“Must have excellent verbal, written, and interpersonal communication skills.” As a staffing firm, we weave this terminology into nearly every job description that we create for our clients, and with good reason—communication is critical in business. How would customer orders get filled properly or new company policies be shared if it weren’t for good communication? Equally important are interpersonal, or face-to-face, communication skills. You may think, “No problem; I know how to carry on a conversation,” but do you? Does the customer you’re speaking with know that you’re listening? Are you subconsciously sending a signal to them that their message isn’t important? Most of us could stand to improve this soft skill, so how do you do go about doing that? Below are ten tips to help you finesse your interpersonal communication skills.
- Be open to and ask for feedback. The point of a conversation is an exchange of ideas between two people, not a one-way street.
- Never talk over people. This not only shows a lack of listening skills, but it also shows you don’t value what the speaker has to say. Alternatively, if you find that others always talk over you, consider that you might be long-winded and think about how you can tighten up your message.
- Don’t finish other people’s sentences. You may think you’re sending the message that you “get” what they’re saying before they finish saying it; however, you’re telling them that whatever they’re saying isn’t worth listening to.
- Paraphrase. When someone asks you to do something, repeat back to that person what they asked you to do in your own language. You’ve proven you not only listened to what they said, you also understood what they were asking for.
- Listen actively. Have you ever been involved in a conversation where you can tell the other person is thinking about something else or isn’t even hearing what you’re saying? Don’t be that person. Let the speaker know you are connecting with them by nodding or responding when they ask a question. Keep your focus on the conversation at hand.
- Maintain eye contact. Part of active listening is maintaining good eye contact. By doing so, you avoid being distracted by what is going on around you and you give the speaker non-verbal acknowledgment that you are listening. It’s okay to look away once in a while; staring intently at the person you’re speaking with can make that person uncomfortable.
- Be aware of your body language. Without saying a word, you can speak volumes with your body language. Are your arms crossed? You aren’t open to another person’s idea. Are your hands on your hips? You’re being defensive. Be aware of what you are physically doing while you’re listening and speaking.
- Avoid unnecessary conversation fillers, like “ums,” “uhs” and “likes.” They distract the listener from hearing your message. Think about what you’re going to say before you say it.
- Be respectful of other people’s thoughts and opinions. While you may disagree with what the other party is saying, remember that (as difficult as it may be) they have a right to their own opinion. If you find yourself ready to pounce on the person you’re speaking with because their opinion is not in line with yours, wait until they’re done speaking and express your thoughts on the subject in a non-confrontational manner. Even if, in the end, you wind up agreeing to disagree, you both walk away with a different viewpoint on a subject.
- Practice. You know what they say: practice makes perfect. With the tips above in mind, attend various community networking events that require you to participate so you can practice good body language or active listening. Pay special attention to how well others communicate and emulate those you feel succeed at paraphrasing or maintaining eye contact.
Improving interpersonal communication skills will help you in your job search!