I’ve never seen ‘I’m an extremely poor communicator’ written on anyone’s CV. It’s always ‘I’m an excellent communicator’.

But clearly, we’re not all excellent communicators, given the amount of time I spend coaching leaders on (what I consider) to be fairly basic communication skills.

So, just in case you’re an imperfect communicator like me, here are 8 ways to improve your communication. Numbers 1-7 are a useful reminder, but # 8 is essential. Please don’t leave home without it…

1. Pause and really listen to what the other person is saying.

Most of us don’t listen. We’re busy in our own heads waiting impatiently for a break in the conversation to get out 2 cents worth in. You can’t listen and create your response at the same time.

Just listen. It’s wildly freeing. You could even learn something …

2. Be aware of your intention.

Ask yourself, ‘What’s the outcome I want?’ and ‘How likely is it, that what I’m about to say will land well with the other person?’

It doesn’t matter what comes out of your mouth, if your intention is dishonourable, that’s what the other person hears.

3. Practice listening on all levels – not just to their words.

Most communication is tone and body language (not words).

If you sense I’m angry and frustrated and I tell you ‘I’m fine!’ in that voice (you know the one!?), then you know I’m anything but fine.

4. Own your emotions; don’t blame other people.

Oh, this is a biggie. If you find yourself saying ‘You’re making me feel …’ back up the cart. Nobody makes you feel anything.

Own your own sh#t.

5. Share your emotions wisely.

Saying “I’m feeling anxious and afraid” cannot be argued with. They are your emotions, and you are experiencing them. Full stop.

Saying “I feel ridiculed and manipulated” is just a clever way of attacking the other person.

Those are not real emotions; they’re fake emotions and will only escalate any conflict.

This is a particular bugbear of mine, especially when I hear “I feel bullied”. Bullied is not an emotion, it’s a criticism.

This leads me to the next one…

6. Describe the other person’s behaviour using facts.

It’s impossible to argue with facts (unless you’re dealing with a narcissist!). But it’s almost inevitable that people will take issue and argue with your interpretation of what happened.

Saying “You were 10-15 minutes late for team meetings this week” is a fact. Saying “You’re obviously not committed to your job because you’re always late” is an interpretation.

Stick with the facts.

7. Ask for what you need.

No one is a mind reader. If you cannot articulate what you need, you’re unlikely to get it.

Saying “I need you to show me respect” is vague. Other people don’t know what respect looks like to you.

Asking someone to be on time for your next meeting, increases the likelihood of getting what you want. You’re asking for what you need and in this case that is a specific behaviour.

The other person may not agree to meet your need, but at least they’re clear about what you want.

8. Know and interrupt your unhelpful communication patterns!

At the core of effective communication is a person who is self-aware.

You must know yourself well enough to know what yanks you around before it yanks you around.

If you can’t objectively watch what your mind is up to, and interrupt emotions that normally hijack you, then the previous 7 tips are useless!

Self-awareness and self-regulation are where the real work lies.

Anyone can reflect on what they ‘could of, or should have said’, but it’s all about building the ability to do it in the moment (not 3 weeks later!).

I witnessed this recently when someone snapped at me and then put their arm around me and apologized. Unfortunately, the damage was done …

We all have habitual communication styles (driven by unconscious knee-jerk reactivity). None of us are immune. And the only way to overcome your automatic response (when it’s unhelpful) is by being present with it.

How do you know if your style is unhelpful? You know by the kind of response you get …

This is why mindful awareness is the superpower you need to respond wisely and purposely.

But here’s the kicker. You don’t get better at mindful communication by thinking or talking about it. You only get better with consistent practice. And that practice is called developmental mindfulness.

Only when you can see, expose, and interrupt your patterns can you change your response.

Contact me to discuss mindful communication with you or your team.