People & Human Resources

Improving communication

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Communication – we rely on it in every way in every business, yet often our skills need a lot of improvement. But where do you start?

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Communication – we rely on it in every way in every business, yet often our skills need a lot of improvement. But where do you start? <

Try this simple, effective seven-step blueprint that can immediately improve communication skills.

1. Identify a checklist of skills

Identify the skills you need for your work, and most people will need the core skills at least. Check this list of examples:

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Core communication skills: Explaining clearly; effective listening; communication without words (body language); interviewing.

    • Team skills: Communicating in a team; team building; managing meetings; presenting to a group.
    • Personal effectiveness: Winning first impressions; empowering yourself; being assertive; influencing others.
    • Leadership: Coaching on the job; productive counselling; empowering people.
    • Handling difficult situations: Dealing with conflict; mediating disputes; handling difficult people; giving bad news; discipline interviewing.

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2. Get feedback from others

Now you need to find out how you are doing on these skills. So ask for feedback:

“What skills do I do well… what don’t I do well?”
“Please give me examples”
“What do other people do well that I could do better?”

Who do you ask? Try your boss, the people who work with you on a day-to-day basis – your staff, your team, your peers, other colleagues, even your customers. If you have an opportunity to do some 360 degree feedback (see

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3. Summarise skills that need development

List each specific skill you need to develop, and use the examples to try and outline what you need to improve. Link the skills to goals, eg more job opportunities, having fun at networking events, being a better coach to my staff, getting a new job, enjoying work more. Ask yourself: “If I use this skill well, what would be different? For example, more sales, better feedback…”. <

Don’t only focus on the skills you need to improve because they are your weakest. If your goals require top levels of skills, then you need to continue to develop and sharpen your skills. Maybe you want to be a great public speaker, or an excellent negotiator. Then decide to sharpen those skills so they go from good to excellent or even outstanding.

4. Develop skills

But how do you develop your skills?

Identify a suitable activity – workshop; in-house program; video; read about, or observe someone excellent. For many communication skills, the best way to develop them is to practice, so try and find courses where practice and interaction are a major component. <

5. Actively experiment with new skills

Try out new techniques – in a role play, or in the real world. You may at first have an initial “fake” feeling inside, but this will fade as you develop and get some results. Confidence and persistence are keys to success, so keep at it. Put yourself in risky situations and learn from your mistakes. Ask a mentor or coach to give you feedback and advice.

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6. Evaluate progress

Monitor yourself – you know if you are improving, and you will likely see the results and get spontaneous feedback. If not, solicit feedback. Ask is anything different? Tell them what you are trying to do differently. Having a coach, mentor or even a caring peer or staff member you entrust with the task of giving you ongoing feedback will also help. <

7. Celebrate your success

Reward yourself when you achieve success, and you will know you have as you will have achieved some related goals, or reached some identifiable milestones.

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Keep improving – see these seven steps as a continuous improvement feedback loop, and get into the process of enjoying your improvements. <

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Eve Ash is a psychologist and co-producer with Peter Quarry of 7 Steps to Improving Communication (from the Take Away Training Series). © Ash.Quarry Productions. <www.7dimensions.com.au

To read more Eve Ash blogs, click here.

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