7 Sure-Fire Ways to Become a Better Communicator

Even managers displaying every other quality needed to become a great leader will have a hard time succeeding if they can’t communicate effectively.

Managers largely spend their time communicating with others—selling ideas, motivating, persuading, influencing, and giving feedback. So improving your communication skills is critical to successful leadership. Learn to:

  1. Establish rapport. Communication is easier when people are comfortable with one another. Work continuously at being honest and friendly, so that your listener doesn’t tune you out. And remember, rapport isn’t built in a day.
  2. Be an active listener. Encourage speakers by giving them undivided attention. Remove distractions; close the door and have your calls held. Avoid body language that communicates a lack of attention, such as looking at your watch or at papers on your desk.
  3. Make the message clear. Don’t give directions using vague phrases and assume that people understand what you “really” mean. If you need a report by 2:00 p.m., tell your assistant it needs to be completed by noon; don’t just say get to it “as soon as you can.”
  4. Ask questions. This has two benefits. It helps speakers clarify their thoughts and feelings and provides the listener with more information. The best questions are open-ended questions that recipients can’t answer with a simple “ yes” or “no.” Begin questions with words such as “ what,” “why,” or “how.”
  5. Know what you're talking about. If you don't understand something, you can't explain it. And there is no surer way to have someone stop listening than showing your ignorance.
  6. Tailor your language and examples to your audience. For example, don’t use a real estate jargon with a new associate who may not be familiar with it.
  7. Take time to explain. Listeners may know less about your subject than you do, so repeat your points, making sure they understand you. At the same time, don’t lose their attention by talking too much.
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