By Jim Wong, CPA | May 10, 2017

“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” – George Bernard Shaw

There’s no surprise that over the past couple of decades the many advances in technology and the various digital and social platforms that have emerged have changed communication at its core. For many professionals, communication is the basis for a lot of aspects of what they do—no matter the industry, no matter their role in the workplace.

So, with the corporate culture being tied so heavily to technology, many individuals are starting to alter the way they communicate, and even are sharing the same communication channels and etiquette no matter if they’re speaking with colleagues at work or friends and family at home. There now exists a blurred line between when work ends and personal time begins.

However, strong communicators know how to bridge the gaps that technology can present, especially when communicating with peers, colleagues, clients and others. Good communication is a skill that we can all practice in our daily lives—at work and at home. Yet, just like any skill, it takes work. It is possible to develop effective skills and habits to use when conversing with others if you put forth the effort.

I recently came across an Inc. article that discusses the topic of active listening—a key to strong communication. Something that the writer said struck me. “When you talk to your boss, co-workers or customers for 10 minutes, studies say we pay attention to less than half of the conversation. Within 48 hours, whatever information we’ve retained decreases to 25 percent.” In other words, we are often only able to retain a quarter of the things we hear on a daily basis. That’s why I decided to share some of my own tips for strong communication to hopefully bring some attention to the importance of strong communication.

Learn 8 Habits of Strong Communicators below!

1. Give the speaker your undivided attention.
This can be a tough skill given our constant connection to technology, however, this is one of the most important things to keep in mind during a conversation. It’s distracting to the person you’re speaking with when you check your phone and email during a conversation. It’s best to put down the phones, iPads and when you’re talking with someone. Doing so shows that you’re focusing only on what the speaker is saying.

2. Make the other person comfortable. 
Body language is very important in any conversation, but it’s one of the most vital skills to develop in order to be a strong communicator. Being aware of facial expressions, hand and arm placements, and your stance are a few of the ways to improve communication without saying a word.

3. Don’t interrupt. 
Before cutting in and interrupting the person you’re speaking to if you have something on your mind to say, be sure to pause and let the person finish their thoughts first. This is simple yet noteworthy. There are certainly times when we may want to interrupt and share our thoughts and feedback, but strong communicators know when to speak and when to simply listen.

4. Show empathy. 
Stepping into the other person’s shoes in order to understand their point-of-view is not always easy, however, strong communicators know how to do this during conversation. Chances are, showing empathy to the speaker will put them at ease.

5. Listen and then summarize.
You may notice that there are people who casually summarize and repeat the things said in a conversation back to the speaker. This is a quick way to let the speaker know that you’re paying attention and are thinking about what they’re saying.

6. Ask open-ended questions. 
This point relates to my previous point—part of showing the speaker that you’re engaged in the conversation is allowing the person to talk. Encouraging them through open-ended questions can help spur further discussion for both parties involved in the conversation.

7. Don’t mistake silence for tension. 
Silence is golden! Sometimes silence can make people feel awkward or uncomfortable, but strong listeners know that silence is nothing to be afraid of. Allowing for silence helps both parties process information through natural pauses.

8. Be a sounding board. 
Finally, we all want to be heard. Most people want to talk to others and know that they’re being listened to. Strong communicators understand this and know that active listening is a key aspect of conversation. By becoming a sounding board for peers, colleagues and clients, strong communicators begin to see their communication skills improving.

These are only a few of the habits to use in conversation to become a strong communicator. Do you have other suggestions? Comment below and let us know.

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