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Developing Effective Communication Skills

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Communication skills (verbal and written) are at the top of the list of soft skills required of business professionals. Included in this bucket of skills and frequently also noted in job requirements is the subset of communication skills that includes negotiation, teamwork, collaboration and conflict resolution. All college graduates possess a threshold level of communication skills essentially because it’s pretty hard to graduate from college without communicating.   But this level of communication is a one-way street. It involves the speaker (student) imparting knowledge to the listener (teacher, classmates, etc.).

The subset of skills (negotiation, teamwork, collaboration, conflict resolution) dives to a deeper level in order to gage the effectiveness of communication.  How is the listener (audience) receiving, processing and responding to the message?  While content of the message is important, it’s impact can be sabotaged by the interfering emotions of either the speaker or the audience.   If the audience doesn’t like the speaker, the message will not be heard.

The principles of Emotional Intelligence put into practice have shown that successful professionals possess self-awareness and management as well as social awareness and management. They are aware of the impact of their emotions on the delivery of the message and they are aware of the impact of the listener’s emotions on receptivity.

What do you bring to the conversation? Consider the impact of the following:

  1. Emotions. The tone is set by the emotions you bring to the conversation and the emotions of the listener. Your audience wants to feel the positive emotions of energy, optimism and happiness. The door of receptivity begins to close when you bring the negative emotions of stress, anxiety, competiveness, or frustration to the conversation.
  1. Frame of Reference.   These are the expectations developed as a result of your lifetime of experiences and include the general categories of generation, race, religion, geography and socio-economic factors. Unless you are having a conversation with your best friend from childhood, the backpack of expectations is different for each person engaged in the conversation.
  1. Personality. Are you an Extrovert or an Introvert? Be aware of the benefits and challenges each bring to the conversation. Extroverts talk to think. They engage easily and freely in conversation. They speak first putting all their thoughts out into the conversation and then decide on the conclusion or the point they are making.   Their challenge is to avoid rambling and succinctly make their point. Introverts think to talk.   They mentally review the facts and form their thoughts before entering the conversation. They are good listeners and good partners in conversation. Their challenge is to share more of their thought process so that their partner understands their frame of reference and conclusions.
  1. Opinions, assumptions, and judgments. Bring only respect and positive values such as integrity and humility to the conversation. Leave opinions and assumptions that are not based on facts behind.

After considering how these elements impact the crafting and delivery of your message, turn your attention to your audience. Everyone who is a party to the conversation is utilizing these same filters. Effective communicators understand the importance of building trust and positive currency by employing the principles of Emotional Intelligence to understand and manage themselves and to build the receptivity of others.  The logic of the message content will not reach its target without opening the doors of receptivity.

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