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Communication is one of those interpersonal skills that you may not think you need much help with.
You may think, “Communication is easy, I can relay a message to another person!”
But communication is so much more than being able to shoot someone an email.
The methods we use to communicate with each other is continuously changing. While Zoom may have been familiar to only a small portion of the business population two years ago, it’s now an everyday method of communication that employees from businesses worldwide have become very familiar with.
The truth is that we now have a growing variety of choices when it comes to modes of communication. And a lot of the methods that we once used to communicate are becoming less relevant as time goes on, and communication barriers that we once faced (like physical distance) is no longer an issue.
So it’s no wonder that having good communication skills has continuously ranked as the #1 most sought-after skill by employers. And it’s not as easy to come by as you may think. Being a good communicator means that you’re a skilled listener, you can interpret non-verbal communication, you can pick up on other people’s emotions, and you know the right questions to ask when you’re having a conversation.
If you can do all of these things in addition to delivering messages in a clear and concise way, there’s a good chance you know how to get what you want, overcome obstacles, make friends, build rapport with colleagues, and gain respect from others.
But, being able to do all of those things, and being able to do them well, is a tall order.
Engaging in proper communication is a complex task due to the complicated nature of human thought processes. (Learn more about the elements of communication here.)
It can be difficult to formulate your thoughts into words, and even more challenging to voice your message in a way that will be interpreted by your audience the way you intend it to be. Your statements may be misunderstood–or worse, you could be caught using faulty logic, which could open you up to criticism.
Think back to a time when you’ve felt misunderstood. Maybe you got accused of giving someone a “look” that you were oblivious to, or someone took your quick response to something you wrote in a hurry as being rude. Think not only of the trouble that could have been avoided with more clear communication, but also the feelings that could have been spared and the time that could have been saved from others who dwelled on these momentary lapses of proper communication.
Think of the consequences that could result, should one of these misunderstandings lay the foundation for a potential employer’s first impression of you. Or, what if it’s a first date who misinterprets your message? Poor communication can have a strong negative influence on your life’s journey, which could be easily avoided if you were to be more intentional about your interpersonal interactions.
And having good business communication skills isn’t just important for your professional wellbeing– it’s also an important factor whenever you’re a part of a team. Research consistently shows that communication plays a vital role in the success of teams and maintaining a positive team dynamic.
But, whether you’re unintentionally misleading–or even offending–the person you’re talking to, ineffective communication can lead to unnecessary conflict, low company morale, and missed opportunities.
So in this article, we are going to look at seven SMART goals that you can use to help improve your communication skills. Even if you think you’re a pretty good communicator, it’s worth it to set some goals in this area because this is a skill that will continue to look different as technology continues to evolve.
But first, let’s define SMART goals more clearly so you can recognize the value in this goal-setting strategy.
What You Will Learn
What Is a SMART Goal?
SMART is an acronym for Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant, and Time-bound. When your goals meet all of these criteria, it’s nearly impossible to fail. Setting your goals according to the SMART goal framework ensures that you have a solid plan in place for achieving your objectives.
Let’s break down each component of a SMART goal.
SMART goals are:
These elements work together to create clear goals that are trackable and within your ability and skill set to achieve. If you haven’t been successful with meeting your goals in the past, they were probably poorly-written, making them impossible to manage. However, when you’re using the SMART goal structure, your goals will start with a solid foundation that sets you up for success.
Let’s take a look at some examples of SMART goals that you could use if you’re trying to improve your communication skills. Depending on the goal and where you are on your journey to better communication, you can change around the numbers a bit to suit your needs.
13 SMART Goals Examples for Improving Your Communication Skills
1. Encourage Quieter Team members to Speak Up
“Over the next six weeks, I will balance the communication dynamic on my team by encouraging quieter team members to speak up and reminding more talkative members that we want to hear from everyone. I will do this by giving verbal reminders throughout all team meetings.”
S: This statement sets forth exactly what this person plans on doing in order to balance the communication dynamic among his team members.
M: Each meeting over the next six weeks counts as one step toward meeting this goal.
