Different situations call for different methods of communication. So how does one know what to say, how to say it, and when it should be said? Here are some tips for developing appropriate communication skills:
Keep in mind your listener. When speaking, carefully remember the person to whom you are speaking. Most CEO’s comprehend verbal and written communication at an 8th grade level; therefore, make sure you use simple words to drive your point. Lofty words will only confuse the listener and drive them to want to not talk with you.
Never “discuss” in email. Email is a great way to communicate basic information. It is, however, a horrible way to have a strong discussion with a loved one or co-worker. Remember that once you hit the “send” button, all that you have written in email will never be erased nor forgotten. Since most people are visual in nature, they will remember the words on the page and the pain associated with those words long after the disagreement is over and the email has been put in the trash. Have difficult discussions live, preferably in person, to avoid any further miscommunication or hurt feelings.
Speaking in meetings at work. Meetings at work seem to be a great time to have “face” time that you may not normally have with key executives or powerful influencers. Choose your words carefully, making sure that you speak only when your words express meaningful thoughts or ideas. Anything else said will potentially make you look bad, which can have a negative impact on your career.
Speaking at cocktail parties or other social events. One of the most uncomfortable situations in which to have a conversation is at an obligatory social event or cocktail party. Remember to keep conversations light, stay on subject, and try to avoid too much personal chatter. Social events are intended as “get-to-know-you” gatherings, in which people in leadership positions often look to see how you handle yourself conversationally. Don’t talk too much, and don’t talk too in depth. Again, light, direct, subject-focused conversation is the key in this venue.
Tone inflection. Sometimes it is not what you are saying, it is how you say it. Before you say anything, think through carefully how you believe you will be perceived, and then move forward accordingly. Watch your tone inflection and emphasis in the sentences delivered to avoid hurt feelings or surprise on the part of your listener.
Purpose for saying something. When you decide to speak, make sure you do it with purpose. Have a reason for saying what you are going to say, and don’t stray from that. The more you stick to your purpose, the shorter your conversation will be, and the more likely it is that the listener will remember what was said.
Overall, it is important to keep in mind that developing appropriate communication skills is critical to developing strong personal and professional relationships. Using even a few of these tips will keep you on the right track in communicating effectively.