Hi, everybody and welcome. My name is Jen, and I’m a career coach at Indeed with over 10 years of experience in career services. Over the years, I’ve worked with hundreds of job seekers from a variety of different industries. Today, I’m going to share some advice with you that I’ve refined over the years for how to improve communication skills.
Strong communication skills can help in all aspects of life, from personal relationships to education and professional success. We’ll discuss four important questions that will help you improve your communication skills, including how do I sound? What does my body language say about me? Where am I looking? And why is listening an important part of communication? At the end of the video, we’ll discuss key tips for when to ask questions if somebody else speaking. So be sure to stick around.
Communication skills are vital to just about any role in any organization. And it’s a useful skill both in and out of the workplace. If you’re a professional, it’s likely you’ll need to learn how to communicate well with your peers. The bottom line is that everyone can benefit from making efforts to be a strong communicator.
Today, we’re going to focus on improving your verbal and nonverbal communication skills. A good first step is to establish a baseline understanding of how you’re currently communicating. To do this, consider recording yourself speaking. A video recording could be the most helpful because you’ll be able to evaluate how you’re communicating, both verbally and non-verbally.
Now that we’ve established that everyone should work to be an effective communicator, let’s talk about the questions that you can ask yourself every day to make sure that you’re communicating effectively. Question 1– how do I sound? When communicating verbally, aim to use a voice that is audible and confident. I know this can be a challenge. The fear of public speaking is a very common phobia. And it could be hard to sound confident if you aren’t feeling that way. But how your message is delivered can impact how your message is received by the audience. So let’s walk through the key elements of sound.
First, let’s address how to sound confident and relaxed. People who speak with confidence are effective communicators because people often are more inclined to believe someone who speaks confidently. Consider using relaxation techniques like taking deep breaths and actively releasing tension in your shoulders. Also, watch out for filler words like, “um,” “uh,” and “like” that tend to creep into our language unintentionally. While it may feel natural to use one after completing a sentence to pause to collect your thoughts, it can be distracting for your audience and undermine the appearance of certainty in what you’re saying. To work on replacing these words, try taking a deep breath when you need to pause to gather your thoughts or when you find that you’re looking to transition to your next point.
Another important element of speaking is speed. It’s common for nerves to make you have a fast pace when you start speaking, but it’s really easy to correct. Start by just being aware of your pace. If you notice you’re speaking quickly, pause once you’ve completed your sentence. Take a slow, deep breath and then start your next sentence, paying attention to keeping an even pace. Remember that people will take longer to process what you’re saying because the information will be new to them. In general, speak a touch more slowly then may feel natural to you.
If you want to get technical about assessing your speed, a good range of speech tends to be between 140 to 160 words per minute. You can calculate your words per minute by recording yourself naturally reading a script and seeing how many words you get through in one minute.
Question 2– what does my body language say about me? You might be familiar with the adage that it’s not what you say, but how you say it. It’s true that so much of the meaning of your message and your attentiveness to other speakers is communicated non-verbally
Non-verbal communication is a transfer of information through the use of body language like eye contact, facial expression and gestures. Non-verbal communication is important because it gives us valuable information about a situation, including how a person might be feeling, how someone receives information, and how to approach a person or a group of people. Paying attention to what you’re communicating non-verbally and developing the ability to read the body language of others is an invaluable skill you can leverage at every step of your career.
Non-verbal communication is important both when you are an audience member and a speaker. To pay attention to what you’re communicating non-verbally as an audience member, try to avoid movements that might indicate you’re distracted. Distracted movements can include glancing at your watch or your phone, tapping a pen, or typing when someone is speaking. If you’re in a team meeting, avoid exchanging verbal or non-verbal communications with others that are listening to the speaker. This can include making comments, raising an eyebrow, or tapping someone on the arm. Or if you’re working virtually, Slacking or e-maling during a meeting. Actions like these could make the speaker feel like they aren’t being listened to.
It can be really helpful to mimic the non-verbal communication style that makes you feel the most heard. For example, if you see that when someone nods her head, it communicates approval, ensures positive feedback efficiently, don’t be afraid to take that approach. As a speaker try to limit the use of animated hand movements. Using natural expressive body language is beneficial. But avoid repetitive movements or wild hand gestures that can be distracting. For more information about non-verbal communication and how to improve it be sure to check out this Career Guide article right here. If you’d like to see a more in-depth video about improving non-verbal communication skills, be sure to let me know in the comments.
Now, before I move on, please let me know if this video is helpful by liking and subscribing for more career and job search advice. All right. The next question, you can ask yourself to improve your communication skills is, where am I looking? Eye contact is a key part of non-verbal communication. Something as simple as making eye contact while speaking can help you improve your communication skills. Making eye contact helps build a connection with the person or audience you’re speaking to. But where to look when speaking can vary depending on the environment. If you’re presenting, you’ll want to practice making eye contact with people in different areas of the room to engage the whole audience.
