How to become a better communicator: simple tips for work & life

Communication is an essential life skill. Have you brushed up on the best strategies to become a better communicator?

Passing information from one person to another effectively is more complex than it seems. Your body language, word choice and confidence level heavily impact your message clarity. Ensuring your message reaches your target audience concisely is a skill that requires practice.

Strong communication skills will serve you across all aspects of your life, whether you want to tell your friends and family members better stories or work your way up the career ladder.

Use this guide to explore ways to become a better communicator. You’ll find a list of top tips that will help you stand out and start improving your communication style right away.

The 4 aspects of excellent communication

Communication skills come in all shapes and sizes, but to become a better communicator, you’ll need to address these four primary areas:

Verbal communication

Verbal communication is the most straightforward type of communication. It’s the act of sharing information orally from person to person or from person to group. It includes everything from casual conversations with friends to practiced pitch presentations to investors.

Non-verbal communication

Non-verbal communication is also known as body language. It helps pass a great deal of information based on actions, facial expressions and body positioning. It includes things like gestures, tone of voice and body posture.

Written communication

As a very popular form of communication in the modern era, written communication refers to any information transferred through text. It includes everything, from texting your friends to sending formal emails to work colleagues.

Active listening

To be a good communicator, you must also be able to listen. Active listening – a listening strategy that helps improve engagement and information transfer – is an essential skill for anyone looking to become a better communicator.

Consider asking this question in a one-to-one situation: “Do you need me to listen, or do you want my opinion?” When you frame this question, you are positioning yourself to give the best possible outcome to the speaker.

10 ways to become a better communicator

Communication is a two-way street. But, by choosing to invest in your own communication skills, you significantly improve your chance of getting your core message across to the other person.

The top tips below will improve your communication skills at home and at work.

Get clear about your message

Getting to the point is a skill in itself. You’ll want to ensure your audience hears and understands the important information you want to share. This is of paramount importance. You really want to avoid the infamous question: “What’s your point?”

Do your best to answer the following clarification questions to ensure you keep your messaging clear:

  • What core takeaways do you want your audience to get from your discussion?
  • What is your call to action (CTA)? What actions do you want your audience to take?
  • What aspects of your message may be easy to misunderstand?

Consider your intended audience

We all know that you can’t talk to a toddler in the same way you would talk to your boss. While that’s an extreme example, to be a better communicator, you must consider your audience’s needs and wants.

Tailor your communication style to meet your audience’s needs. This will help you connect with them. Achieving this goal can involve anything from creating accessible visuals and supplementing your points to choosing the right type of language to resonate with the people around you.

Consider the type of communicator you are speaking to. What’s the best way to get your message across to them? Do they need a direct approach? Do they need to receive the information and take time to digest it? Everyone is different. Perspectives are different. Do you remember the game broken telephone? The last person rarely got the message the first person sent down the chain!

The better you understand who you are speaking to, the better you’ll be able to connect with them. Making minor changes to your tone, language choices and wording goes a long way to being better understood.

Use active listening techniques

Being a great listener is a core part of being a great communicator. People who take the time to master active listening techniques are more likely to make their audience feel heard, valued and respected.

Active listening goes above and beyond simply listening to the person speaking to you. Examples of active listening techniques worth adding to your current communication toolbelt include the following:

  • Don’t interrupt the speaker or dominate conversations.
  • Listen without judging or making assumptions.
  • Avoid planning what to say next when someone else is talking.
  • Focus on the conversation and ask appropriate questions.
  • Give the speaker your full attention and show heightened interest by turning devices over or putting them away.

Slow down and enunciate

Are you a naturally quick speaker?

The average speaking speed for English speakers in the US is 150 words per minute. However, it’s very common for the pace of speech to increase if you’re nervous. If you don’t address your nerves, you may find yourself speaking too quickly, slurring your words and becoming less clear.

Networking meetings are a good example of when you really need to slow your speech. Some meetings only give you one minute to talk about yourself, which can be nerve wracking! You’ll want to make the most of that minute and cram in as much info as possible. Speaking too quickly will likely leave your audience in a whirlwind. 

We know it may seem simple, but slowing your speech is an incredibly effective communication tool that people commonly overlook. Insert intentional pauses and short sentences to enhance your message. Practice intentionally slowing down.

You can remind yourself to slow down, either with a phone alert or by telling yourself in your mind during a presentation.

Keep your body language open

Non-verbal communication (in other words, the subtext to the verbal words you share) is a significant part of effective communication.

Things like your tone of voice, how much you fidget or adjust your clothing and the way you stand impact the confidence you project when speaking. To be a better communicator, you want to be able to present yourself and your opinions and information clearly and confidently.

If you want to master your nonverbal communication skills, try working on the following things:

  • Keep your arms by your side to appear open. Add natural movement to accentuate conversations and presentations.
  • Maintain eye contact when you ask questions.
  • A smile or laugh throughout the conversation can go a long way (when appropriate).
  • Match your audience’s energy to build a comfortable environment.
  • Try to match your facial expressions to what you are speaking about.
  • Nodding your head in acknowledgment can be helpful to the speaker. Be mindful. You don’t want to overdo it.

Maintain the right amount of eye contact

Eye contact is a great way to show your audience that you are interested and engaged.

You need to consider the size of your audience. Communicating with up to 10 people is a conversation. Speaking to 10 to 40 people is a small group presentation. Anything above 40 is a large presentation.

