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How to improve your communication skills

Written by: CABA
Published on: 14 Aug 2019

When it comes to your career, communication is key. Your productivity levels, workplace relationships, and job satisfaction rely on your ability to influence and motivate others, express your values and goals clearly and give or receive feedback.  If you can't communicate effectively with team members, productivity and growth will stagnate across the business. 

Communication skills is an important skill for financial professionals, not just number crunching. You must have an ability to communicate complex information and numbers to the board, investors and prospects at small-group meetings, conventions and conferences. 

Four types of Communication in the Workplace 

To understand how to improve communication skills in the workplace, it’s important to remind ourselves of the four types of communication in the workplace. They are: 

  1. Verbal communication - used for important communication allowing both employees to see each other and eliminate any potential misunderstandings. It also encourages active listening between all parties involved to ensure everything is taken into account on all sides. 

  1. Body language and expression or non-verbal communication - a vital element that can prove if you’re delivering effective communication with staff. 

  1. Phone calls - an important element of a business if team members are remote working and requires the right tone to bring about the right actions. 

  1. Written communication - emails, notes, memos etc form part of written communication and is open to misunderstandings if the message isn’t clearly presented. 

Good business communicators in the finance sector and beyond master these four types of communication. By following our tips below, you can learn how to improve communication skills at work. 

Empathic listening 

Good communication isn’t just about expressing yourself clearly. It also means being a good active listener. Here are a few tips for improving your listening skills: 

  • Good listeners give the person talking your undivided attention. Try to get rid of anything that may distract you. If you find it difficult to concentrate on what someone is saying, try repeating their words in your mind as they say them to help yourself stay focused. Try not to comment on, judge or trivialise what they're saying in your mind. Just listen 

  • Allow the other person time to talk without interruption, listen with respect and empathy. Empathic listening means that you’re listening with the intent to understand, rather than simply waiting for your turn to talk 

  • Watch for non-verbal communication. A person's tone of voice and how loudly or quietly they're talking can indicate other things that you should be aware of. They can, for instance, reveal how strongly someone feels about what they're saying, or give you clues about their personality or social/political inclinations. Also watch out for gestures and other physical means of communication such as facial expressions, all of which can be just as important as the words being spoken 

  • Positive body language such as nodding, leaning in towards someone and maintaining eye contact signals that you’re paying close attention. Similarly, notice the body language of the person you’re talking to. Their nonverbal cues will allow you to observe the emotions behind their words - for instance, whether they're happy, satisfied, angry, resentful, frustrated or indifferent. Try not to judge or react to this non-verbal communication, simply recognise it 

  • When it’s your turn to talk, take your time and think about what you're going to say beforehand. If necessary, tell the person you’re talking to that you're thinking about what they said. You may also want to make sure you've understood them correctly by asking questions and repeating what you think they've said before offering your reply 

  • Be as positive and appreciative as possible when you respond. Remember, there's nothing to be gained in being negative, even if you don't agree with what they've been saying. Voice your own opinion openly and honestly, without criticising the other person's viewpoint, and there's a good chance they'll give you the same respect you gave to them when they were having their say 

Effective questioning 

Understanding the role of different types of questions is an important communication skill.  This means you can influence and get the most out of conversations. 

Closed questions 

e.g. Will you, Do you, Is that agreed? 
These are useful in a conversation where you need to be assertive. 

Open questions 

e.g. When, Why, Which, How? 
This style of questioning will help you encourage collaboration and participation. 

Difficult conversations - a 5-step strategy 

Nobody likes having a difficult conversation with someone, but sometimes it’s unavoidable. Here are some steps you can take to make the best of the situation. 

1. Take a deep breath: Separate action from reaction 
2. Be open-minded: Acknowledge what has happened non-judgementally 
3. Prepare to have the conversation: Consider any assumptions you might have, think about the message you want to get across and what the other person might consider important 
4. Cooperate: Whether you’re apologising, confronting, discussing or giving feedback, a good starting point is what you both have in common e.g. We both want to get this done on time 
5. Set objectives: Re-commit to future actions, behaviours or changes 

In finance, delivering tough news requires a poker face, especially when you have to discuss sensitive data with clients and those above you. It’s vital to remember that it’s not what you say to someone, it’s how you say it when in a discussion about financial information. Finding that emotional neutrality is vital. 

For advice and support on improving your communication skills, book a session with one of our personal and professional coaches. Contact us today.