Improve your communication skills

Communication skills are vital in pretty much every single life situation. But as a working mum trying to juggle flexible work and the demands of a family, they’re even more essential.

When time is short and you have a lot to achieve, good communication skills can help you to understand what people want more quickly, let them clearly understand what you need, and motivate them to help you.

If your communication skills could do with work, don’t worry. The great news is that with a little guidance and some practice, you can improve them and be a more effective mum, partner and colleague.

The importance of listening

Good listening skills are at the heart of great communication. Not only will it help you understand quickly and correctly what your colleague or manager at work wants of you, but by showing someone that you’re listening to them, they’re more likely to grant you the same courtesy.

And the best way to show your colleague that you understand what they are saying is through something called ‘active listening’. The core elements of active listening are:

  • Understanding what someone is saying.
  • Retaining what someone is saying.
  • Responding to what someone is saying.

How to be a good active listener

  • Stop interrupting – listen to what your colleague is saying and wait until they have finished to have your say.
  • Show them they have your attention – keep eye contact and nod or make noises of agreement every so often.
  • Use open body language – show you’re open to their point of view by keeping your body language open, for example by facing them straight on and not crossing your arms or legs.
  • Show that you have heard them – repeat some of your colleague’s points back to them and ask if you have understood correctly.
  • Show that you want to understand them – if you haven’t understood their meaning properly, ask them to explain again.
  • Encourage them to open up more – using open questions life ‘Why?’ or ‘How?’ shows your colleague that you are interested in finding out more about what they are saying.
  • Check they are comfortable – look for signs that they aren’t happy with your conversation, for example nervous habits or sighing, and ask if there’s anything you can do to help. 

Taking your turn

After you’ve listened to your colleague’s point of view and checked that you understand them properly, you can put your point across.

Just as being a great communicator depends on active listening, it’s also essential that you practise your skills on presenting your case. These include:

  • Tackling one issue at a time – if you bring in several issues at once you may confuse your colleague and risk not fully resolving them.
  • Checking they understand – try to be clear and simple when explaining and politely check that they understand each point before you move on.
  • Watching how you speak and act – speak slowly and clearly and maintain good eye contact. Also make sure your body language is open, relaxed and friendly.
  • Taking a break if things get heated – if you feel your emotions rising, ask for a moment to take a breath and gather yourself before continuing.
  • Being firm about having your say – if your colleague tries to interrupt you before you’ve finished making your point, politely ask them to let you finish and explain that you’ll be very happy to listen to their point of view then.