Learn communication skills in four steps
Being able to learn communication skills for use in business is a lot simpler than a lot of people think. It comes down to understanding how communication works. Then leveraging this knowledge into an effective workflow that you can use when developing your messaging or content. This applies to all types of emails, from emails, documents, and posters through to videos, presentations and more.
Of course you’ll still need to put in some work to develop good communication skills. It just takes consistent effort over time.
Let’s explore how you can learn communication skills by looking at:
- What you need to understand about how communication works
- How to leverage this into an effective comms workflow
- Practising and learning from your mistakes
- Develop a communicator’s mindset to sustain your development
1. Understand how communication works
Communication should be a very natural thing to us as humans because we were born to communicate. As babies, we were never taught how to cry when we needed food, a nappy change or sleep. And whilst we may have had to learn elements of speech, we did this naturally by copying other people around us. So a lot of communication skills just came naturally.
But something happened between being babies and entering the workforce. Perhaps it was just “life”? Whatever it was, being able to communicate with others – particularly in the context of work – became a lot harder than letting people know we were hungry or needed a nappy.
The secret to learning good communication skills in a workplace that relies on them for efficiency and growth is understanding the mechanics of what makes communication work. There’s no better place to start than when someone sends a message.
What actually goes on when someone communicates a message? A lot! The obvious starting point includes elements like having a “sender”, “receiver”, “message” and media interacting together.
Yet all communication – good and bad – have these elements.
To learn great communication skills, you need to know things like what is driving the sender to send a message. And what is it about the receiver that makes them listen, read or watch… or just tune out. And why use email, a text message, video or company documents to send – or share – the message.
When you understand how all these things work together, you’ll see how these elements can be molded to improve a message or content’s quality. That’s where the skill comes in. It equips you to start thinking strategically and tactically about what message to create, how to send it and what you can do to make your audience respond appropriately.
So the first step is to understand how communication works so you can then know how to skillfully tweak the elements to make that message or content work better for you.
2. Develop an effective workflow
People in business waste a lot of time drafting comms and still manage to get it wrong. The practical outcome is lots of revision time or misconstrued information
There are certain things that a skilful communicator needs to do if they want to be effective at using communication in business. This includes understanding the context for sending a message, getting clear on purpose and understanding their target audience. It also involves knowing how to use language to make the message clear and – often – convincing.
That’s a lot, which is why a lot of people thinking learning communication skills is complicated.
But it’s not complicated if you know when to do these things. For example, there’s not a lot of point in clarifying your purpose after you have written your email or presented your message to video. Therefore, a skilful communicator will know they have to spend time clarifying their purpose before they start drafting a message or creating some content.
A workflow has the power to leverage an understanding of what makes communication work into a series of steps that ensure you get a focused and effective message. Whilst saving time.
3. Learn communication skills by applying what you know
There’s no point getting puffed up with knowledge if you can’t use it practically. Not when it comes to learning communication skills in business.
With an understanding of how communication works and an effective workflow, it’s time to start applying this knowledge for tangible results.
Here’s the interesting bit.
Let’s say that you’ve taken the time to understand the inner workings or mechanics of successful communication. It’s safe to say that you’ve probably learnt a lot so far. Even more, if you’ve also got a great workflow for developing messages and content.
But this is nothing about what you’re about to learn.
Real learning happens when you start applying this to real-life situations. For example, your CEO needs you to draft a company email explaining a recent change. Or the change management team needs you to draft instructions on how to set up an account in the new company software being launched on Monday. Or your marketing manager wants you to draft a sales landing page for a new product.
You’ll be moving out of the theoretical realm and into the practical world where your knowledge and application will be tested. You’ll be forced to develop an aspect of your communication skill that wasn’t possible any other way. In a way that enriches your skillset incredibly.
A famous Australian jazz musician Don Burrows once told me the best place to learn jazz was on the stage. It was infinitely more effective than in the teacher’s studio or your practice room. That’s because under pressure you’ve got to bring everything in your musical knowledge into play an entire musical tune under the pressure of a watching audience and musical peers. That pressure forces you to learn and develop powerful skills you could not develop any other way.
Powered by what you know
This is the same for developing and learning communication skills. The best way to learn is by practising. Even more than just understanding how communication works. Or having an effective workflow.
Which begs the question. If the first two aren’t as important as practising, why not go straight to practising?
To save time. A clear understanding of how communication works and an effective workflow will save you a lot of time. Without it, you could spend years learning what really works. And after a lot of embarrassing mistakes.
But there’s one more element that will help you learn communication skills. Mindset.
4. Develop a communicator’s mindset
A lot of very capable people fail in communication because they have the wrong mindset.
They subscribe to ideas like “communication is a skill that someone else has”. Or “they’re a natural at communicating ideas, but I’m not”. Or they’ve allowed one single, bad experience to make them think they can never be good at communication.
Another answer to someone asking “how can I learn communication” is “over a long time”. In other words, it is not from just one experience. Basing yur future capability on one experience may seem very limiting to most, but it’s what many do.
Rather you need to have a growth mindset shaped in the mind of a communicator.
This includes appreciating that it is possible to learn communication skills in business and actually become great at using them. It also means developing an extra sensitivity to how people communicate and seeing how they use the elements of communication to be more or less effective. And learning from this. And a whole lot more.
Having the right mindset will fuel your ability not just to learn how communication works, but apply that knowledge to developing great comms. And wanting to get better all the time.
Learn communication skills through the Bullseye! Method
As a communication professional over several decades, I’ve seen people in business want to learn communication skills so they can be more effective. I’ve also seen the best and worst of communication.
This led me to develop the Bullseye! Method. It’s a communication method that provides a simple framework from which to understand how communication works. It then takes the elements of what makes successful comms and puts them into a simple workflow to increase effectiveness and save time. This method was university validated and has been used in education, corporate, and small business to equip professionals and workers in becoming skilled communicators. It works for leadership, operational and marketing comms. And it works with any media – from emails and printed documents through to videos and social media.