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Skills for Success: 5 steps to being a better communicator

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Published: 07 Nov 2020

The ability to communicate well is one of the most crucial Skills for Success. In the second of our series, we share five top tips for improving your face-to-face communication

1. It’s not what you say

As much as 93% of what we say is communicated through physical signals: our body language, gestures, facial expression and tone of voice. Always try to use open body language: sit up straight, don’t slouch or cross your arms, and maintain eye contact. If you’re presenting to a group, stand up straight and speak clearly and slowly. And, most importantly, smile.

2. Be clear

Whether in an interview, discussion or presentation situation, be as clear, concise and efficient as you can. Don’t use 100 words when 10 will do. Prepare what you want to say in advance, and always take a moment to think before you speak. It may seem counter-intuitive, but over-communication can actually be very effective, so don’t be afraid to repeat key points.

3. Listen more, talk less

Effective communication is as much about listening as it is about speaking – if not more so. Active listening means giving the speaker your full attention rather than thinking about what you’re going to say next, and not interrupting. Well thought through follow-up comments and questions show you’re paying attention.

4. Know your audience

The way we interact with different people in our lives varies – it wouldn’t be appropriate to speak to your colleagues, boss or tutor in the same way you do to a close friend, for example. So think about your audience and adapt your choice of language – and body language – to suit them.

5. Be yourself

Real communication is about improvisation, so don’t be tempted to memorise a speech or presentation word for word; instead prepare a list of the key points you want to get across. Don’t be afraid to let your personality shine through, and think about using stories and even a little (well-judged) humour to make your point.

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