A: This is an achievable goal.
R: This goal is relevant for any leader who wants to ensure the success of their team.
T: This goal-setter will practice this goal for six weeks.
2. Do a Mental head-to-Toe Language Check
“For the next week, I’ll do a mental head-to-toe body language check whenever I have a conversation that lasts over one minute to increase my self-awareness of my non-verbal communication.”
S: This SMART goal states this person’s plan to improve their self-awareness of their non-verbal communication so they can actively work to improve it.
M: Each conversation that lasts over one minute over the next seven days counts as one unit of measurement.
A: This is an achievable goal.
R: This is a relevant goal for those who want to improve their non-verbal communication.
T: This goal will be completed in seven days.
3. Keep an Open Mind
S: This goal articulates this person’s plan to keep an open mind when talking to people who have opinions that differ from the goal setter’s.
M: Each conversation that this person has over the next four weeks with someone he disagrees with will count as one unit.
A: This is an achievable goal, especially for those who have a lot of conversations on polarizing topics.
R: This is a relevant goal for people who want to expand their mindset and foster a culture of open-mindedness and respect.
T: This goal will be complete in four weeks.
4. Initiate Conversations
“Over the next two months, I will initiate at least one conversation per week with a stranger to increase my confidence when talking to people from different backgrounds.”
S: This goal describes this person’s plan to increase their confidence when talking to people who come from a different background.
M: This person must initiate at least one conversation per week over the next two months, so eight conversations overall.
A: This is an achievable goal for those who want to be inclusive of diverse perspectives.
R: This is a relevant goal for people who are in the beginning stages of their communication-improvement plan.
T: This goal will be complete in two months.
5. Plan Before Communicating
“In order to reduce barriers to proper communication, I will improve my planning prior to communicating by considering the goals, needs, and attitudes of my audience, in addition to how others will be impacted by my message. I will do this intentionally prior to sending any written communication until June 1st.”
S: This person’s goal is to reduce the breakdown of communication by intentionally planning and thinking through all written communication until June 1st.
M: Each written form of communication between now and June 1st is one unit of measurement.
A: This is an achievable goal.
R: This is a relevant goal for those who want to minimize barriers to proper communication.
T: This goal will be complete by June 1st.
6. Make Office Conducive to Listening
“By the end of the week, I will make my office more conducive to being a good listener by removing distractions, setting a chair up for people to speak with me at eye-level, and posting a “come in” sign on my door.”
S: This person’s goal is to actively work on their listening skills by creating an environment that is conducive to doing so.
M: This person has three tasks to complete by the end of the week.
A: This is an achievable goal.
R: This is a relevant goal for anyone who wants to focus on the receiving part of their communication skills.
T: This goal will be complete by Friday afternoon.
7. Plan Before Making Commitments
“I will spend 10 minutes focusing on a plan for following through prior to making any promises for the rest of the month. When my actions contradict my promises, others will discount my words, so I will carefully consider the impact of my commitments before I make them and I will alter my message accordingly before sending it.”
S: This person will spend time analyzing the potential impact of their messages before they’re relayed in order to ensure they can follow through on their words with appropriate action.
M: This person will do this for 10 minutes before making any promises for the rest of the month.
A: This is an achievable goal.
R: This is a relevant goal for those who want their verbal communication to be trusted.
T: This goal will be complete by the end of the month.
8. Find One Person to Encourage
“I will take thirty minutes within the next week to create a plan to find one person to encourage and motivate once a week. Each week I will write a letter of encouragement motivating this person towards achieving their goals.”
S: This goal is geared toward generating encouraging written communication through creating a plan for weekly letter writing.
M: The goal calls for 30 minutes to be set aside within one week to create the plan. Also, it has been determined that letter writing occurs weekly.
A: Creating a plan can be easily done within 30 minutes. Furthermore, one letter per week does not require too much time; therefore, it will not add any undue burden to one’s schedule.
R: Encouraging and motivating communication will strengthen the relationship you have with the person you are writing to.
