Many project management skills are highly valuable in other professions and areas of life.
Communication abilities arguably top that list.
While project managers absolutely must prioritize communication in order to be successful, improving your ability to send and receive messages will help you in any career — as well as in any relationship!
In this article, we will explore the importance of communication and offer some tips for improving your communication skills. We will also look at resources that can help you become a better communicator.
So regardless of whether you’re a project manager, let’s explore some methods you can use to become an expert communicator.
The Role of Communication in Project Management
We’ve published a deep-dive on the importance of communication in project management, but it simply cannot be overstated: you must prioritize communication if you want to be an effective and successful PM.
Clear, concise and consistent communication helps ensure that all stakeholders are aware of the project’s goals, objectives, and deliverables. Effective communication methods also allow project managers to provide updates on the project’s progress and address any issues or concerns that may arise.
Communication comes into play for project managers in many different ways throughout the project lifecycle, and it is critical for all stakeholders to be on the same page.
Choose the Appropriate Communication Channel
If you’ve ever been in a text-message exchange that started feeling a little heated and suggested “hey, let’s discuss this on a call instead,” then you already understand the importance of choosing the appropriate communication channel.
There are many different types of communication channels, and it is important to choose the right one for each situation.
Text and chat are fine for quick and informal communications, but not for difficult conversations.
They can also be poor channels for messages that might be longer or more formal in nature.
And if your message requires the attachment of important documents such as proposals and status reports, forget about it — email is often a better choice.
Then again, if you find yourself typing pages and pages of an email to deliver your message, it might be better to consider a phone call or in-person meeting, either of which allows for easier back-and-forth on topics that might be difficult to resolve via written words.
In addition to phone calls and face-to-face meetings, remote teams can turn to video chat and conferencing tools to help resolve tricky issues.
The bottom line is, make sure you choose the communication channel that best suits the message you’re looking to send or receive.
By the way, being mindful and selective about communication channels is a great example of tailoring in project management, which is another very important PM skill that can be useful elsewhere in life.
How to Become a Better Communicator
Improving your communication skills requires patience and effort, and while it can be difficult to become a better communicator, there are many steps you can take to improve.
Start With Listening
One way to improve your communication is to focus on listening.
That might sound counterintuitive, because when we think of communicating, we tend to focus on the messages we need to deliver, but listening — truly listening — is a skillset that all great communicators share.
Pay attention to what others are saying and ask clarifying questions if you’re unsure about something.
Don’t listen simply to respond; listen to understand!
It’s also important to be direct, clear, and concise in your own communications.
Be mindful of others’ time, consider your stakeholders and use language that you know they’ll understand.
For example, don’t use overly technical language when explaining a project update to non-technical stakeholders.
If you want to take things a step further, there are some excellent courses on communication available online. LinkedIn Learning has some fantastic options, and courses like these can teach you how to effectively communicate in various situations, such as during interviews, giving presentations or handling difficult conversations.
It should go without saying, but if you want to be an effective communicator, you need to be respectful of those with whom you’re communicating.
Being mindful of others’ time, and listening intently, as we noted above, are great ways to accomplish this.
Use appropriate language for the situation, making sure to be polite in more formal communications and more casual when when a situation calls for it.
And, of course, avoid put-downs and personal attacks, and be respectful of others’ opinions, if you want them to truly receive your message.
Look for Non-Verbal Cues
Often overlooked are the nonverbal cues that can play significant roles in effective communication.
Nonverbal communication can be every bit as important as the verbal messages, and sometimes more so.
Pay attention to nonverbal cues such as body language, facial expressions, and tone of voice.
These cues can give you clues about how the person is feeling and what they might be thinking.
Be Familiar With Your Own Communication Style
If you want to improve as a communicator, it’s important to be in tune with your own communication style.
Our cultures, backgrounds, personalities, past experiences, and relationships can all be major influencers on how we communicate.
Also, notice your body language when you are talking with someone else.
Does it differ in different situations?
Do you consistently make eye contact with others?
Are you using “open body language,” which can help you convey the proper messages, or are you crossing your arms and angled away from the other person, giving the impression that you are closed off or disinterested?
These things are important, so pay close attention to your own communication style, and you can learn how to adapt it to different situations and people in order to become as effective as possible.
More Tips for Improving Your Communication Skills
Here are some additional tips for improving communication skills in project management or elsewhere in life:
- Use names when addressing individuals to create a more personal connection.
- Make eye contact when speaking with others.
- Avoid using filler words such as “um” or “like”.
- Be aware of your body language and try to use open body language such as uncrossing your arms and facing the other person.
- Take turns talking and listening. One way to do this is to paraphrase what the other person has said before responding.
- Be respectful of others’ time by staying on topic and avoiding tangents.
- Seek feedback from others to ensure that your message is being received the way you intended.
- Be open to constructive criticism and use it as an opportunity to improve your communication skills.
- Avoid making assumptions, which can often lead to misunderstandings and frustration on both sides.
Do you have any other tips to add? Share them in the comments below!