Why you should embody the qualities and dedication of an Intern when it comes to improving your communication skills.
By Katya Juliet
Can you imagine if everyone really did get an intern or personal assistant to help them improve and master their communication and relationship building skills? That would be amazing! Interns are hungry; motivated to learn and soak up opportunity to improve and be the best. Interns don’t necessarily get paid a lot (or anything at all !) for their devoted efforts, but that doesn’t stop them from the desire to keep climbing up that ladder. They understand it takes time to become an expert – maybe even a lifetime.
Effective communication can be seen in that same light – we must relentlessly practice our communication to attain a higher level of emotional intelligence and interpersonal communication skills. Our communities, workplace and personal and professional relationships benefit so much when effective communication takes place. Even if you consider yourself a highly-skilled and effective communicator, everyone has room to learn, grow and improve. Thus, the notion that you should embody an intern-like mindset and consistently strive to be better.
Communication is the key to success and central in all aspects of our lives: intimate relationships, work, health, mental health, finances, personal and professional reputations … and the list goes on. When we dedicate time and passion towards becoming better communicators (think effective listening!) we are truly investing in ourselves and our continued success. The moment we “settle” and simply communicate on autopilot, failing to seek consistent improvement and/or refinement of our skills, is the very moment we miss the mark and could potentially miss out on a great opportunity.
8 qualities of an intern translated into activities to improve communication
1. Work Hard and Take Initiative: Be relentless in your pursuit to educate yourself. Practice makes perfect. Take time to read, write, practice public speaking, role-play an interview or even an important conversation with yourself on a monthly basis. Knowing lots of big words doesn’t necessarily make you a better communicator. However, having a wider vocabulary at your disposal does allow you to communicate more precisely and efficiently in various situations. (See also Colorful Communication for more insight.) Strive to learn at least 1 new word on a weekly basis.
2. Be Proactive: Don’t wait for someone else to initiate important conversations in your relationships. Typically there is one person who initiates communication first, but it really should be done by both people equally in a given relationship. Practice learning how to bridge topics and initiate communication especially if you tend to be the kind of person who waits for someone else to do it. This activity would be on-going as opportunities to practice arise.
3. Be Humble: Learn how to mirror people’s speaking (style and rate) and behaviors (non-verbal) according to various environments – especially in professional & networking settings. Don’t over boast, but do know when to share your expertise and most of all – learn how to generously give compliments. People love compliments. In communication, there is always an opportunity to compliment another person. Make that a new habit: to leave each conversation having validated or complimented the other person.
4. Under Promise, Over Deliver: There is nothing worse than a big talker that doesn’t follow through on anything. This correlates with staying humble as well. Check your ego at the door if you really want to wow other people with your strengths and abilities. I’m not advocating that you avoid sharing important positive qualities about yourself or your business, but do let some things simply speak for themselves. You don’t always have to do all the talking in order for something to be communicated – sometimes it’s about the delivery and timing of a behavior, product or performance following an initial verbal communication that is most impressive.
5. Ask a lot of Questions: Ask a lot of questions. Period. Listen to others with focus and find opportunities to ask more questions about what they share. A basic rule to live by is to try to listen at least twice as much as you speak. A common habit in communication is to want to relate your own experience back to the other person as a way of affirming you understand their message. There is a time and place for that, however, it is not always the best way to interact. Practice this in your next conversation: when you want to relay back something about yourself, instead, just simply reply something like “I understand” or “I hear you.” This validates the other person without turning the focus away from them onto yourself. Also, instead of rushing to offer advice, try to ask at least two additional questions to further understand the other person’s situation. Use this guideline as a rule of thumb to practice more effective and supportive listening in at least one conversation every day.
6. Treat Everyone as Equal: Do you tend to speak differently to different people? Are you more relaxed or even short with the clerk at the store but very eloquent and professional to a colleague or superior? Practice speaking to everyone with the same level of respect and professionalism. You will be surprised at how often we slack on our communication efforts or how often we may actually not communicate anything at all! Take notes of these “Ah-ha” moments as they occur and seek improvement on-going.
7. Be Observant: Take notes of what went well in an interaction and what went poorly. When communications becomes aggressive or negative, often if you reflect on the situation, it involved a level of misunderstanding and had a pivotal “trigger” moment where it went from being positive or neutral to becoming negative. Make an effort to pin-point those moments and create an on-going list of what seems to be the triggers. If you’re able to successfully resolve a situation that started negative, take note of what helped. Consider actual words spoken, of course, but especially consider your tone, body language and facial expressions (non-verbal communication). Often times, when people are upset, they will share that it was not what you said, but how your said it.
8. Take Advice from Others: Ask for feedback from friends, family and co-workers and try implementing any suggestions received in your next communication opportunity. Also you can try to practice body language and facial expressions in the mirror to better understand what “silent” messages you might be sending other people. Do you fidget with your hands? Twirl your hair? Tap your feet? Cross your arms? Slouch? Smile? Scrunch your face? These are all common non-verbal habits and most of the time a person has no idea the are doing them!
I Hope that you enjoyed this post and you will take some extra time each week to improve and refine your communication skills. For additional support or consulting services, feel free to contact Katya Juliet through her business website, Buzzword-Consulting. Buzzword Consulting offers affordable digital marketing services, consulting, copywriting & PR for small businesses, start-ups, entrepreneurs & non-profit Organizations. Get people Buzzing About Your Business!