seen as a good person,
  • being part of something greater than themselves,
  • the safety of their family.

Less time to think about what you want to communicate and how to respond.

A face to face communication needs you to think fast and to pay attention to many things at the same time, to keep track of who said what and the context. On top of everything else, you need to respond.

I will say this again: be prepared and take notes.
Plus, remind yourself that, just because the time is limited, does not mean you need to rush. Take your time to think before you speak because you can’t take words back.

The danger to get too personal or too informal.

Getting too personal or too informal can break down some boundaries that you need in place to achieve the desired outcome.

You can move from being the decisive leader, for example, to the no boundaries buddy, or from a trusted and valued employee to the “suited to all purposes” slave.

Set your boundaries and stick to them.
Do not allow the other party to use your vanity against you.

Sometimes having no record of the meeting.

Usually, face to face communication is not recorded. Therefore, you can miss things that have been said or being misinterpreted and having no way to rectify things.

As a solution you can:

  • ask for the meeting to be recorded in some way
  • or (again) take notes,
  • repeat for few times the key points to get imprinted in your memory and on the other party’s mind as these things are said.

Embracing a faulty idea just because you like the person.

When you like someone, chances are you want to like their ideas too and even if you don’t, you are more tolerant and open to making compromises. This is not a bad thing in itself as long as you don’t lose your perspective on things and you remember the purpose of your interaction.

The possibility of diverting the focus from the purpose of the meeting to unimportant things.

Most people like to talk, and it is a great thing you learn to listen. However, when you have to deal with people that are not able to keep their thoughts in order, they will jump from one thing to another with the speed of light.

Pay attention and redirect them to the purpose and the subject on hand otherwise you will find yourself two hours later dizzy and confused.

Interpersonal skills required.

To be successful in a face to face communication, you need to develop your interpersonal skills to be able to adapt quickly to all sorts of situations.

The solution: obviously, improve your interpersonal skills. Start with those areas that you already have knowledge about and some skills and then move gradually to things you don’t know anything about.

Why is better to start with things that you already know rather than starting with things you don’t?

Because until you get to be a master at interpersonal skills you need to communicate, right?

You need to make yourself understood and to be able to send your message effectively, therefore, is better to do it great in one area and leave out areas that you might lack in at this point rather than go blindly in many areas.

Mismatch of communication speed.

People that are thinking fast are more likely to make mistakes when they speak and to get bored of listening as fast as they think.

People who are thinking slow are more likely to miss, maybe half of the conversation, but when they are speaking is coherent and well organized.

None of these two styles of thinking and talking is better than the other one, they are simply different, no better, no worse.

As long as you are aware of your preferred style, the style preferred by your interlocutor, you can make your communication effective:

  • Calibrate yourself to match the speed of the other person as much as possible,
  • Let the other person know your style and the challenges you might have or that they could have,
  • Ask the other person about their preferred style and their possible challenges.

2. E-mail.

44 email

Communicating through email is a great tool because:

  • It gives you the needed time to think and analyze things.
  • You can say things that you have no courage to say them in person, and you have the advantage to find ways to say them in a non-offensive and elegant manner. Plus, even if people might get offended, they have time to cool off.
  • You can answer when you have the time and inspiration to do it.
  • You have the time, and you give the time to the other party to reconsider things.
  • You have a record of the conversation.

3. Writing.

45 writing

To be effective in your written communication follow the following guidelines:

  1. Be clear, say from the start what do you want, what is the purpose of your letter.
  2. Use simple words.
  3. Formulate simple sentences and leave spaces between ideas.
  4. Put everything you say in a context.

4. Video and audio.

46 video audio

When you want to deliver your message in a creative and entertaining way you can use video or audio communication.

Plus, video and audio communication give you the opportunity to:

  • Talk about your experiences,
  • Convey your message in a personal manner without getting too informal or personal,
  • Show to the audience ways to utilize what you’re offering, how it works and some results,
  • Deliver your message to a large number of people with little costs compared to gathering that many people in one place,
  • Be effective in giving information and instructions.

