We’ve all experienced the frustration that comes with a complete communication breakdown – whether it is in our personal relationships or at work. Try these ten tips to improve your communication skills today.

1.  Plan ahead

When you have considered your position and the outcomes you would like from your interaction with another person, it makes it easier to communicate this to them and stop yourself from losing track of the purpose of your communication.

2.  Consider your position

Our position, or the way we feel about a matter, should always – especially when we enter into touchy emotional ground or specifically frustrating matters – be flexible and open to new ideas, interpretations or inputs. Don’t let the pride or irrational behaviour that so often accompanies arguments sabotage your relationships.

3.  Take a moment to listen!

When you actively listen to someone and make it clear to them, this will hold benefits for you in more ways than one. Firstly, listening to them and the way they feel will make them feel appreciated and respected, which will lead them to treat you in the same way. Secondly, this will also give you a better idea of what it is that they want and need from you, which will allow you to come to a resolution much easier.

4.  Pick your battles

When you are communicating with others, make sure not to nit-pick. Although many things about each other and our days are frustrating and annoying (or downright infuriating), they are not all worth arguing about.

5.  Don’t force it

When you repeat yourself often, raise your voice or take on a harsh tone, this will usually have the opposite effect in your communication than you planned for. Speak gently but clearly, never abandoning respect in order to get your point across.

6.  Confirm and clarify

Always make sure you understand exactly what the other person needs or wants from you by asking for clarification or confirming their statements.

7.  Determine your values

Make sure you know what is important to you, and communicate this to those around you clearly. Also, learn what is important to them. When you can communicate with a person on the level on which their values lie, you will be much more successful in communicating with them. For example, if you know a co-worker places a lot of value on family and friends, use this as a context when you talk to her.

8.  Offer your undivided attention

When you are distracted, you will come across as rude and thoughtless, automatically sabotaging your communication with others.

9.  Pick the right method

It is important to know which issues are best suited to which communication pathways. Instant messages, emails, phone calls and personal meetings are all ways to communicate – but make sure you know when they are appropriate.

10.  Keep your tone in check

Unconscious attitudes can severely diminish your ability to communicate. When you raise your voice or adopt a sardonic tone, for example, this will cause people around you to adopt defensive attitudes against you, rendering communication impossible.

Small Business Forum

The Small Business Forum is an independent network of entrpreneurs and small business owners established to encourage and support the creation, growth and development of small business in South Africa.

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