5 tips to become a better communicator

5 Tips to become a better communicator [PMP #272]

I strongly believe that better communicators are more likely to get what they want. Whether that’s closing a sale, convincing someone to adopt your idea or sharing advice with someone.

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We’re communicating all the time; via email, instant messaging apps, phone calls, Zoom, social media posts and of course, in-person discussions. Everyone needs to communicate and should be trying to hone this skill.

And yet it’s shocking how often we come across poorly written emails or you find yourself in a meeting that’s going around in circles. And how frustrating is it when we’re the one that has to clarify someone’s question because the point wasn’t communicated clearly?

I’m always trying to improve my communication skills. And if you think about high-profile figures in society, they’re often great communicators. Steve Jobs, Winston Churchill, Martin Luther King, Jr, and Oprah Winfrey. These people all share a common ability to convey powerful ideas and inspire with their words.

With this in mind, here are 5 tips that have helped me to communicate more effectively with clients and colleagues in my business.

1. Listen first, then respond

I believe it was Epictetus who said we have two ears and one mouth and it’s best to use them in that proportion.

Have you ever had a conversation with someone and you ask a question only to have them ramble off a response that doesn’t address what you said in the first place? Politicians are very good at doing this. For us, it’s very frustrating. It demonstrates that the person on the other end hasn’t heard us, they’re not listening and they don’t really care what we have to say.

When you can demonstrate that you’ve heard someone and that you understand their point of view, they will be much more open to hearing and accepting your response.

This is particularly true in sales. If you can demonstrate to someone that you understand their pain or their problem better than they can articulate it, they will assume you have the solution.

Another favourite saying of mine:

“Better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to speak and to remove all doubt.”Click To Tweet

2. Use as few words as possible

When communicating with someone, the goal should be to communicate your ideas as clearly as you can with as few words as possible (regardless of the medium).

When tend to ramble and repeat ourselves in an attempt to strengthen our ideas when this actually has the opposite effect. The more fluff we include in our emails or when we talking to someone, the more obscure the message. The point we’re trying to make gets buried in all the noise.

Less is more; choose your words wisely. Make your point, say it once, and end with confidence. Avoid filler words and phrases. I’ll often catch myself saying something like “so… yeah” at the end of a sentence and it sounds stupid and weak.

When you use fewer words, you sound more confident in what you’re saying and the idea is strengthened.

3. Use the right communication channel(s)

As I said in the intro, today communication happens across many different channels. Choose what medium you’re going to use carefully and make sure it’s appropriate for the conversation.

Don’t send an article’s worth of text in an email or IM. Either get on a Zoom call or send a video response (I like doing this with CleanShot X). Conversely, don't schedule a Zoom call as a replacement for what could be discussed via a simple email.

It also pays to think ahead in case you need to refer back to the conversation later. Sometimes it’s useful having everything in writing (for legal reasons) or to have a recording/transcript of your call in case you need to recap something later on.

I’m also a big fan of using audio responses as a quick way to communicate more information via Messages on the iPhone or Facebook Messenger.

4. Proof, then send

This should be obvious but we’re all guilty of sending an email or message only to realise we’ve made an obvious spelling or grammatical error. Not only does this look stupid on our part but it can change the meaning of the message.

Remember, commas can save lives:

“Let’s eat, Grandpa” vs. “Let’s eat Grandpa”

Again, the goal should be to communicate our ideas as clearly as possible. If you rush an email and don't proofread it, it’s going to take longer to reach a conclusion compared to if you’d simply taken a few minutes to make sure your idea or request is crystal clear.

Even as I write this blog post, I’ll often re-read a sentence and trim it down as I think of a more concise way to communicate.

5. Practice communicating in different ways

The more you can practice communicating in different ways, the better a communicator you will become.

From my own experience, writing for this blog, talking on a podcast, making videos for YouTube, taking sales calls and running client training sessions; the more experience I’ve had, the better at communicating I’ve become.

If your primary means of communicating is text, try and spend more time speaking. Or if you speak a lot, spend more time writing. Will this feel awkward and uncomfortable? Yes. Whenever I talk to someone about starting a YouTube channel or podcast, there’s always the fear that they’re not good enough on camera or on the mic. But how do expect to get better without practice? I cringe at my early videos but I’m glad I went through that sucky period so that I could improve.

Feedback, comments, questions? Leave me a comment below!