As a general rule of thumb, making eye contact for four to five seconds at a time throughout a conversation helps create a stronger sense of connection.

To avoid overdoing it, try following the 50/70 rule. This means making eye contact with your audience 50% of the time when speaking and 70% of the time when listening.

If this is something you struggle with and your audience is on the larger side, look above their heads. It gives the illusion you are looking at the audience. 

This being said, eye contact recommendations are nuanced. Do your best to adjust the amount based on your audience’s reaction to make the experience more comfortable for everyone involved.

Use check-in questions

Asking simple, short and easy-to-answer questions (without interrupting) is a great way to stay involved and engaged during any conversation,

Check-in questions are great tools to use in casual conversations with friends or work colleagues. They are questions you can pepper into a conversation to show your genuine interest and engagement. Here are some examples:

  • Sounds great. When is this event happening?
  • Exciting! How can I get involved?
  • Wow, that’s so cool. How did this project come about?

Try and mirror their conversation to make sure you heard them and that you understood what they said. This can reinforce your level of commitment to the conversation. 

Practice pitches or presentations in advance

If you’re planning on doing a presentation or pitch in the near future, one of the best ways to improve your communication skills is to rehearse your core messaging and flow in advance.

Avoid the term “memorizing” and see it more as learning your presentation. Yes, you’ll need to make an effort to learn it and the process may involve a lot of repetition, but chances are you’re talking about a topic you are knowledgeable about. That’s half the battle.

Regular practice helps release stress, improve your wording and timing, and avoid dry and crunchy presentations that disengage your audience.

Your presentation style will ideally come across as effortless and confident. But, to achieve this goal, you’ll need to put in significant effort behind the scenes to dazzle and impress your audience.

Read the room and adjust as needed

Being in the middle of an important conversation or presentation and feeling your audience start to slip away and disengage is a horrible experience.

It’s challenging to even identify this situation when it’s occurring, but here are a few examples of situations and behaviors that indicate you need to change your current communication plan:

  • The person you are talking to keeps looking around or behind you.
  • Audience members are “resting their eyes.”
  • Audience members are using their phones or laptops.
  • The audience doesn’t laugh or react to a joke or story.
  • You feel like the audience isn’t hearing your words.

Communication isn’t static. Great communicators know how to adjust the techniques they are using to match the audience’s energy and keep them focused.

Here are some ideas for shifting gears if your audience has disengaged: 

  • Ask a question to engage the audience. Point to a specific person for their opinion. That will shake things up!
  • Show a short video to demonstrate your point(s).
  • Get the audience out of their seats and moving.
  • Insert an interactive activity.

Ask for feedback

Finally, regularly asking for direct feedback from people around you is one of the best ways to become a better communicator.

Depending on how analytical you are (and how much specific data you want to collect), asking for feedback is a great way to explore areas of your communication style that you can improve.

Asking simple questions like, “How did that speech go?” or “Do you think that joke landed well?” can give you a ton of information about how you currently communicate.

Here are three questions to ask your audience, whether it’s big or small:

  • What did you like about the presentation?
  • What can I improve in the presentation?
  • What can I do differently next time?

From there, you can use any feedback as inspiration and insight to help you make changes, address areas that may not be working and double down on your existing communication skills that do work.

Must-use resources to improve your communication

If this guide has piqued your interest in exploring additional communication resources to expand your existing skills, we’ve got you covered.

Become a better communicator and build better connections in your personal and work lives by checking out the following communication-focused resources:

Unleash the Power of Storytelling: Win Hearts, Change Minds, Get Results by Rob Biesenbach

Unleash the Power of Storytelling: Win Hearts, Change Minds, Get Results by Rob Biesenbach is a must-read for anyone looking for practical advice for weaving more compelling and engaging stories into their communication, 

This valuable resource covers important topics like the three-part structure of compelling stories and the importance of emotional nuance. It’s ideal for professionals looking to improve their messaging and better connect with their audiences.

Five Stars: The Communication Secrets to Get from Good to Great by Carmine Gallo

Are you looking to master the art of persuasion? Five Stars: The Communication Secrets to Get from Good to Great by Carmine Gallo could be the resource you need.

Sink your teeth into this book and explore how you can improve your communication style to become more persuasive and impactful with your words. It’s filled with helpful interviews and advice from neuroscientists, business leaders and historians.

Just Listen: Discover the Secret to Getting Through to Absolutely Anyone by Mark Goulston

Just Listen: Discover the Secret To Getting Through to Absolutely Anyone by psychiatrist and business coach Mark Goulston is a very educational read. It can help people looking to become more comfortable talking to strangers or work acquaintances.

The book shares research and advice for breaking through to even the most difficult and closed-off people. It covers the following important topics:

  • making a great first impression,
  • using active listening techniques to engage in conversation, and
  • making even a total stranger feel heard and valued.

Ultimately, this book can help you steer painfully uncomfortable conversations into more meaningful connections.

Pip Decks

Finally, Pip Decks is a powerful workshop tool that can help you get better at communicating. You’ll find the decks helpful if you are leading an upcoming meeting or presentation and want to leave a positive impact on your audience.

The easy-to-follow decks are helpful, fun and effective tools that remove the fluff and barriers to becoming a stronger communicator.

Crush your next presentation and leave a great impression with Pip Decks. Shop our entire collection to learn more.

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