There are certain things that people tend to assume are innate talents that they cannot make progress on. “Oh she’s such a people person,” “They are a social butterfly,” “People always love him.” All of these phrases reflect an inner reality, or perhaps fear, that the speaker is not those things – that they struggle with interpersonal and professional communication. This is something that people take to be their identity, but there’s no reason to limit yourself if you’re bothered or feel limited by your communication skills!
Communication skills are actually pretty easy to improve with the right support and action plan.
Often people have great communication skills in certain aspects of their lives and struggle in others. The first step I recommend is to reflect on your current skills. Consider the various zones of your life: Personal (Partner, Friends, Children, Extended Family) and Professional (Colleagues, Supervisors, Employees). Consider how confident you are in your communication and interaction with these categories of people 1-on-1, in small groups, in large groups, and digitally versus in person. We interact with people in all different ways. Especially in a pandemic world, the vast majority of our communication is through the various technologies available to us, which may make things easier or much harder depending on your personality and experiences.
After going through the reflection stage you will start to identify the areas where you have room for improvement and can think about which tools you could use to make communication and interaction easier in your life.
Know when you may be uncomfortable in a given situation and create a routine before the event where you take time to come up with an action plan. Who will you need to speak to, do you know the pertinent names, do you know topics they might be interested in engaging in? Are there questions you’re afraid of answering? For example, “What do you do for work?” when you’re unemployed can be a very intimidating question and many people think the best answer is to wing it… but winging it is rarely the answer. Knowing what you will say if your worst case scenario comes up will give you immense confidence as you approach this interaction.
2. Pocket References
If you’re someone who feels they can never come up with the right thing to say or topic to discuss, I recommend what I like to call, pocket references: three to five topics YOU are genuinely interested in and could discuss which you believe most people could relate to. For example: Podcasts, Books, Sports, and Hobbies are all things many people are familiar with and you can ask a simple question and have a response prepared for all of these topics.
3. The Inquisition
Don’t mind the tongue and cheek name of this tool, the inquisition is just a silly name to help you remember that people love to talk about themselves. Asking a simple question, which you know your own answer to, can be a great way to get a conversation going. What do you enjoy doing out of the office? Have you watched or read anything particularly good lately? These are questions you can use to open up a conversation easily. The key is to have an idea in mind to continue the conversation. Be prepared to offer up suggestions or elaborate on your answers to keep the conversation going.
If you liked learning about these tools, you may benefit from downloading my free PDF: Your Communication Toolbox!