Freedom of speech is one of the pillars of our constitution.  What about freedom of listening? Effective communication relies more on good listening than it does on speech.  Both are key to the overall development and progress of your team. Without effective communication, your team and your business will lag behind in many areas, be less productive and less happy working for you.

If you want to improve communication skills for clarity and effectiveness, here are some vital tips for you to follow:

1. Listen Carefully

Let’s admit it, we all struggle with this.  Yet there is one very simple way to ensure you are truly listening.  Stop the voice in your head.  You know the one.  While you are listening to someone else speak, its constantly chattering to you about your retorts, answers, opinions, corrections and responses to what they are saying.  Stop it.  Stop planning what you are going to say back to them, and just listen.  When it starts up again, stop it again.  Focus all of the energy you can muster on listening intently on what they are saying, with the only objective being to really fully understand what the other person is trying to communicate and what they are feeling.

2. Body Language

Freedom of speech also includes body language.  Often, we don’t realize the significance of our body language, yet it is 70% of our communication. After all, actions speak louder than words. Your facial expressions, eye contact and gestures reveal everything, even though you do not utter a single word.

Exercise to improve your posture. Stand straight and smile to stimulate positive feelings. Always maintain eye contact when talking to someone.  Use open body gestures. Watch your facial expressions and the tone of your voice. At the same time, educate yourself about different non-verbal communication signals in different countries, cultures and societies. For example, a handshake is considered rude in some countries, whereas is it a common practice in the US.

3. Read and Write

In order to improve your verbal communication, read and write as much as you can. Read books, the newspaper, online news and articles, blogs or anything you want to boost your vocabulary and improve your writing skills.  Listen to audio books while you are driving or getting ready for your day in the morning.

4. Ask Questions

Asking questions helps clarifying things. It shows that you have interest in having a conversation by keeping them engaged. It shows you are truly listening with the intent of fully understanding what the person is trying to communicate.  It also helps overcome the fear of small talk in situations where you don’t know people.

5. Manage Stress

Stress is a major impediment to effective communication. Learn to manage it. Use humor in your conversations, keep calm, or be passionate.  Be healthy, exercise, go for walks, take breaks from your day and drink lots of water.

The ability to communicate  and listen clearly, concisely and coherently takes years of practice. Practicing these skills will not only improve your communication skills, but also improve your business results, and the quality of your life.