No matter what your personality is, getting your message across clearly and intelligibly can be a difficult and tricky thing. Across all industries, misunderstandings are a hard hurdle to jump over, and having to do everything via digital in today’s landscape only makes things worse.
The lack of the right communication skills is a problem that can cause numerous problems during virtual meetings. This is why it’s the perfect time to improve your communication skills and know what it means to say what you mean.
Leadership and team management can be twice as easy when communication is effective, and while not everyone struggles with difficult conversations, there is still a lot to learn to become a better communicator every day. If you do not want to come off as authoritative, there are ways to become more persuasive without coming off as rude.
Today, I am going to share with you some tips on how to say what you mean, and mean what you say. Whether you are in a meeting, addressing the public, or in an everyday conversation, these tips will definitely help you sharpen your communications skills, especially in this day and age.
1. Keep the Purpose of the Conversation at the Top of Your Mind
One thing that never fails to hold a conversation intact is its very purpose. Knowing your “why” before you get involved in a conversation can help you organize your thoughts properly. This is even more important now with multiple platforms in the virtual world.
For example, when you are going into a 1on1, what could be your purpose? It could be to improve the performance of the employee. It could be to motivate and inspire the employee. It could be to answer questions and clarify the company objectives and goals. But it can’t be to prove them wrong.
The purpose can’t be to get into an argument over a trivial issue. Remembering the purpose consciously will help us keep our conversations on track.
2. Remove Your Inhibitions
Overcoming your inhibitions is a long process and might take a long time. But one effective step towards becoming more confident is to separate yourself from the situation and focus on the message you want people to absorb. This is always easier said than done.
However, inhibitions are the number one hindrance to being straight to the point. And believe it or not, it does happen in virtual communication as much as it does in face-to-face.
One exercise you can do is to practice in front of the mirror and anticipate how people are going to react to what you say. It used to come handy to remove stage-fright from the people in the room but in the virtual world, the warm bodies are gone and in its place is a single device. You can leverage on this and build upon your confidence.
3. Keep Your Sentences Short
Nothing beats being concise when you’re trying to deliver a point; in fact, the impact is twice as strong when you don’t beat around the bush. In short, don’t say what is more than necessary. Prolonging a conversation will eventually lead to segues and side stories. You should avoid these when you want to be more efficient and avoid confusion.
Picture yourself in the shoes of the receiving end of your message. There are so many distractions on the internet, every day, you are bombarded with digital clutter. How much attention span does that leave you to give to your work?
When you are being precise in communicating, you are more likely to receive better feedback and reactions. Perhaps the only time you could go a little overboard is when you need to provide examples or to persuade a person into doing something. Otherwise, do not hold on to the attention of the audience or person only to ramble. Just cut to the chase.
4. Avoid the Use of Words that Kneecap
In many conversations, you’ll often hear words like “kind of,” “sort of,” “maybe,” “I guess,” or “just.” This is called kneecapping. Using such words too often will only give the impression that you are uncertain or hesitant.
When used online, they can also downplay statements or commands that actually bear so much importance. Of course, this can take a toll on your people management strategies too. Own what you have to say, and don’t hide behind such uncertain words.
5. Widen Your Vocabulary
One thing that has been largely hampered by the remote work setup is the speech of most professionals. On a normal day, there’s nothing wrong with that. However, this habit can be problematic when this affects how you communicate with your colleagues online, who demand more exact and specific statements rather than vague ones.
While people are upskilling, their vocabularies remain the same except from the addition of a few online jargon. There comes no better time to spruce up your vocabulary through the availability of e-books, YouTube videos, and many courses online.
6. Be Present
In any conversation, whether face-to-face or virtual communication, it’s of utmost importance to be conscious and stay present mentally. This would avoid little mishaps such as forgetting the topic on-hand or being interrupted easily.
Being present means that you are actively participating in a conversation. This includes not being distracted by other things on your screen or passersby in the background of the person you’re talking to. Listen to the people talking and digest their message, doing this will lessen the chances of people asking for clarifications and wasting everyone’s time.
7. Use Non-verbal Cues
Even in virtual communication, not everything is said through words. In fact, non-verbal cues will help you emphasize your point. It is how you say something or what you are doing while saying something that affects how your message is conveyed.
For example, to highlight a point, you can stress the word or turn up the volume of your voice; or to demonstrate, you can use hand gestures to complement your words.
In this virtual age, it gets harder to be the dominant voice in the room but it’s not impossible to get the message across to the people you’re speaking to. Ask questions to clarify and to make sure you are all on the same page.
8. Involve a Time Element
Time is a valuable component of communication. In relation to keeping sentences short, being brief also manages people’s reception of the message. Observe people and take hints from their non-verbal cues—where are their eyes fixed, are they multitasking on their phone, are they yawning? And observe how long they are willing to listen.
Finally, when all is said and done, give your communication an actionable ending, either with a deadline or by presenting a timetable. People tend to take note of dates, and words that indicate haste are more likely to grab people’s attention. This is most observable in marketing copywriting, such as “hurry,” “now,” “until today only;” the same goes in virtual communication.
Saying what you mean and knowing how to say it is a critical skill to get your point across. But beyond that, being able to say what you mean through effective communication will help you make stronger relationships with the people you’re interacting with.