A Guide to Professional Communication
This is the third article in an ongoing series by Danielle Langdon about Self Identity. In the previous article, she shared her tips for designing your resume and business cards.
Professional communication has been written about extensively, as it is arguably one of the most important life skills to have, no matter your industry. As Mike Myatt wrote in Forbes, "It is the ability to develop a keen external awareness that separates the truly great communicators from those who muddle through their interactions with others. Examine the world's greatest leaders and you'll find them all to be exceptional communicators."  Whether you want to have deeper one-on-one conversations, get your ideas across at work, or improve your interview skills, here are a few tips for effective communication.
First things first, I believe the key to successful communication is listening. Think dialogue, not monologue. The most meaningful conversations happen when both parties set aside their own agenda/opinions and honestly listen to one another. As Bill Nye said in his 2014 commencement speech at Rutgers University, "Everyone you will ever meet knows something you don't." 
Be specific and brief
Learn to communicate with clarity rather than ambiguity. The more specific you can be in all forms of communication, the less likely someone is to misinterpret what you mean. Along with clarity, you also want to discover how to keep your communications simple. Don't get lost in the particulars of names, dates, times, etc. People care more about you than those details.
Of course you should put away your phone, close your browser and turn off your email notifications, but more importantly, you should be present in the moment. You don't need to be told to make eye contact and pay attention if you are in fact giving the conversation your full attention.
Ask open-ended questions
Asking questions will noticeably help show your interest and may even clarify certain points. Asking who, what, where, when, why and how questions will lead to more interesting and engaging answers.
Your body speaks
Nonverbal communication is just as important as verbal skills. Confident body language can indicate you level of engagement, honesty and energy. Some best practices to keep in mind: maintain good posture (slouching can indicate fatigue, insecurity, laziness or unhappiness), make eye contact, don't fidget, give facial expression feedback, perfect your handshake, don't cross your arms and, of course, smile! Again, if you are engaged in your communications, this will all come naturally.
Be willing to adjust
The best communicators alter their style and message according to the audience. In the moment, it helps to adjust according to the visual and verbal feedback you are receiving. Keep you audience's perspective in mind. Also, if a thought comes in to your mind you have to be willing to let it go in order to actively listen.
Communication, especially today, takes many different shapes and forms (email correspondence, video conferencing, water cooler conversations, etc.). It is important to modify your tactics for each platform.
My next article will take a closer look at best practices for various communication outlets including email, video conferencing, formal presentations and interviews.
 Forbes/Leadership, "10 Communication Secrets of Great Leaders," by Mike Myatt. April 4, 2012. http://www.forbes.com/sites/mikemyatt/2012/04/04/10-communication-secrets-of-great-leaders
 Time, "Bill Nye to Grads: Become the Next Great Generation," May 18, 2015. http://time.com/3882613/bill-nye-graduation-speech-rutgers-university/