How to be a great communicator

Improving communication is a common area that women who have signed up to OneUpOneDown are looking for support with through mentorship, and honestly, we’re not surprised! Effective communication skills are important for self-esteem and self-actualisation, and play a vital role in overall wellbeing and ability to make an impact.

WHY DOES COMMUNICATING WELL MATTER?

Communication affects almost all areas of a person’s life which is why it’s such a key area of development. It’s essential for career progression, personal growth, building meaningful relationships, and achieving what you want in life. A few outcomes that communicating well can contribute to are:

  • Connection – when you can communicate well, you’re able to connect with other people. Connection builds trust which builds a deeper bond and relationship.
  • Leadership – communicating effectively is necessary to describe the future you want to lead people towards, and to articulate what’s needed to get there clearly.
  • Creation of new ideas – the better you are at communicating the value of a new idea and why it’s needed, the easier it becomes to get buy-in from others. A lot of people struggle to gain traction with new ideas because of their inability to communicate effectively.
  • Progression / Growth – being able to ask for feedback is part of communicating well, and when you can do so effectively, it has a direct impact on your personal growth and progression. If you can’t express how you feel and what you want help with, it’s hard to get useful inputs to drive your learning and development.
  • Influence – whether it be getting a promotion, launching a business or negotiating a deal, effective communication can make you much better at influencing people and getting the outcomes you want.
  • Courage – having confidence in your ability to express yourself helps when you feel the need to speak up.

HOW TO GET BETTER AT COMMUNICATING

There’s no one answer to what makes someone good at communicating, so we asked our community of mentors and mentees what they thought the essential foundations of effective communication were. Some of their suggestions included:

1. Choose your words and when you say them wisely

Quality over quantity. You don’t always need to have something to say, but when you do, make sure you’ve listened to input from others and that it’s well-considered and relevant. If you can nail this, people will start to value your words more. Speaking less leaves more time for listening, which brings us to our next point…

2. Listen to understand

Listen to understand rather than respond. Give the person you’re communicating with your full attention and be genuinely curious about the answers they give. Ask questions to understand their perspective and take time to consider what they say. If you want people to listen to you and really hear what you’re saying, you need to do the same to them.

3. Ask for and provide feedback

Feedback loops are a valuable form of communication as they help people to get on the same page and provide opportunities for improvement. It’s important to feel comfortable asking for and giving feedback with an open minded, healthy approach to personal development. If you’re giving feedback, an idea might be to ask the person if they are happy to receive the feedback before you give it. Be kind but honest.

4. Build trusting relationships

Excellent communication stems from trusting relationships. If you put in the work to build trust with the people you are in relationships with, honest communication will become easier. Vulnerability & honesty help to build trust.

5. Find common ground

Work hard to relate to the people you’re communicating with, even if it feels like you have nothing in common. The better you can relate to and connect with people, the better you’ll be at sharing information they care about in a way that drives action (and keeps them interested!). We know finding common ground isn’t always easy, but you can start by simply asking questions to learn more about the person’s experiences, interests and realities (current and future).

6. Use stories and real-life examples

Our brains are great at retaining stories as it’s been the way we’ve shared information for thousands of years. Telling stories helps others relate to you, feel what you’re feeling and empathise with your situation or points. Storytelling also helps people stay engaged with what you’re saying, so it’s important to take your time in crafting a compelling one!

7. Being aware of body language

Body language is a significant part of communication, and it’s easy to forget that we communicate with our whole self and not just our words. Consider things like eye contact, facial expressions, hand gestures, posture and other non-verbal cues and how they may impact your ability to communicate.

WHAT CAN I DO TO IMPROVE?

We never said becoming a better communicator would be easy. Like with any new skill, you need to start by learning processes and practises to becoming better.

The first step is to understand your current communication style, what’s working well for you, and what’s not serving you well. Everyone has a unique way of communicating which we think should be embraced! For example, you might have a great sense humour or being able to clearly articulate yourself. For every strength there is a flip side (or weakness), so understanding how to balance the two is also important.

Once you’ve got this down, leverage what you’re already good at. Play to your strengths, if you’re a great storyteller then pull out your best ones. Have a natural ability to connect with others? Start by connecting with whoever you’re communicating with.

Then, develop techniques and tools to improve the areas that need work, step by step, over time.

And finally, find yourself a mentor. Having a mentor with more developed communication skills is an excellent way to learn new skills and techniques while receiving consistent feedback over time.