6 Tips for Polishing Your Communication Skills

Whether you’re currently managing a team or merely aspire to a management promotion, communication skills are among your most used and needed abilities. Developing outstanding communication skills is a lifelong process, and it’s one that pays off in any job setting.

Here are six ways to polish your communication skills and prepare you for further career success:

  1. Expand your vocabulary. Choosing the right words helps you get your message across with less confusion or opposition. To get better at communicating in your field, work on expanding your vocabulary of industry-specific words and phrases. Start a collection: Keep a list on your desk or on your phone of words you encounter whose meaning you don’t know, and look them up.
  2. Embrace plain language. Every field has its own jargon and vocabulary, but a spoken or written attempt at communication that is too buried in specialty words and acronyms will confuse more listeners than it will help. Aim for a plain-language explanation of what you want whenever possible.
  3. Defeat your fear of public speaking. Public speaking is still the most common fear among U.S. workers – so if you’re on the job market, chances are good you share it. If so, commit to defeating it through practice. Practice speaking in front of the mirror, in front of a select audience of trusted colleagues, or in a more formal setting, like a Toastmasters meeting (where fellow fearers of public speaking meet to improve their confidence). When you can advocate your ideas clearly in a public setting, you gain a powerful tool for advancing your own career.
  4. Improve your writing with practice. Many people are more comfortable speaking than they are with writing. Writing is a skill that can be learned, just like any other. Read magazines, blogs, journals, and books by others in your field to train your brain to “hear” what good professional writing by your colleagues looks and sounds like. Practice writing in the same tone and with similar vocabulary. When in doubt, say an idea out loud, then write down what you said – you’ll be able to determine whether you’ve said it clearly or if you need to elaborate.
  5. Perfect your listening skills. Listening is a frequently overlooked element of communication – but when you’re a manager or you’re seeking a leadership position, good listening skills are indispensable. Listening helps you glean new ideas, spot potential mistakes before they happen, and help team members work together with less conflict or accidental misunderstanding. Practice good listening at least as often as you practice good speaking or writing.
  6. Practice dignity and respect. Good listening and communication skills are built on the same foundation: A firmly held belief that the other person is worth taking seriously and deserving of the dignity of a well-thought-out, respectful explanation. Use your growing confidence with your own communication skills as the foundation for an attitude that says “I’m willing to understand what you need and what you want to say.”

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