Most organizations agree that their success depends largely on the communication skills of all their employees. One study, for instance, asked 170 corporations about their primary reasons for rejecting job applicants. Most frequently, the companies said they didn’t hire applicants because of their “inability to communicate” or because they had “poor communication skills.” So it’s not surprising that people who truly understand how to communicate – both in person and on paper – are the ones who get hired first and who get promoted more often.
If you’re like many employees, however, you may be overwhelmed by the thought of working on your communication skills. If so, take heart. Just remember that these skills are learned and, with practice, you can improve and even perfect them.
Let’s start by defining communication. Simply, it’s the process of sharing your thoughts, ideas, and feelings with other people in commonly understood ways, such as speaking, listening, reading, writing, facial expressions, and body language.
Understanding Gender and Communication Differences
Although females and males are born with the same capacity to communicate – from a newborn’s primal cry to a baby’s coos and babbles, somewhere along the line society instills distinct differences between them.
Typically women aren’t taught to communicate powerfully and they often find themselves at a disadvantage in the business world. Their “underdeveloped” communication skills often create unfair perceptions of women as being uncertain, hesitant, indecisive, and subservient.
To overcome this communication trap, learn to use language efficiently. You can increase the power of your communication by making each word count, by making sure each one contributes to your message. This forces you to eliminate unnecessary words. Say what you mean and mean what you say. By keeping all your communications simple, direct, and straightforward, you’ll be more effective on the job and earn your coworkers’ respect along the way.
The Importance of Listening
Most people take listening for granted, even though it’s our most frequently used communication skill. On average, 80 percent of our waking hours are spent listening to other people or things, such as the radio or television. Because we invest so much time in listening, it makes sense to learn how to do it well.
A good listener listens with his or her whole body. For instance, leaning slightly forward toward a speaker shows interest in what’s being said. Maintaining eye contact and looking face-to-face or directly at the speaker indicates you want to be actively involved in the conversation.
Keeping your arms and legs uncrossed means you’re open and receptive to the speaker’s words. And although you should avoid distracting movements and gestures while listening, don’t sit too still. Feel free to move your body in response to the speaker.
Asking questions is another essential part of effective listening. Avoid questions that simply require a “yes” or “no” answer; instead stick to open-ended questions that give the speaker a chance to fully explore ideas and express opinions.