According to a trending LinkedIn Workforce Report, there is a job market shortage of digital literacy and communication skills in major cities such as San Francisco, Los Angeles and New York.
Effective communication involves a certain level of emotional intelligence, which is a critical leadership ability no less important than any technical skill. Here are some ways you can start sharpening your communication abilities today.
1 – Actively Listen
Active listening does not mean you are silently drumming up your next talking point while someone else is leading a conversation. It involves undivided attention, eye contact, asking helpful questions, repeating key points and knowing you owe it to yourself to take away something valuable from everyone speaking—whether or not you like what they’re saying. Active listening is essential in every aspect of your life: your job, your relationships, your disagreements, your passions and your day-to-day interactions.
2 – Understand Body Language
Be mindful of body language—your own—and that of other people.
Sometimes you say more with your body than with your words. Humans pick up cues via eye contact, hand gestures, tone of voice and posture. A laid-back, open stance (arms open, legs turned toward others), and a friendly tone gives others the sense that you are approachable and makes others more inclined to speak to you. Crossed arms, minimal eye contact and lazy posture can have the opposite effect.
When others lean in while you’re talking, it shows they are interested. When someone makes eye contact with you while you’re speaking, it indicates they are paying attention to what you’re saying.
Pro tip: When you have something particularly tricky to discuss, try doing it in person. Sometimes, face-to-face interactions allow you to ensure the other party doesn’t misinterpret what you’re saying. You can get a better read on someone’s response when you can make out their non-verbal cues like gestures and facial expressions.
3 – Read More Often
Make reading a regular occurrence in your life. Reading helps expand your vocabulary, enhances your confidence in the written word and upgrades your communication skills, both in person and in writing. Reading on a daily basis helps you practice grammatical and sentence structures, as well as conceptual thinking.
4 – Compose Better Emails
Are you using too much slang in your Slack messages? Are your emails riddled with typos? Do you think punctuating your communications is a waste of time? Are you too busy to proofread something before you hit send?
It’s time to reevaluate your strategy. While it might not be a huge deal for you when someone in your organization makes errors in their messages to you, management and your team members might see this practice as lazy, or worse, careless. If you want to be taken seriously and possibly considered for a promotion, remember that others are paying attention and gritting their teeth every time a coworker decides to use obscure abbreviations or an overly casual tone in their internal communications.
Another thing to keep in mind is that writing is not like riding a bicycle in the slightest. If you don’t practice and perfect your techniques, you will undoubtedly deteriorate your skills. While it might seem innocent to forgo commas, be a bit too exuberant with exclamation points or bury the lead in internal messages, these bad habits will inadvertently start popping up in your external communications.
5 – Practice Networking
Your success in any industry relies on your ability to network effectively. Everything that’s ever happened worthwhile in your career is directly caused by networking. Information about salary, inside intel on jobs you’re interested in, assistance figuring out your workplace strengths, those excellent letters of recommendation, which companies are hiring, etc.
Fruitful networking means being able to communicate successfully with your managers, peers and subordinates. It also helps you advance in your career and move on to other organizations and fields. When you’re out of practice, networking can feel awkward and phony. That’s why it’s a good idea to keep practicing networking until that “out of my comfort zone,” feeling turns into a natural part of your life.
6 – Learn to Agreeably Disagree
Never make a disagreement personal; instead, focus on the issue at hand. Personal attacks aren’t welcome in the workplace. To be taken more seriously, suggest your opposing idea as an alternative, not the ultimate answer. Positioning a dissenting opinion as an option, rather than the end-all, will make it more likely to be considered.
Remember, being courteous isn’t just a courtesy; it’s a necessity. Be respectful of all voices and perspectives, regardless of whether you agree or how junior or senior the person speaking out is. If things get too heated, table the matter for a later date.
7 – Quit Hiding Behind Your Screen
The majority of us admit to having at least a slight fear of public speaking. This can look different depending on the person: some only feel anxiety when presenting to a large crowd; others don’t enjoy speaking up inside their own teams.
Practice makes perfect. Insecurities do diminish as you get more comfortable leading meetings, sharing ideas in person (not just via email) and engaging in open dialogue.