How Good Are Your Interpersonal Skills?
The ability to communicate effectively with other people—in other words, having good interpersonal skills—is a basic element of doing business, no matter what line of work. But, in an industry in which consumers are comfortable finding their own travel information, good communication and listening skills can make the difference between success and failure for travel professionals.
But if these skills are so critical, why do few travel advisors take the time to improve them? It can be as easy as making one or two adjustments. Here are some small steps you can take immediately to ramp up your interpersonal skills:
Improve the quality of your verbal communication through vocal cues. Certainly, the words you use to communicate affect how the meaning of your message is perceived. But did you realize that how you say those words has a greater impact on your listeners’ perceptions? In a face-to-face conversation, almost 40 percent of the meaning we communicate is through our vocal qualities. And that number jumps to 86 percent when we talk on the phone!
Your tone of voice plays a big role in the impression you make on your listeners. The most significant kinds of vocal cues that compose people’s tone of voice are volume, pitch, inflection, and rate.
- Volume The loudness or softness of your voice can affect how you communicate. If your clients constantly must lean in to hear you, then speak a little louder. Your most effective communication likely will occur when you vary your volume when appropriate.
- Pitch The highness or lowness of your voice varies naturally, such as when you end your questions on a higher pitch. But have you ever noticed that your pitch goes up when you’re nervous? This can negatively affect the perception of you as knowledgeable and confident. If you are preparing for a difficult phone call or an important presentation, take a few deep breaths beforehand to relax your vocal cords so you can speak in your natural pitch.
- Inflection The up-and-down quality of your voice can make you sound interesting and interested. A voice without inflection is monotonous and sends a powerful signal that you don’t care. Clients should hear animation and interest in your voice. Be sure to smile even when you speak on the phone; your clients can hear it!
- Rate The speed at which you deliver your messages should be at a pace that is pleasing to your listener. Talking too fast or too slow can carry negative implications. The best approach is to speak at a rate that will keep your listeners’ interest but will not impede their ability to understand your meaning.
Adopt strategies to help you become a better listener. The time you spend listening far outweighs the time you spend speaking and gesturing, and it is a critical component of your relationships with your clients, coworkers, and colleagues. Here are a few suggestions to improve your listening skills:
- Give appropriate feedback. Paraphrase, ask questions, nod, and maintain eye contact so the speaker knows that you understand and care.
- Increase your attention span. To develop your powers of concentration, force yourself to resist daydreaming by mentally repeating the speaker’s words before you respond.
- Keep an open mind. Harboring bad feelings about a speaker or message can make you block out important information the speaker may share with you.
- Listen for feelings, facts, and ideas. Remember that you often can learn more from how your clients are speaking rather than from what they say. Listen for changes in inflection, speed of delivery, and volume to help you provide appropriate feedback.
- Be prepared—physically and mentally—to listen. Straighten your posture, or you risk coming across as lethargic or disinterested. Put aside other thoughts and concentrate on what your client is saying.
- Don’t interrupt. Wait till your comprehension of the message is complete before you respond, and don’t prepare rebuttals to the speaker’s points before you’ve heard the entire message.
- Practice. Finally, and most importantly, practice effective listening behaviors at work and at play. As with any skill, use it or lose it!
Next week, we will dive deeper into the soft skill of becoming better organized through good time management.
Remember that building soft skills—like better communication and listening—is at the very core of our certification programs, designed to address the unique needs of the frontline sales agent (CTA®), the agency owner or manager (CTC®), and the business leader (CTIE®), and available on-demand for you to start at any time!