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Developing Effective Communication Skills as an IT Professional

siliconreview Developing Effective Communication Skills as an IT Professional

Those working in IT are often perceived as being awkward and introvert; IT professionals prefer spending time in front of their computers than communicating with others, right? This perception may have been true 10 or 20 years ago, but it is certainly not the case today. IT professionals and engineers are quickly becoming the leaders of the future. If you take a look at the CEOs and COOs of top start-ups and market-leading companies, you will notice how many of them have an engineering or IT background.

You too can elevate your career in IT and begin filling managerial roles in your company. You also have plenty of opportunities to start your own business and lead the way to success in the market. However, there are some crucial skills that you need to master before you can do that. One of those important skills – perhaps the most important of them all – is the ability to communicate effectively. The big question now is: how can you develop effective communication skills as an IT professional?

Master the Basics

Communication skills are, well, skills, which means they can be mastered through learning and practice. The first thing you want to do if you are serious about developing effective communication skills is covering the basics of how to communicate effectively. This is where communication skills training comes in handy.

Thanks to course search portals like findcourses.com, finding a good course in effective communication is easy. A lot of corporations and start-ups are browsing through sites like these to find the right courses for their employees, while professionals use the internet to find ways to improve their skills in various fields. You too can find great communication courses and take them online or offline.

Taking courses in communication will set you up for a good start in improving your communication skills. The courses are designed to help you master specific subjects, from developing the essential skills to communicate better to mastering how you can convey ideas and become a more effective communicator.  There are even courses on public speaking.

Practice Active Listening

70% of communicating effectively is actually listening effectively. To be able to communicate your key messages and get them across successfully, you need to direct your focus on what the other party is saying rather than your own thoughts. This is easier said than done; we tend to think about a response or what we are about to say next when listening to others.

That said, active listening is also a skill that can be mastered. More importantly, it is a valuable skill to have, since it allows you to communicate with others through better understanding of what they are saying.

There are plenty of times when active listening is invaluable as a skill. In an interview, for instance, focusing on what the interviewers say and really getting into the problems or thoughts they’re trying to convey will allow you to provide better, more accurate replies.

Being in active listening mode also shows that you are interested in the questions or problems, that you have good problem-solving skills that help you come up with solutions after listening to the problems, and that you care about others more. In other words, you are a good leader and a team player.

Make Your Key Points Clear

The next thing you want to master is conveying your key points clearly. There is a simple trick that many top communicators use, and that is to start with a summary of the key points, and to end with them too. Starting and ending with key points taps into the attention span of the people you are communicating with, and it is an effective way to get those points across.

It does take a bit of practice, but it will not be long before you start conveying your points in this structure. The approach has other advantages too, such as being able to get the people you are communicating with focused on the important points as you explain them clearly.

Ending with key points also reinforces the ideas you want to convey, resulting in a more effective execution of those ideas in general. At the very least, you avoid unnecessary mistakes because of bad communication of ideas or directives. Summarizing key points at the end of a conversation or discussion is a fantastic way to get everyone involved on the same page.

Use Discussions to Your Advantage

The last thing you want to do as an effective communicator is avoid feedback. Yes, it may be uncomfortable to be part of discussions where your ideas get challenged or others’ ideas are providing the better solutions, but part of the mark of a good leader is being able to handle this type of situation for the benefit of the entire team (or the business).

Feedback and discussions are great in almost every situation. What you want to do is reward positive discussions and feedback, and then use the insights you gather during the process to improve the ideas or key points further. However, you also want to make sure that the discussions are well-managed and that they stay true to the key points being discussed.

This is the next skill you want to master as a good communicator and IT professional. When talking about the cloud environment and how microservices should be set up, discussing the different approaches is a productive way to get to a suitable solution. Keeping the discussion in this corridor is all you need to do as the leader of the team.

Use Timing to Your Advantage

Every good communicator is a master of timing. Whether it is throwing in a joke to brighten things up, or asking questions to recapture the audience’s attention, timing is everything. A well-timed summary, for example, helps those you communicate with understand the key points better. Even allowing discussions at the right times is incredibly useful.

This is a skill that is best mastered through practice. There is no set of rules to follow when it comes to timing and how you use it to communicate effectively. There is, however, a way to practice your timing in a more effective way.

Before a big presentation, try recording yourself going through each point of the presentation and study the recordings. Do this several times and find new things to improve along the way. The more cycles you do on the presentation, the more prepared you’ll be for the actual event or meeting. At the same time, you will learn a lot about timing and how to use it to your advantage.

Back to the Points

One last thing to master to be an effective communicator in this field is improvisation. Write down the points you want to convey (but not the entire speech or opening remark) and practice speaking based on those points. Rather than memorizing the whole speech or reading through it, you glance at a point on your cue card and talk about it like a pro.

You’ll be surprised by how much better you’ll be as a communicator once you know how to speak extemporaneously. Rather than following a strict guideline, you can make adjustments based on how the audience react and the feedback you get in return. Combined with the other skills we covered in this article, you now have what it takes to communicate effectively as an IT professional and future leader.

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