by Leigh Richards, Demand Media
Communication skills are critical in all walks of life, but communicating effectively in the workplace is critical to professional success. Whether interacting with colleagues, subordinates, managers, customers or vendors, the ability to communicate effectively using a variety of tools is essential. Building strong communication skills requires a focus on effective interactions and the ability to listen so you understand and focus on meeting the needs of others. In addition, in today’s technology-driven world, effective communicators stay up to date on the tools available to them.
Determine your communication objective. Every communication has a purpose, and identifying that purpose is the first step in effective communication. Whether you want to inform, influence, persuade or sell, having an end goal in mind can help you communicate effectively.
Analyze your audience. The more you know about your audience, the better job you will do in communicating with it. For instance, if you want your boss to give you approval to attend a conference and you know he’s concerned about staying up to date on key industry trends, that’s a point you can bring up in your interactions. If you know your boss is most concerned about the bottom line, consider how your attendance at the program could help increase sales or improve efficiencies that might cut costs.
Select communication tools—or a mixture of tools. Your purpose and audience will help you determine the best communication tool, or combination of tools, to use. When communicating one on one, some people prefer email, some the phone and some in-person discussions. Choosing the wrong method can hinder your ability to be effective. Consider also the timing of your communications. Approaching the boss right after a tense sales meeting is probably not the best time.
Create key messages. People often try to convey too much in a single communication. Decide what your most important points are, given your audience and your objectives. A good rule of thumb is to use no more than three to five main points. These points should become your focus as you craft your message.
Listen and learn. Effective communication is often two-way, offering communicators the opportunity to listen and learn, but only if they take advantage of that opportunity. Every opportunity for interaction offers the chance to learn and improve. Finding out areas where you have been misunderstood, or where objectives have not been met, can help you be more effective when engaging with others.