How to develop effective communication skills (even if you’re shy)

By Robert Half on 25th June 2018

Are you an introvert or a shy person who longs for stronger communication skills — especially in stressful situations? We’ll let you in on a secret: The key to being an excellent verbal communicator is confidence.

Take something like asking for a pay rise. Many employees are lacking in confidence to such an extent that they’d rather have visit the dentist than ask for a pay rise.

If that sounds familiar, read on. We’ve got five tips you can use to boost your confidence and your verbal communication skills.

1. Speak up

When you’re asked to participate in meetings, don’t try to melt into the wall. A common tendency is for shy people to think their perspectives aren’t valuable, but this simply isn’t the case. Offer you opinion -- you wouldn’t have been asked to participate if others weren’t interested in your point of view.

2. Practice presenting

Do you have to present to the entire team? Spend a few days rehearsing at home before taking your presentation public. Practice really does make perfect when it comes to communication skills. Have your spouse, partner, kids or even the cat listen to you rehearse. Mastering your presentation before the big day will make you more confident once you stand at the front of the room.

Another tip: Don’t forget to make eye contact throughout your rehearsal and presentation. It will feel awkward at first, but you will come across as more authoritative and in command.

3. Let it go

Did you stumble over your words on the phone or send out an email with a typo? Don't over analyse these mishaps as evidence of your inability to communicate effectively. These small mistakes happen to everyone.

Of course, you want to learn from your stumbles so you don’t repeat them. But there’s no need to replay conversations in your mind or frantically stalk your inbox to see if anyone critiques your writing skills. Focus instead on how you’ll improve your communication skills going forward.

4. Join a professional organisation

You may feel more comfortable speaking up around fellow professionals if you don’t see them 40 hours a week. And you’ll find that networking is a great way to help you build confidence over time. Eventually, the habit of offering your point of view or making suggestions will follow you back to the office.

5. Take small steps

Slowly ease yourself outside of your comfort zone by setting small goals for yourself. For example, Monday’s objective could be to ask a question in your weekly team meeting. Celebrate once you’ve met that goal and then set a new one, like asking for constructive feedback on a project you have just completed.

If you’re naturally shy or introverted, it may be painful to employ these tips at first. But sticking with them will pay off. You’ll find your confidence increasing over time, and one day — as you’re wowing the team with your communication skills — you’ll wonder why this was ever a worry in the first place.

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