5. Text messaging.

47 text message

If you want your message to be clear and understood, a text message is not the best idea. However, there are instances when texting in the best solution, situations such as these:

  • Reaching otherwise unreachable people.
  • Fast and easy communication in a crisis.
  • Offering simple information and directions.
  • Making short announcements or updates.

6. Other channels you can use to communicate your message:

48 other channels

  1. Group delivery, face to face, over the internet or other means – gather your audience in one place or go to the place your audience might be.
  2. Briefings – use this communication channel when you want to notify the parties involved in a project about the progress made, actions that need to be taken, changes in the schedule or any other kind of changes.
  3. Exhibits – stimulate people’s interest and raise awareness.
  4. Newsletter – explain your work, let people know your latest developments, keeps your community in contact.

#17. Personal appearance and presentation.

49 personal appearance

The way you present yourself it is a message in itself.

People are judging and sizing you up starting with your personal appearance and the way you present yourself. They need to have some information about you, to place you somewhere, in a box or another because this helps them to know how to behave around you.

When you are considering your appearance and the way you present yourself don’t think about it in terms of the real you, think in terms of your message.

  • What do you want people to know about you from the first second?
  • What kind of behavior do you want to inspire in people towards you?
  • What traits can you show in your appearance and presentation can make your journey easy and fast in delivering your message?
A few guidelines for your appearance and personal presentation:
  • Use to present yourself in a way the your are comfortable. Not when you leave home, but how comfortable will you feel when you get to your meeting?
  • Be appropriate for the occasion and the people around you.
  • Use clothes that are projecting the right attitude for your message.

#18. Positive thinking and attitude.

50 positive thinking

A positive attitude makes you liked and respected. It gives a plus of credibility to your message and drives people to be open minded about your message.

#19. Working with a team.

51 team work

Most people are willing to do more things for the sake of the “we” than for the “I”. “We” creates peer pressure, create the sense of belonging and the feeling of doing something important for a greater good.

For these reasons plus some other reasons that I will tell you shortly about, most companies are selecting and searching for employees that have the proper skills needed to work well with a team as a subordinate and as the leader of it.

Other reasons and the importance of team building:

  • Improved and effective communication,
  • Faster and easier resolution of conflicts,
  • Building trust,
  • Creates willingness for collaboration,
  • Offering motivation and confidence,
  • Promotes creativity,
  • Develops problem-solving skills and strategies,
  • Shortens the gap between the leader and the employees,
  • Friendly work environment.

How to adapt and integrate yourself into a team:

  • Acknowledge the other members of the team,
  • Ask and give advice when needed,
  • Be prepared to collaborate,
  • Take your commitments seriously and follow through,
  • Show confidence in your skills,
  • Contribute,
  • Be dependable,
  • Exchange ideas,
  • Participate in team activities (including team building activities.)
  • Share the credit and the merits of the accomplishments of the team.

Now, I want you to know that not all of us are wired up to be enthusiastic and to feel comfortable working in a team. For some of us, no amount of team building activities can change how we feel.

If you are a person that doesn’t like to work with a team but you need this skill to the nature of your job, know that you are not in the minority, most people don’t like to work in a team. However, there are some things that you can do to improve your team working skills without losing the essence of who you are and the passion and pleasure of doing your job.

A few ways to improve your skills of working with a team even if you don’t like it:

  • Make an effort to know your team colleagues on a personal level. Knowing your peers will increase your level of tolerance and understanding for them.
  • Offer your best skills and put forward your straights, the things you enjoy doing and capitalize on them.
  • Focus your attention mainly on the things you like about your colleagues and the tasks you have to do.
  • Allow people to be who they are and build your work relationship on their strengths and skills combined with yours.
  • Consume your energy and time with the task in hand and put aside rivalries or competitions (for promotions as an example) until the right moment comes to spend time and energy on those things.
  • Be honest and assertive. When you don’t like something, say so! Don’t allow your frustration to pile up until you can’t stand some people anymore. Solve whatever issues you have with people on the spot.
  • Ask to receive explicit directions, instructions, and information from the team leader:
    Whose job is to do what, when, how.
    Everybody should know what is expected of them.
    (To clarify things is not your job if you are not the leader of the team, it is the job of the leader but some leaders or just with the title, and they have no idea how to manage people, therefore, maybe they need a bit of help…discretely.)
  • Learn how to speak in front of the group with confidence.

