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communication skills Success

Why Communication Skills Matter & How to Improve Them

No matter your background, effective communication is an important life skill that everyone needs. Whether it’s a backyard BBQ, family dinner, or departmental meeting, without strong communication skills, it’s difficult to get your point across effectively. And when communication falls short, it’s usually not pretty!

Whether you’re a new mom just back from maternity leave and still trying to recover from the sleepless newborn phase or a corporate veteran 15 years in, your communication skills could likely use some brushing up. Wherever you are in your life or career, it’s important to stop occasionally to evaluate whether your communication methods have been holding you back.

Keep in mind that communication changes as society and technology evolves. The way we communicate now is definitely not the same as it was ten years ago—texting, Instagram, and Slack (to mention a few!) have changed the face of communication. Plus, your communication methods change depending on the environment you’re in. If you’re like me and you left the corporate world behind to be your own boss, you’ll likely need to switch it up a little now that you’re representing your own brand instead of working for someone else.

No matter your situation or goals, here are my 5 go-to tips for improving your communication skills.

1. Prepare in Advance – Even for Small Talk!

If you’re delivering a presentation, make sure to plan out what you’re going to say. That said, you can also prepare for small talk. We can’t avoid it, so we might as well have a blueprint ready for those potentially awkward situations!

You may find yourself with parents you hardly know at a PTA meeting or with coworkers in the boardroom waiting for the meeting to start. Rather than staring awkwardly at the ceiling, have some “small talk” questions or topics ready to go, from asking about their weekend to sharing a funny anecdote.

2. Read

Communication isn’t always verbal. Reading different kinds of material—from the newspaper, to magazine articles, to novels, to motivational books—will expose you to the different ways people write, speak, and generally present information. In turn, you’ll slowly start to expand and diversify your own communication methods.

So the more your read, the better your communication will be!

3. Listen to Understand

Many of us have become trained to listen to respond instead of listening to understand what the other person is saying or where they’re coming from. During a conversation, focus on actively listening instead of immediately going on the defense and preparing your response. Try these techniques to guide this process:

Don’t speak over the other person. This shows disrespect and gives the impression that what you have to say is more important. Everyone wants to be heard.
Ask questions if anything is unclear. This will help avoid misunderstandings.
Don’t do anything else while the other person is talking. This will show that you’re truly listening. It means not checking your cell phone or watch, walking into the other room to grab something, flipping on the TV, etc. STOP what you’re doing and give your full attention to the speaker.
Schedule another time to talk if needed. If it’s really not a good time for you, agree on another time to speak with them instead of giving them half of your attention.

4. Be Mindful of Body Language

Did you know that body language accounts for 55% of communication? The second most important aspect of communication is our tone of voice, accounting for 38%, while the actual words we speak make up a mere 7% of our communication.

This means that a person’s body language says a lot more than their actual words do. Say you’re in a job interview: your responses aren’t the only thing that matter—your posture and gestures are just as important. Making eye contact and not crossing your arms are some simple ways to exhibit more positive body language.

We also need to be mindful of other people’s body language: They might say one thing but mean something else entirely. Paying attention to others’ body language might help clue you in to how they’re really feeling about the conversation.

5. Validate

Everyone wants to be heard. Take the conversation a step further by validating the speaker’s thoughts and feelings. This doesn’t mean that you have to agree with everything they say, but acknowledging what they have expressed goes a long way to ensure effective communication.

Essentially, you’re reassuring them that they’ve been heard and understood.

Brushing Up Your Communication Skills: Practice Makes Perfect

As our lives and situations change, we must constantly evolve and adapt. The more conscious you are of your communication, the more it will improve!

Finance Success Work-Life Balance

Work-Life Balance: Do Women Want the Same Thing as Men?

It’s no secret that men and women think differently than each other. Maybe it’s biology, maybe it’s our history of laboring at home while men work in a completely separate sphere. Although it’s probably some combination of the two, let’s be real—when it comes to gender, some things haven’t changed all that much. Even though women now make up more than half of the U.S. workforce, we continue to be responsible for 40% more housework (on average) and two times as much caregiving as men (according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics)!

As most of us can attest, what this means is that work-life balance is often far more complicated for women than it is for men—after all, we have a lot of responsibility on our shoulders, from creating and raising little humans, to keeping the household from falling apart, to supporting our significant others, to providing financial security for our families. This complex and multi-faceted role that we play means that women simply have different mindsets when it comes to careers.

While it may seem like women and men largely want the same things for their family, such as healthy, happy children and a safe home, the details of what success really looks like tend to diverge widely between men and women.

We differ from men in several key ways in terms of how we conceive of our long-term goals and how we define achievement, both of which can greatly influence how we think about our own careers as parents, spouses, and employees.

1. Women Prefer Flexible Schedules

According to a recent report from the AAUW (American Association of University Women), women are far more likely than men to take time off from work after having children, whether temporarily or until their children are grown and out of the house. An estimated 17% of women work part-time following the birth of a first child, while 23% of women leave the workforce altogether for years, if not decades. In contrast, only 2% of men work part-time and 1% leave work following the birth of these same children.

While there’s a multitude of reasons for this difference between genders, as women we clearly choose to spend more one-on-one time with our children than our male counterparts. Some of this stems from practical factors, such as women tending to have almost double the length of parental leave and many women opting to breastfeed children without engaging in the potentially painful and disruptive process of pumping.

Yet, some of us simply choose to prioritize quality time with our children over seeking professional advancement. After all, when our little ones are so young and defenseless, it can be tough to leave them in the care of strangers—the “mommy guilt” alone can be crippling!

2. Women Are More Self-Directed

It’s been proven that men and women think very differently. This means that we tend to work in unique ways, many of which actually benefit the work-at-home mom. Women are far better at multitasking than men, meaning that we’re hard-wired with the ability to simultaneously manage multiple customer histories, inventories, emails, etc., all while making sure that the kids stay fed and (sometimes) clean.

This option is also extremely beneficial because, while women tend to be punished in positions that don’t offer flexible schedules, we excel in more accommodating work environments. As a result, women working in home industries with adjustable work hours tend to become more ambitious than in a corporate environment with a rigid schedule. With the reins in our hands, we’re are also happier and less stressed out, making us feel more fulfilled overall.

3. Women Have Stricter Definitions of Success

For women, success is all about work-life balance. While men tend to define success in terms of income, wealth, and possessions, women are far more likely to consider ourselves successful only if we are both financially stable and have meaningful relationships—we truly want it all. Sure, we may be realistic with our ambitions, recognizing that we might not be CEOs of Fortune 500 companies while working 20 hours a week, but we still want to provide for our families and have something tangible to show for ourselves outside of our role as mom.

When it comes to excelling at business, men and women see things very differently. Women tend to prioritize work-life balance—a more artful juggling of work and family make a woman feel more accomplished.

When push comes to shove, a woman is far more likely to leave even an extremely successful career in order to accommodate family needs.

That doesn’t mean that we’re not driven, however—many of the women who end up leaving fulfilling careers due to family circumstances still feel like they aren’t reaching their full potential. If these women had it their way, they would prefer a challenging and high-achieving position, if only it worked with their hectic schedules.

4. Believe It or Not, Women Can Have It All!

As women, we want to be both fulfilled in our jobs and our home lives, yet many of us forget that these two aspects of our loves don’t need to be in direct conflict with each other. By becoming a work-at-home mom, you can actually have it all by setting your own hours, spending quality time with your children, and providing financial stability for your families.

Many of our team members end up even more financially successful in home business than was ever possible in their more traditional corporate job. Contact our experts today and start your journey toward becoming your own boss and running a lucrative home business!