Five Hacks To Improve Your Workplace Communication Skills

Written by Michelle Riklan

Managing Director of Riklan Resources LLC and expert in employment, employee relations, and training and development coaching.

 

Millennials like to communicate using texts, emails, chats and emojis. They rely on technology so much that 83% of millennials surveyed in a Nielsen study admit to sleeping with their smartphone, while more than 30% use social media in the bathroom.

It’s hard to blame them — they’re the first generation who grew up with social media and smartphones. So it’s not surprising that 64% of college students consider social media access important enough to ask about it in their job interviews. Some young employees (45%) are even willing to accept a lower-paying job if the employer is more flexible in terms of social media access, mobility and choice of device for work.

Comfortable Behind A Screen

Preference for on-screen communication also affects young people’s career choices, with 70% of college students believing it’s not necessary to be in the office all the time unless there’s an important meeting.

 A Hart Research Associates survey found that there’s a huge gap between the students’ perception of their own skills and what employers think. About 62% of students believe their oral communication skills are enough to help them succeed at work, but only 28% of employers agree. Their ability to work with others is also questioned, as 64% of students think they play well with others but only 37% of employers agree.

While their communication and social skills are debatable, it’s no question that there are countless situations when a person’s communication skills will affect their career. It could be an interview, networking event, sales pitch or important meeting. In any case, it pays to pay attention.

Five Hacks To Improve Your Workplace Communication Skills

1. Reframe the negative questions in your mind.

It’s easy to get worked up when you’re worried about a meeting. Negative self-talk like, “What if I stutter?” or “What if I forget my materials?” will make you even more anxious and jittery. Why? Because these questions prompt negative answers such as, “I won’t get the promotion” or “They will decline my proposal.”

I often coach new managers and executives who are not used to the spotlight, and the first thing we work on is changing their mindset — specifically the questions that pop up into their heads moments before they present to an audience. Here’s how that works:

First, list three to five positive “what if” questions you can ask yourself. Examples:

  • “What if my boss likes my idea?”
  • “What if they laugh at my opening joke?”
  • “What if I nail the presentation?”
  • “What if they ask me questions instead of immediately rejecting my idea?”
  • “What if they pay attention instead of checking their emails?”

These questions prompt positive responses, and some of them even trigger your brain to plan ahead. It diverts your attention from all the things that could go wrong, to the things that could go right so your nervousness turns to excitement. Tackle nerves by having a powerful opening to your presentation or speech.

2. Focus on your fans.

Ignore the people who are not paying attention to you — the guy with his arms crossed, the lady busy checking her emails and everyone else spacing out while you’re talking. You’ll just get discouraged if you look at them while delivering an important presentation.

When you’re talking to a crowd, whether that’s a group of five or a seminar with 100 attendees, your best bet is to concentrate on the people paying attention. Find the nodders, smilers and note takers, then focus your attention on them.

3. Be mindful of your body language.

This one is obvious but it bears repeating. The way you stand, how you place your hands and your facial expressions all affect people’s perception of you. Take note of these basic body language tips you can apply in different situations at work.

At a meeting:

  • Don’t fold your arms. It signals that you’re not interested or don’t believe in what you’re hearing.
  • Lean in to show that you’re listening.
  • Smile and make eye contact with whoever is talking. Remember to blink so you don’t look like a zombie.

In a presentation:

  • Don’t be afraid to use hand gestures to make a point
  • Walk around the stage or in front of the table if you’re presenting during a meeting. Sticking to one side shows you’re nervous.
  • Don’t hunch. Stand up straight with your shoulders relaxed. This stance boosts your confidence without making you look stiff.
  • Make eye contact with people in your audience when asking questions. Remember to focus on your fans.

4. Accept people’s facial expressions.

Not everyone will agree with what you have to say during a meeting. Accept it. If it’s your boss who doesn’t look pleased, just carry on and know that you can address negative remarks or questions they have at the end of the presentation. You can redeem yourself then.

