The ABCs of Communication
Never underestimate the importance of investing in your communication skills as a way to progress in your career, regardless of your career goals.
Whether spoken or written, in-person or online, communicating well is imperative. The good news is that communication skills can be learned. There are steps you can take to strengthen your communication skills and stand out in the workplace.
Technology is always introducing new ways to get messages across, new programs to learn, new platforms to engage with, which can make the already broad area of developing communication skills even more overwhelming. So if you are looking to grow your communication skills, where should you start? The ABCs are always a great place to start. Across the board, there are three key things you can focus on.
The ABCs of communication:
Listening, a key in communication, should be active. Learn to practice active listening. Communicate with your body language that you are listening to and engaged in what the person is saying. If they can’t see your body language, you can still practice active listening by asking thoughtful questions and seeking clarification. When you are fully absorbed in the message you are receiving, your response will be relevant and appropriate. Active does not just apply to listening, your responding (speaking or writing) should also be active. It should have a purpose. Active listening and responding means the communication exchange is alive, not passive, which makes it productive.
Active listening, both in person or on the phone, when you are processing insurance claims, is vital. Often you are listening to people who have gone through an enormous loss or traumatic situation. Your tone of voice over the phone matters. Practice remaining calm and letting the caller know you are listening and that you care. Let them share, make an effort to understand their plight, and take appropriate action. The same goes when meeting them in person. Your facial expressions and body language will send them a message. If you focus on listening actively and being empathetic, it will go a long way.
Your readers, listeners, co-workers or customers are busy and have short attention spans. Taking too long to communicate may lose an audience before ever getting to the point. Maximized messages that say the most using the least words are paramount. Whether you are giving a speech, or presentation, or having a conversation, try to think ahead of how to boil down what you want to say and leave in the most relevant information and avoid the fluff. With written communication, this is even more important. If people are scanning your email, make sure they will clearly see the most important information. Don’t bury the crucial information in the middle of a long-winded sentence. Less is more.
If an audience did not clearly receive and understand a message, there is a failure to communicate. Being cute and clever is fun, but can sometimes muddle the point. Curated, clear communication has premium impact. Clear communication will also mean working on your grammar and punctuation when writing. Email is one of the most widely used tools for business communication, but poorly written, unclear, misleading or ineffective emails will reduce your productivity and make a bad impression. Proofread before you hit send. Understand that spell check doesn’t always pick up mistakes, learn how to proofread what you write. Edit for clarity and understanding. Know what you want to say and or what information you are looking for, but don’t forget to include diplomacy.
So the next time you are on the phone or writing up an email, ask yourself, am I being Active, Brief and Clear?