So if anyone can become a good speaker, what can we do to improve our speaking skills? Practice! “Think about how many years it took to learn your craft — to develop your skills,” Bates tells AMT. “You learned the little nuances. You learned from your peers the things they didn’t teach you in school. Just like developing your technical skills, if you spend time developing your speaking skills you get better and more confident.”
Develop your speaking skills as early in your career as you can. Joining an organization like Toastmasters will get you speaking in front of a crowd and provide feedback on improving your public speaking skills. The more you speak, and the more you practice, the better speaker you will become.
“When you see somebody who is giving a presentation who appears to be very comfortable, chances are the reason they are comfortable is they have done it a lot — they have a lot of experience,” shares Bates. “And they also practice. That’s another thing that people don’t understand. You need to do it over and over again to get better at it.”
If speaking is an important interpersonal skill to develop, being a good listener is even more important. “There are many courses, both credit and non-credit, on teaching people how to speak,” Bill Lampton, Ph.D., author of The Complete Communicator: Change Your Communication: Change Your Life!, shares. “But how many courses are there on teaching people how to be good receivers of communication? Being a good listener is the most important, and yet the most neglected, communication tool that we have.”
Why are many people poor listeners? “Most of us hear but don’t really listen,” says Linda Finkle, executive coach and CEO of Incedo Group, an organizational coaching and consulting company. “You can’t be formulating a response and listening. Listening requires you to be really present and hear not just what is being said but what is not being said.”
“Be an active listener,” shares Jamie Yasko-Magnum, president of Successful Style & Image Inc., and author of Look, Speak & Behave. To actively listen, stop what you are doing, make eye contact with the speaker, concentrate on the speaker’s message, digest the information, craft your response to answer the question, and respond.
While it is important to be an active listener, you must be genuine. “Don’t pretend,” Finkle stresses. “If you don’t care what the person is saying don’t pretend you do. They always know. If the timing is off for a conversation or you aren’t interested at all, tell them. They may be upset but they will be more upset if they try to talk to you and realize you don’t care.”
Meeting new people
Remembering peoples’ names is an important interpersonal skill. But many of us have difficulty doing that.
So, how can we remember names better? Well, it goes back to listening. “You may have a hard time remembering someone’s name after you meet them for the first time,” says Dr. Lampton. “One reason is you never hear it. Why? You aren’t listening. You are thinking of what you are going to say next. I tell people to listen and make sure you get it. Pronounce it. If there is any question, ask them to spell it. And use the name during the conversation. Repetition is important.”
And what do you do if you do forget someone’s name? Don’t panic. If you are at a convention or seminar, he or she may have a name tag. If it is easily visible, you can try to take a quick glance to see if you can catch the name. Whatever you do, don’t wing it by trying to get through the conversation without mentioning their name. Doing so might buy you a little time, but will more likely prolong the inevitable. It is better to say out front something like, “I’m sorry, I forgot your name.” Although it may seem a little embarrassing, it is much less embarrassing than making it through the conversation never remembering the name, only to be placed in the same situation again at a later date. If you do ask for their name because you forgot it, be sure to focus so you remember it next time.
Teamwork is an important element in a successful organization. Being a good team player is another common interpersonal trait of successful people.
Teamwork involves communicating with fellow team members, cooperating on projects and assignments, and collaborating with your peers.