If you’re practicing in an empty room, pick different points on the wall on the left, middle, and right side of the room at the eye level which you think your audience will be at. Practice shifting your focus to these different points to mimic making eye contact with different members of your audience. If you’re speaking at a meeting or in a one-on-one setting, be sure to have your head raised and make eye contact with the person you’re speaking with. When you’re in a video meeting, try to look at the camera instead of looking at the person’s face. Looking directly at the camera mimics making eye contact.
Moving on, let’s talk about why listening is an important part of communication. As you’ve likely picked up on by now, being an effective communicator means more than just speaking confidently and clearly. A vital part of communication is listening and making someone feel heard. Active listening is a technique where people use verbal and non-verbal communication techniques to become a better listener. Improving your active listening skills helps you to communicate better with others when conducting a meeting, presentation, or even when participating in a one-on-one conversation.
Try these simple techniques to improve your listening skills. Paraphrase– summarize the main points of the message the speaker shared to show you care about fully understanding their meaning. This will also give the speaker an opportunity to clarify vague information and expand their message. This can be especially effective in conflict resolution. For example, if you are not seeing eye to eye with someone, try using your own words to state what you think the other person meant. Start by using phrases like, “I hear you saying” or “so I believe you are saying.” This helps the other person know that you have heard them and do or do not understand what they are trying to say.
If you are resolving a conflict, consider including an emotion that you feel in the other person’s message. Using phrases like “it sounds like you feel” or “I believe that you feel” can confirm the other person’s feelings in the context of the discussion and might help them to move on and pursue constructive solutions to the conflict.
Display empathy– if the situation requires it, make sure the speaker understands you’re able to recognize their emotions and share their feelings. By showing compassion rather than just feeling it, you’re able to connect with the speaker and begin to establish a sense of mutual trust. An example might be “I’m so sorry that you’re dealing with this problem. Let’s figure out some ways in which I can help.”
Share similar experiences– discussing comparable situations will not only show the speaker you’ve successfully interpreted their message, but it can help them to relate to you. If the speaker has shared a problem, providing input from how you would solve similar challenges is valuable to others. For example, you could share, “I had a tough time getting started with this program, too. But it does get much easier. After just a few weeks, I felt completely comfortable using all of its new features.”
Recall previously shared information– make efforts to remember key concepts, ideas, and other critical points a speaker has shared with you in the past. Doing so demonstrates that you’re not only listening to what they’re currently saying, but you’re able to retain information and recall specific details. For example, you might say, “last week you mentioned adding a more senior coordinator to help with this account. And I think that’s a great idea.”
Smile and nod– offering the speaker a few simple nods shows you understand what they’re saying. A nod is a helpful supportive cue, and it doesn’t necessarily communicate that you agree with the speaker, only that you’re able to process the meaning of their message. Like a nod, a small smile encourages the speaker to continue. However, unlike the nod, it communicates you agree with their message, or you’re happy about what they have to say. For more information on active listening, be sure to check out this Career Guide article.
And now as a bonus, let’s talk about when to ask questions. If you’re listening to someone speak, please wait until they finish speaking to start asking any questions. You want to avoid interrupting them mid-speech, as this can be disruptive to the conversation. This is the best practice that’s applicable if you’re in a presentation, small group, or even a one-on-one conversation.
When it’s the appropriate time to ask questions, aim to ask open-ended questions that gather more information and ensure that the speaker feels heard. Make sure that these questions cannot be answered with a simple yes or no. For example, if someone has asked me to make changes to a process, instead of just asking, “is there something wrong with the current process?” Try asking, “you’ve brought up some really interesting points. What changes would you want to make to the process immediately, and what are some potential long-term improvements?”
If someone is sharing details about a broad subject or topic, you can ask direct questions that guide the speaker to provide more details about the information they shared or to narrow down the topic. For example, if someone on your team shares that they’re feeling overworked, you could ask for more specific information by saying, “tell me more about your current workload. Which of these projects is the most time-consuming?” Asking questions that allow the person you’re speaking with to provide more context signals to them that you value their opinion, and you want to hear more. So there you have it.
As a recap, to improve your communication skills ask yourself these four questions. How do I sound? What does my body language say about me? Where am I looking? And why is listening an important part of communication? And finally, be sure to ask open-ended questions when you want to gather more information and let the audience feel heard. For more tips about how you can improve your communication skills, be sure to check out this Career Guide article right here. I hope that you find these tips to be helpful as you start to assess and improve your communication skills.
I think you’ll find that once you start paying attention to your tone of voice, if you’re making eye contact, and if you’re actively listening to others, your communication skills will greatly improve. Most of all, if you’re feeling bogged down in the details of this advice, aim to just focus on what you’re trying to say and why you believe it’s important. If you thought that this video was helpful, please share it with others. And if you’d like to see more videos like this, be sure to like and subscribe and hit the notification bell to stay updated. Thank you so much for watching. We’ll see you next time.