How to Improve Communication Skills in 9 Steps
Stuck on how to get your point across? Read this guide that can help you improve your communication skills.
In relationships, friendships, or even talking on the phone with a customer service rep, there’s almost nothing more satisfying than effectively communicating your thoughts and feelings. Building a foundation of trust with good communication is not easy — we’ll be the first to say it — but it is worth it.
Good communication should also be the backbone of good business practices. Improving communication skills with clients, customers, and employees will help create an environment of trust, safety, and success.
Today, virtual communication is king. But the nature of virtual spaces can make getting ideas across difficult, as intention often gets lost without the elements of tone of voice, cadence, and facial expressions. If you want to next-level your business messaging, this guide explains how to improve your communication skills.
In any rhetorical situation, the communicator is connected to their audience by context — good communication is contingent on shared contexts. With in-person communication, shared visual, tangible, and social contexts create connections that allow for some wiggle room because everyone involved in the discussion has a solid idea of the conversation. A debate about particular football plays makes sense in the context of a pre-game locker room chat but less sense at a literary academic conference.
When you communicate in a digital space, these contexts become more nebulous, allowing meaning to get lost in translation. Defining contexts can help you become an effective communicator. Use analytics to learn about your customer demographics and then tap into those contexts when communicating with them. For example, you’ll likely use a different tone, vocabulary, and style when messaging Gen Zers than boomers. It’s all about discovering context and communicating within those confines.
Be an Active Listener
Good communicators don’t just share their messages. They also listen respectfully and actively. Active listening allows you to understand what your audience wants.
If you’re communicating over email or text, active listening becomes active reading. Rather than passively scrolling through an email without considering the author’s intent and meaning, try putting yourself in the author’s mind. What are they trying to achieve with these words? What’s hidden between the lines? Understanding these elements will help you understand their thoughts, feelings, and requests. If a client sends you an email with general concerns about a project, don’t reply with a simple “We’ll figure it out.” Read and process every word so you can respond with action steps to meet their needs.
In short, people like being heard. If you can respond in a way that shows you were listening, that also shows your business cares.
Aim for Clarity
Being clear and straightforward is one of the best ways to improve communication skills, and using overly complex words can obscure your meaning. The most important thing is to get your message across, so aim for clarity instead of seeking to wow your audience.
But verbiage isn’t everything. Your marketing messages also need to be clear in how they present information. Are you sharing info about a new promo for your coffee shop? Don’t bury the details. Your customers are bombarded with hundreds of texts and emails daily — they want information, and they want it fast. Your messages should get to the point and provide clear calls to action.
Plan Your Topic & Message
Every time you communicate, take a few moments to consider your topic and message, as well as your purpose and stance. What’s the big-picture idea you hope to spread with your words? How do other good communicators share similar ideas?
For example, if you’re in real estate, look at other real estate SMS examples to see what good communication (and poor communication) looks like in your industry. Study the greats, the bad ones, and everything in between, and then apply that knowledge to your client’s communication practices.
Consider Expressions & Tone
A huge aspect of understanding how to improve communication skills is understanding expression and tone. When communicating via email or text, reread your message a few times to ensure that your tone isn’t harsh. Read the message aloud to see if there are better word choices. Language that might seem acceptable to say in person sometimes comes off as harsh or condescending over email. Avoid words like “fine,” “no” (within reason), “important,” “as you know,” and “actually,” which can come off as cold or even rude.
Here comes the tricky part: can you write in all caps, use too many exclamation marks, or add some emojis? There’s no hard-and-fast rule, but make sure you know your audience and industry. Small businesses in health care should stick to traditional communication rules and write in a simple, professional tone. On the other hand, a small retail shop geared toward younger demographics could use an edgier tone with emojis and extra punctuation. Just make sure that you know what the emoji you’re sending means. A poorly placed peach emoji (🍑) could be in tomorrow’s Twitter feed.
Business communication also applies to face-to-face interactions. If you’re communicating in person or on camera, be conscious of your facial expressions, body language, and tone of voice. If you're talking about how happy you are to be working with a new client but have a huge frown, it's safe to say they'll be hesitant to believe you. Similarly, a negative or snarky tone can derail even the best-intentioned discussion.
Practice Active Empathy
Communication works best when all parties try to understand one another. Try putting yourself in the proverbial shoes of your partner to get where they’re coming from, and practice empathy to help grow your people skills. Soon enough, you’ll find that your communication game has improved.
Use Conventional Grammar & Spelling
Little can detract from an otherwise well-worded message than the misuse of a word, improper grammar, or the dreaded typo. Use tools and resources such as Grammarly, Reverso, or QuillBot to ensure that your writing passes with flying colors.
When in Doubt, Template It Out
EZ Texting’s templates for sending sales SMS messages are some of the best tools for sending business text messages. The ready-to-use text templates are perfect for text reminders, confirmations, loyalty programs, milestone celebrations, customer contests, alert notifications, exclusive access messages, and customer feedback surveys. Creating an account and starting a free trial only takes a few minutes, and it could change how your business communicates.
Sending a bulk MMS message can be tricky when it comes to things like text messages and HIPAA compliance or guidelines for your specific business type. Ensure that you’re following all legal requirements and regulations. This will help build trust in your customers, and solid trust means good communication.
We know this is a lot to take in, but remember that it takes time to learn how to improve communication skills both face-to-face and in your business messaging. They say that practice makes perfect — and that applies here, too. Take your clients' and customers' feedback to heart to help make the next marketing push successful.