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Improve Your Communication Skills NOW

Need a job? Want to get promoted? Like to have a date? You’re going to have to communicate! Introverts of the world – arise!

Here are some tips to get you started:

1.)Decide you want to communicate.

It all starts here. If you don’t truly want to communicate with others, your efforts will be doomed. People are very perceptive and pick up on the smallest clues that you really don’t want to be talking with them. (Well, most people that is.) So it starts with truly believing that communication skills are important and you want to acquire them.

2.)Let go of perfection.

Not that any of us are perfectionists……but just in case, you’ll have to let go of it with communication. It gets tricky – what worked well with one person may be a disaster with someone else. You’re going to make mistakes, maybe even big mistakes. That’s how you’re going to learn. All you can do is the best you can in each situation.

3.)Pay attention.

This is what matters most in communication. Pay attention to the other person or to the audience. If you are looking at a spreadsheet, you will miss the confusion on the client’s face. If you’re watching television you will miss your child’s hurt look. I believe that most communication mistakes are made because we do not pay attention to the other person. Up to 93% of face-to-face communication is nonverbal. That means you really have to pay attention to tone and body language as well as words to get the whole message. Quit looking at your Blackberry!

4.)Realize what you’re saying in addition to the words.

You are always communicating. If you are speaking with clients and you don’t smile, look only at your paperwork, and use jargon they don’t understand, don’t be surprised if you lose their account. If you present to a group and stare only at the Power Point slides and exude the energy of a mortician, don’t expect them to be compelled by your words. No leader ever fired up his or her people by reading Power Point slides to them. Good eye contact, gesture and facial expressions are vital for your success.

5.)Create opportunities to communicate.

The great thing about practicing communication is you get instant feedback. (But you have to be paying attention to get it!) If the waitress gets your order wrong, there was a communication error somewhere. If you are in a fight with someone you love, there was a communication error somewhere. If you told a joke and no one laughed, ditto. Pay close attention to these errors and work to understand what went wrong. Communicate more, pay attention to the results and adjust accordingly. Over time you can only improve.

6.)Learn as much as you can about this important skill.

To improve your skills, read a book or listen to an audiotape, sign up for a class or seminar. Communication skills do not come naturally. This is a false belief many people hold. You’re either growing or you’re dying – I recommend growing.

7.)Ask for feedback – WARNING – this is only for the non-thin skinned.

Ask your family how well you listen. Ask your co-workers or supervisor how well you communicate in meetings or during presentations. Ask for specifics – “was I interesting? Clear? Did I make good eye contact? Do I have any weird gestures? Do I have ANY gestures? Could you tell I was alive?” Tell them you are trying to improve your communication skills and need their input – make it safe for them to respond. Remember – this is only for the non-thin skinned – it’s hard to take constructive feedback. And the truth is, if you’re paying attention, you get constant feedback about your communication skills. Sadly, most of us aren’t paying attention.

8.)Overcome your fear of communicating.

Here’s the real deal – most people are more intimidated by YOU than you realize. If you’re an introvert you may seem quiet and withdrawn which some people may mistake for arrogance. I know it seems ridiculous, but the more you smile, the less scary you are! Break one out – I swear it doesn’t hurt. You shouldn’t be afraid of communicating – the biggest thing you should focus on is putting others at ease.

Communication is vital to your success. Improving your communication skills will improve your relationships and make you richer. Treat it like any other professional skill – learn about it, practice it, get better at it. You can’t run from it, you can’t hide from it, you can’t avoid it.

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