Productive Leaders

Ph.D., CSP, CDR, US Navy Ret.,
CPAE Speaker Hall of Fame

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A professional speaker’s tips for better communication

Communication is key when it comes to anything that involves other people. We humans are a social species, and communication is involved in nearly everything you do. And yet, so many of us get it wrong, even to those closest to us.

Some people are born with a natural ability to communicate well. Their communication methods seem to be easy for them and people gravitate towards them. Others may struggle with getting people to listen. Regardless of what category you fall into, it’s likely that you can benefit from improving your communication skills.

Why Better Communication Helps Us

Did you know that most businesses consider your communication skills to be the most important characteristic about you? This means that you could have top-notch knowledge and job skills, but still fail to get the job of your dreams if you’re lacking good communication skills.

Communication is also critical to your personal relationships. Have you ever had a disagreement with someone in your family? Of course you have! Most arguments are the result of poor communication. Couples and family members that are good communicators lead happier personal as well as professional lives.

Proper communication prevents misunderstandings, and saves time so you don’t have to repeat yourself. Fewer mistakes are made with good communication.

It is estimated that poor communication costs business 37 billion dollars a year globally. 

How Can Leaders Improve Their Communication With Others?

Communication is a two-way street, not a monologue. This means we might have excellent skills, but if the recipient doesn’t understand, then we have not communicated effectively. Remember, the onus of making sure the message is received is always on the person who is delivering the message. As a leader, we can facilitate the process by being effective listeners as well. Great leaders make it easy for people to communicate with them, and they are able to absorb and synthesize information quickly. It takes practice. This is why it’s important not only to develop our speaking skills, but our listening skills, too.

We generally cannot affect the skill level of others, so we need to strengthen our own communication skills. As an excellent communicator, more people will understand us, everything around us will run more efficiently, and we get what we want accomplished.

To improve communication skills, try these 5 techniques:

  1. Avoid arguing. If you run into a snag in a conversation and it starts to morph into an argument, step back and realize what’s going on. It’s easy to get swept up into the blame game, but ultimately, blame does not accomplish anything. What’s important is the mutual understanding of the issue and a desire for a solution that benefits everyone.

  2. Don’t be afraid to compromise. It is tempting to try to win every argument, but that’s usually not the best way to reach a mutual agreement. We may be happier in the short-term when we win, but it may come at the expense of the other person’s willingness to support the issue, which can cause further problems. A win-win is exactly that – a conclusion where both sides feel as though they benefit. Find a good compromise that everyone can support.

  3. Work on actively listening. Our listening skills are even more important than our speaking skills. After all, how will we know what to say – and when – if we haven’t effectively listened? Listen more than you speak and you’ll gain profound wisdom and understanding of others.

  4. Stay focused. Convoluted conversations can quickly head in the wrong direction, especially when emotions get involved. Try to remain focused on solving one issue at a time. We have all been in heated discussions that somehow involve ancillary issues. If needed, take a “pause.” Marshall and Lily do this on the TV show, How I Met Your Mother. If they are arguing, one of them can always hit the pause button. It doesn’t mean the argument is over, it means that they will resume it at another time. Avoid bringing up the past or other unresolved issues and, instead, focus on addressing one topic at a time.

  5. Stay calm and take responsibility. Calm is contagious. Adopt a calm decorum and develop the reputation for being reasonable and fair when handling difficult situations. Look at the facts, and make decisions based on information, not rumors, innuendoes, or feelings. When emotions remain under control, it’s easier to communicate, be heard, and get the point across. This also means we need to take responsibility for what we say. Don’t be afraid to admit mistakes when you’re wrong. At work or at home, when you are wrong, apologize. Sincerely and quickly. And move on.

Bonus: Let it go. Don’t hang on to arguments, either at home or at work, because you want to be mad. That is childish and unprofessional. We will not win every discussion. There will be disappointments. Life is full of disappointments. Once the issue is over, let it go.

Becoming a better communicator doesn’t happen overnight. But if we keep practicing and tweaking our skills, we will be surprised at what we can accomplish.


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