Hello my dear readers, Hope you all are in pink of health and enjoying Testing! I am doing great too and excited to share some interesting things with you about effective communication skills and how to achieve it.
Consider the above sentences as the start of this article vs. the following:
The Topic of today’s discussion is “Effective Communication Skills” and how to achieve it.
Which one will create more interest in the readers?
There you go. I know you have chosen the first option and that explains the need for better communication skills.
I will be sharing few thoughts/tips on communication skills today.
One of the requirements in the job ads that always grab my attention is “Must Have Excellent Communication Skills”. I have never seen a job profile that does not ask for it. All businesses need Effective Communicators.
Communication skills rank right after technical skills.
The simple three words “Excellent Communication Skills” carry a lot of questions, such as-
- What does Effective communication mean?
- Why is it so important that every job requirement list is incomplete without it?
- How to decide if you are an excellent communicator?
- How to improve your communication skills?
- And finally, how to feel confident that “I am an excellent communicator”?
In this article, I will answer these questions with real life scenarios.
Let’s start with a few basic concepts:
What You Will Learn:
What is Communication?
- Communication is the act of conveying a message to another person through a mutually understandable medium/language.
- Communication means an exchange of information between two or more people.
- It is a process of sharing information, ideas, feelings, news and achieving a common understanding between people.
- Communication connects people.
- For organizations, communication helps all departments work together.
What are different Types of Communication?
The following diagram says it all:
1) No-Verbal Communication: Non-Verbal communication is conveying information using non-word messages such as posture, gestures, facial expressions, eye contact, etc. It plays a significant role in conversations, meetings or even interviews.
However, this is not the topic of discussion for today’s article. So, we will move right along to the next category.
2) Written Communication: It is communication through written symbols. When the verbal and non-verbal modes don't suffice we write things down. This way the information gets recorded as well and is more accurate and formal.
Writing skills are very important for Software Testers. We write several status/bug reports and many test artifacts to communicate with various teams – Formally and Informally.
3) Verbal or Spoken Communication: A way of communication through words (language) or sounds is verbal communication. The easiest way of expressing our thoughts, ideas and feelings are by talking. Hence, it is the simplest and most effective. This could also be formal (a face to face meeting at work OR a telephonic interview OR conference call) and informal (casual coffee room chat with a colleague).
In today’s article, I will be focusing more on Verbal communication.
Why do we need effective communication?
Communication is an art and every professional must learn it to be successful. It helps you maintain good relationships and expand your network.
Let’s take a quiz. Please answer the below questions with a YES or NO.
- I often don’t get the desired response even if I think I am communicating my queries right
- I use speech fillers like Uhh or Umm frequently
- I get nervous to address large groups of people
- It takes time for me to start a conversation
- I get nervous while facing or conducting interviews
- I don’t know how to put my thoughts clearly in a meeting
- I am often asked to repeat myself
- I find it hard to state my opinion clearly
- I often lose focus when the other person is talking
- I cannot say NO even though I want to.
- It’s difficult for me to maintain eye contact during a conversation
- I slouch or keep my head down or make nervous gestures while talking
- I speak with a very low or high volume
If your answers are mostly YES, it is time to work on your communication skills.
How to Become an Excellent Communicator?
Improving communication skills may be a hard task but it can definitely be achieved through continuous practice.
Here are a few suggestions. Remember it’s a journey and it is important to take few steps every day.
#1) Become a good Listener:
Communication is a two-way process. Listening is equally important as speaking. We must practice to listen and not merely hear things.
Real Life Scenario:
A tester is a key participant in a requirements discussion meeting. Make the most of it by following the below tips. The advantages are twofold. You get better at understanding the system and your participation will earn points with your manager and makes a good impression.
Tips to become an active listener –
- Pay attention and ask questions
- Seek confirmation when in doubt. For example, ask “So what you mean to say is” or “Please confirm if I understood this correctly”.
- Make eye contact with the speaker
- Nod, smile and keep a positive posture
- Provide positive feedback
- Contribute when you can
#2) Become a confident Speaker:
Real Life Scenario:
Opportunities for a tester to participate in an engaging formal discussion or conversion are unlimited. Defect triage meetings, review sessions, etc happen pretty much every day. Ace them with the following tips.
Tips to become a confident Speaker –
- Believe in yourself
- Don’t be hesitant. Have faith in your inputs and ideas
- Think before you say it.
- Make eye contact with others. This increases chances of receiving an affirmative response.
- Watch your pace and slow down if needed.
- Watch your pronunciation. Speak loud and clear. If you are unsure about the pronunciation choose another parallel word rather pronouncing it wrong.
- Practice small conversations.
- Try not to confuse your audience with mixed messages. Your words should be aligned with your body language, facial expressions, and tone.
- Know your words before using it. If you are not sure about the meaning, avoid using it. Make it a practice to learn a new word every day.
- Say what you want to convey clearly.
- Positive body language is also an important factor. Relaxed arms at your sides suggest that you are approachable and open to having a discussion whereas crossed arms and hunched shoulders suggest the opposite that you are reserved and not willing to have a conversation.
- Positive and appropriate posture can make even difficult conversations flow more effortlessly.
- Learn to give feedback positively but without hesitation.
- Attempt to resolve conflict
#3) Improve your Presentation Skills:
Real Life Scenario:
Once again, all the above-mentioned meetings can benefit from a good leadership and presentation.
Tips to Improve your Presentation Skills –
- Have your material ready before hand.
- Always have agenda ready and handy. Direct the meeting in a way that it remains on track and you reach your goal by the end of the meeting.
- Encourage interactive participation. Ask questions such as “What’s your opinion about this?” or “Do you think it’s a good idea?”
- Learn to read your audience’s reactions and behavior. Similarly keep a control on your own reactions and behavior.
- Try to practice assertive ways while speaking as well as in written communication.
- During Defects Status Meetings – remain calm and unbiased while explaining the defects. Keep conversation flow positive. Explaining the defect to the developer is equally important as finding it. Always avoid being personal in such meetings.
- Practice your gestures. While presenting make sure your whole body talks.
- Good and appropriate use of humor is also a key factor
- Empathize – Empathy is putting yourself in others shoes. Try to understand the point-of-view of others. Be open to new ideas.
- Learn to take criticism positively.
#4) Improve your Telephonic Conversations:
Real Life Scenario
Telephonic Interviews are as common as day and night for IT teams.
Tips to Improve your Telephonic Conversations:
- In a telephonic conversation the other person is not able to see your expressions; hence, it becomes more difficult to explain yourself.
- Always greet the person at the other end before starting your conversation.
- Always introduce yourself even if the person is expecting your call. Say your name very clearly.
- Explain the purpose of the call at the beginning
- Be very clear in what you are saying. Be concise.
- Do not take long pauses.
- Pause when necessary
- Do not interrupt. Let the other person speak too.
- Have a notepad ready while you are in a call to note down any necessary details.
- At times, speech fillers like umm sound very irritating over the telephone. Try to avoid it.
- Use your words more wisely if you don’t know the other person.
- Have a positive tone.
- Always end the call with a thank you note.
- Be an attentive and good listener.
- Be clear and loud in a conversation.
- Speak up confidently in all meetings.
- Do not hesitate to express yourself.
- Show empathy
- Make eye contact whether you are speaking or listening.
About the author: This is a guest article by Renuka K. She is having 11+ years of Software testing experience.
Thanks for reading. Your valuable feedback is appreciated. Happy Testing!