In big audiences, it’s impossible to get everyone’s approval so don’t let the audience’s blank stare lower your confidence. Sometimes, they’re just trying to process your message.

If someone keeps interrupting you or shouting negative remarks, don’t let it faze you. Let them share your spotlight or stop talking entirely until your audience turns to them.

5. Stop hiding behind a screen.

If you expect your first in-person meeting or presentation to be perfect, I wouldn’t be surprised if you never spoke up and just continued relying on emails and texts to communicate. It’s such a huge loss, though.

It doesn’t matter if your presentation is a bust, or if your comment doesn’t make you look smart in a meeting. What matters is that you stepped outside your comfort zone and spoke up. Your anxiety and mental insecurities will diminish as you get more comfortable talking in meetings and giving presentations in person.

Original article: Forbes.com

Communicating Under Pressure

By Brent Gleeson

Effective communication is 20% what you know and 80% how you feel about what you know.” – Jim Rohn

Communicating under pressure is a critical leadership component learned very early on during Navy SEAL training. Without having the ability to maintain composure, think clearly, gather information and make a call, you can’t succeed in combat. Which of course can lead to the worst possible outcome.

The same applies in business leadership situations, without death and dismemberment of course. We all know what it’s like to have the perfect response pop into our heads after an important situation or verbal exchange, too late to be of any use. And then there are those who can face all kinds of conflict and seem to know exactly what to do and say. And they do so in a calm and tactful manner. Faced with an angry customer, an uncooperative co-worker or tense negotiation, they don’t stammer or get upset. They keep their cool and glide through the situation getting what they want without breaking a sweat. These are the people who typically rise rapidly through the ranks. But great communicators are made, not born. It’s simply about having the right tools and knowledge.

Thinking on Your Feet and Communicating Effectively

Performing well under pressure builds trust within the team and makes others confident in your ability to not only lead the team but also support the team in stressful times. Here five benefits of thinking on your feet:

  1. Credibility: Others will believe what you have to say. Your associates will believe in you when you earn their respect. You do that be being credible, especially under fire.
  2. Professionalism: Being able to think on your feet means that you can respond, in some capacity, to all questions. You don’t always have to have the perfect answers, but rather ownership over finding solutions.
  3. Reliability: Others will find you dependable. When you are effective in critical situations others will look to you for leadership.
  4. Relationships: You will increase positive rapport with others.
  5. Confidence: Others will see you as more sure of yourself.

The more we focus on communicating well under pressure the better we will be at it. So let’s take a look at how to identify snags and improve leadership communication.

Eliminating Your Communication Hang-ups

Everyone has trouble communicating ideas at some point. Awareness of your communication hang-ups and how you react in various types of conversations and communications can help you develop solutions for improvement. Here are four common hang-ups:

  1. Controlling Emotions: This is a big one for most people. When we lack the ability to control our emotions we appear less confident. That weakens our ability to clearly get our point across and makes others less likely to be receptive to what we are saying.
  2. Prejudice: When we go into a conversation without an open mind nobody will benefit. When we take time to clear our minds and tell ourselves we will put our prejudices aside we will have a better foundation from which to have more productive communication.
  3. Fear: There are plenty of times we fear the conversation that needs to be had. Most people don’t enjoy conflict and therefore prefer to put those tough conversations off or sugarcoat what they are trying to say. Don’t put off the tough conversations. Remain calm, be candid and take it one step at a time.
  4. Body Language: Communication is about 7% the words we say. The rest is tone and body language. Be aware of these things and control them when possible.

Communication problems begin when you don’t keep an open mind to what others have to say and refuse to compromise. When you don’t strive to achieve a collaborative solution everybody loses. Remember to remain objective, actively listen, ask good questions, and concentrate on creating common ground.

This article was originally posted on Forbes.

Contact us at info@brg.co.za to equip your leaders to be calm and effective no matter what. Business Results Group is the exclusive licensed provider of  Think On Your Feet® across Sub Saharan Africa.