Communication is a central part of almost every job. In fact, research shows that many people spend between 75-80% of the workday communicating – so it’s no surprise that communication skills are high on the list of attributes most employers look for in their new hires. Communicating well will also raise your chances of professional success and advancement, so making sure you’re an excellent communicator is important.
A key to effective communication – and one which many of us fail to demonstrate – is responsiveness. This doesn’t just mean the obvious: replying in some shape or form. Responsiveness refers to the extent that what you say clearly and meaningfully addresses the other person’s point. By doing this, you’ll find that you have better and more successful interactions with those around you.
Here’s five ways in which you can improve your responsiveness, and become a more effective communicator.
In any conversation, listening is just as important as what you say, if not more so. It’s easy for our minds to wander when talking to someone, given the amount each of us has on our minds at any given moment. And even when we are listening carefully, it doesn’t always come across to the person talking.
First and foremost, make sure you are really present when talking to someone: put down any distractions like your phone, turn away from your computer and focus on the person in front of you. Not only will this stop you from getting side-tracked, but it’s a basic courtesy to the other person. If you don’t appear to be paying attention, you’ll come across as rude.
Another way of showing that you’re listening, and also ensuring your full comprehension of the conversation, is paraphrasing the person’s points back to them. After repeating and clarifying what they’ve said, you can then ask some relevant questions. The more you engage with what they have to say, the more meaningful a conversation you can have – and the more likely they are to show you the same respect.
If you interrupt someone while they’re talking, or change the topic of discussion as soon as they’ve finished, you’ll shred your chances of drawing the conversation to a successful conclusion. Effective communication relies on you talking with somebody, rather than talking at them.
Of course, this doesn’t mean you should put aside your own agenda entirely. However, you should always respond to the person’s points before shifting the focus of the discussion to yourself or your own viewpoint. If someone feels like their opinion has really been heard, they’re more likely to walk away from the conversation feeling satisfied, even if they didn’t get their way.
Responsiveness isn’t only about what you say, but also about your body language. By mirroring – or imitating – someone’s stance and movements, you can help build a rapport with them.
Although mirroring is an unconscious behaviour, by consciously paying attention to your body language and how in sync it is with the other person, you can begin to build your ability to connect with someone in this way. Just try not to be too obvious about it, and don’t mirror everything they do; instead, make subtle movements and gestures.
And conversely, by making sure you keep your own body language relaxed, confident, and open, you increase the chance that the person you’re talking to will do the same, as they may mirror you in turn.
When someone says something that upsets you, or you completely disagree with, your first instinct may be to react angrily and emotionally. This will often prove counterproductive; rather than getting across your argument logically and persuasively, you could further inflame tempers and cause a break-down of communication.
Instead, try to take some time to calm down and consider the situation from both sides. If you need to respond on the spot, even a quick pause to take a deep breath could help stop you from saying something you may regret. You might still need to be critical, but steer clear of any personal attacks, and try and phrase your points in a constructive way.
Responsiveness is necessary not only in a verbal conversation, but also in email communications, so make sure you pay someone the same courtesy online that you would face-to-face.
Email is an integral part of workplace communication; according to a 2015 study by the Radicati Group, the average office worker sends and receives 112 business emails per day. This means that responding to every email immediately is a nigh-on impossible task for many people, but you should make the effort to be as responsive as possible – not just by answering in the first place, but by reading each message carefully and making sure your reply addresses every point made.
Claire Kilroy is a content writer for the UK’s leading graduate recruitment agency, Inspiring Interns. Check out their website if you’re on the hunt for internships or graduate jobs in London and beyond, or head to their blog for more graduate careers advice.
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