Some people are holding you back; other people are working less than you do and some other people consider that only they can do things right.

Yes, all of these things will happen to you when you are part of a team. Accept that this is the reality, and you can’t do too much about it simply because each of us is different. As you feel hindered by some people, other people might feel hindered by you. This is life!

Remember that working with a team makes you as successful as your team is, so you should let go of your need to control some things if you want your team to succeed.

Have empathy and understanding for your peers. Don’t take personally what they are doing and how they are doing it, separate yourself and self-image from their behaviors and actions. They are doing only as good and as much as they know how.

#20. Storytelling.

52 storytelling

Sharing stories is a great communication tool. It helps you to say things in a way that people can easily understand and visualize.

Plus, you can offer support and advice without being intrusive or condescending.

Stories are captivating and entertaining, use them to make your point, to send your message and, at the same time, to make yourself liked.

#21. Follow your purpose.

53 follow your purpose

Following your purpose is a tool to use on yourself because all the things you want to accomplish in life are starting and finishing with you.

How to follow your purpose:

Step 1. Define what you want from your interaction. What is your purpose?

Even if your interaction is with your spouse and the message you want to communicate is not about something sensitive or major, define what you want.

Step 2. Design your plan of action.

54 action plan

  • How is it best to deliver your message?
  • What is the message?
  • What do you want to communicate?
  • How do you want people to feel as a result of your communication?
  • What do you want to get at the end?
  • What are the most important issues that you want to discuss?
  • What options do you propose to the other party to move the situation forward?
  • What is your history with the person you are about to communicate and what are the areas you should be paying more attention?

Add questions for other important things that you want to plan for or be aware of.
Take notes and have them with you if possible.

Step 3. Organize the meeting.

Step 4. Get together with the other party and deliver your message.

Things to remember about your purpose when you’re communicating with people:

55 things to remember

  1. Obviously, remember your purpose and correct yourself when you notice you are going in a different direction.
  2. Stay on the subject in hand and keep your focus on the present moment and the future; the past is already gone.
  3. Pay attention to your vanity, do not allow it to take you off course. It is not a competition of who’s the smartest, greatest and more beautiful, you have a purpose to reach, a goal to achieve from the interaction, so keep that in mind!
  4. Be willing to compromise on less important things to get to your purpose.
  5. Commit, only when you are satisfied with the outcome.

Note: it could happen that you get satisfied with less than what you wanted, it could feel to you that it is fair this way; that’s okay because following your purpose doesn’t mean to get stuck, stubborn or selfish.
It means to make your purpose the priority for your communication. Therefore, as long as you do, things are going in the right direction.

#22. Influence skills.

56 influence skills

Influencing people is not the same with manipulating them. The biggest difference is the way people involved feel at the end of the interaction and the outcome.

  • How do people feel about themselves at the end of the interaction?
  • How do people feel about you?
  • How do you feel about them?
  • How do you feel about yourself?
  • Did the interaction ended in a win/win outcome?

#23. Criteria for a well-designed communication.

57 criteria

Now, you are armed with so many tools to communicate effectively.
For things to be complete, discover the criteria of a well-designed message for efficient communication.

Your message must be:

  • Coherent,
  • Positive orientated (what you expect people to do and not what you don’t want.),
  • Frame your message as your opinion and desire not as the absolute and only truth,
  • Don’t put people in impossible situations, instead, give them feasible options,
  • Be specific so people know what you are talking about,
  • Be honest, no one can solve imaginary problems or situations,
  • Think before you speak. Even if something is true doesn’t mean it can’t be hurtful, therefore, include the other party’s perspective on things in your message,
  • Deal with things as they are happening; stay in the present moment, the current issue,
  • Be clear,
  • Use simple language constructions,
  • Design your communication to solve the problem not to find the culprits.

Upgrade, improve and discover more about interpersonal skills by checking

The Core Interpersonal Skills

Chapters:

1. Interpersonal Skills

2. Emotional Intelligence

3. Negotiation & Conflict Resolution

4. Communication Skills

5. Influence Skills

6. Assertiveness Skills

7. Personal support system

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