10 Characterstics of Skilled Communicators
Irrespective of your occupation or role in life, learning the skill of effective communication will make your journey easier. It´s a skill that can be learned over a period of time, just like many other career related skills.
This article focuses on face to face communication in general and so some parts may be applicable to speaking to groups of people, while some points may be more practical in one on one based communications.
Although the 10 points below are by no means an exhaustive list of positive traits that excellent communicators deploy, they are certainly worthy of consideration.
They listen attentively to what the other person is saying. The ability to listen attentively is the number one skill in effective communication. They wait patiently and carefully process the information they are hearing, in order to provide the most appropriate and effective response. They don´t just listen for the gaps or pauses in conversation, so that they can take their turn to speak. They listen so that they can add a valued contribution to the communication process.
They make a point of “being there in the moment” and don´t get side tracked by events happening around them. They make time for the person who is speaking. They don´t interrupt and they don´t monopolise the conversation. They know when it is the right time to speak.
Effective communicators pick up on emotional cues as they listen to people speaking. They read between the lines of what people are saying and understand there may well be more to the meaning of the conversation than is being communicated.
It´s quite common during appraisals and disciplinaries, for the other party to be somewhat reticent. This may be because of the power imbalance or even because they are withholding information that may incriminate someone else. They may feel that this meeting is a personal attack on them and close ranks, revealing nothing and giving minimal contribution to the conversation.
Skilled communicators recognise these defensive barriers and are able to slowly tease out the information needed by:
- Setting a comfortable atmosphere
- Creating a bond of trust
- Keep personal feelings out of the conversation
Keep it Simple
Sometimes communications can be full of complex jargon and long words. Effective communicators can break down even the most complex issues in order for the wider audience to understand the message clearly.
Many of us have come out of a meeting or briefing and turned to a colleague and said, “so what exactly did all that mean?” Often this is because the speaker was vague or beat around the bush, scared of delivering the main point as it may have had negative consequences for some.
Effective communicators speak clearly and concisely, slow and deliberately. They don´t leave you to join the dots and they understand that most importantly, there must be no room for confusion.
The skilled communicator knows that the message may not be welcomed by many but still, it needs to be delivered clearly and with respect to the audience.
Focus on The Here and Now
There are a myriad of distractions that can take place during your communications. If you let them!
Skilled communicators show respect to their audience by blocking out or eliminating external distractions.
- They are focused on the conversation and not on their phone.
- They find quite place, free from noise and interruptions
- They concentrate on this conversation and all else is a secondary issue
Know When NOT to speak
Experienced communicators know that you don´t need to monopolise the conversation to get your point across. Sometimes people just want someone to listen. Somebody impartial to the issue that is bothering them. Someone that will listen without judgement. Very often in these situations the speaker finds their own solutions to the problems, just by being allowed to talk things through and share their opinion or beliefs.
Timely and Complete
Most of us will have experienced waiting for news of a particular outcome of some sort. Waiting on tenterhooks increases anxiety levels. Those people who have become skilled at the art of communication understand this and deliver in a timely fashion.
They don´t leave people hanging on worrying and jumping to their own conclusions. Good communicators deliver a complete message, so that everyone has a clearly idea of the outcome.
Things are often uncertain in this ever changing world. This uncertainty leads to many things including knee-jerk reactions, nervousness and predictions by people who aren´t qualified to do so, often causing a moral panic.
Effective communicators not only speak with confidence but they also breathe confidence into their audience, so that in turn, the audience trust and voice confidence in their leader (or at the very least the person who is communicating).
They might not always be confident inside. Almost 30 years on and I still get nervous when I´m speaking in front of large groups of people. However, skilled communicators don´t project that nervousness onto their audience.
To make sure that the audience has clearly understood the message, effective communicators ask questions. Routinely, throughout the message, they pause to clarify the points they are making. At the end of the message, they summarise the message as a whole and give clear, specific directions and action points if applicable.
Arguably more important, they ask questions of themselves:
- Did I reach my audience?
- What could I do to make my delivery better next time?
Some Final Thoughts
Like any skill, communication is honed with practice and patience in abundance. There will be times, I´m sure, when your patience is tested because people fail to understand your message. This is the time to become a reflective practitioner. Look inside rather than outside, to see why the communication failed. Many of us have experienced this with a teacher or senior person in work. We fail to understand the message time and again, from all sources of delivery. Then along comes someone who just switches on the light. Suddenly the message is clear.
What are your views on skilled communicators?
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