T: A plan is to be created within one week. This allows you to be able to fit the 30 minute planning period within your schedule.
9. Solicit Feedback on My Workplace Communication
“Over the next month, I will solicit feedback from at least one individual per week on my workplace communication. Then, I will spend 30 minutes during the last week of that month creating a plan for improving my job performance based upon that feedback.”
S: This goal focuses on receiving feedback on how well you communicate at work. Moreover, it requires that you solicit this feedback from one person weekly for four weeks.
M: You can easily measure your success by counting the number of people you solicited feedback from each week. If you’ve had one conversation that week concerning your workplace communication for four weeks in a row, then you’ve been successful. Furthermore, you can easily mark off 30 minutes for a planning period. Furthermore, you can include measurements within your plan for improvement.
A: Asking one person per week to provide feedback is achievable. It doesn’t require much of your time. Also, it doesn’t require much effort. In addition, four people in four weeks provide enough feedback to create an effective improvement plan. Finally, 30 minutes is enough time to create a plan.
R: Feedback is part of the communication process. It keeps the communication process going and allows you to grow as a communicator. No one is a perfect communicator. We all have areas in which we can grow. This goal will only help you in your workplace communication, which will in turn help you be a better communicator in other roles within your life.
T: By setting the time frame for communication at one per week for a month, this gives you enough time to solicit the feedback. As for the 30 minutes for planning, setting a time limit will help you stay focused during your planning.
10. Ensure Concise Wording in Emails
“In the next week, I will create an outline for each email I send to ensure that I use concise wording and to edit out any sentences that don’t fit the outline before sending the email.”
S: By writing an outline for each email, you’ll send better emails. They will be concise, which will allow you to stay on point and express exactly what you intended to say.
M: You can measure whether or not you achieved your goal by counting up the number of emails in your sent file and comparing that number to the number of outlines you’ve created. If the totals match, then you were successful.
A: Creating an outline doesn’t take much time. Outlines are meant to be phrases, not complete sentences. Therefore, an outline is a simple, yet effective, way to organize the content of your emails.
R: Written communication is one of many different modes of communication. Being concise in written communication allows your ideas to come across effectively and accurately. This will help reduce communication breakdown. Plus, concise emails don’t waste your reader’s time.
T: One week should be plenty of time to establish a habit of outlining emails before writing them, especially if you send numerous emails per week. To develop positive communication habits, consistent repetition is required.
11. Create an Active Listening Checklist
“In the next week, take 20 minutes to create a 4-item active listening mental checklist. Then, over the following week, mentally assess your active listening during every conversation to determine if you are using active listening skills.”
S: A 4-item mental active listening checklist will require you to pay attention to your conversations to see if you’re actively listening. You will have to assess your role in the conservation to determine whether or not you are using the 4 active listening skills you’ve included in the checklist.
M: As your conversation progresses, you can mentally check off if you have used the four skills you have included on the checklist.
A: four items is a good number of items to include on a mental checklist. You won’t have to memorize too much. Plus, it won’t take your attention away from the conversation. If your mental checklist is too long, you won’t be able to concentrate on the conversation. Thus, you defeat the purpose of improving your active listening.
R: Effective communication requires active listening. Active listening shows the speaker that you’re paying attention to them. There is a difference between listening and hearing. Listening requires you to process what you’ve heard and respond appropriately.
T: Again, one week should provide plenty of opportunities to implement the mental checklist. Also, 20 minutes should be enough time to create a four-item checklist.
12. Take Notes During Conversations
“For the next two weeks, take notes during conversations. Be sure to write down important information, such as instructions, dates, or times. Then, summarize your notes back to the speaker at the end of the conversation to clarify your understanding of the conversation.”
S: This goal focuses on keying in on important details of a conversation. The important details may get lost in the other bits of information during a conversation. For example, you may miss out on the date of an important event your friend wants you to attend.
M: You will be able to measure your achievement if you have at least one item in your notes at the end of every conversation.
A: You can easily jot this information down on a piece of paper. Or, you can use apps on your smart phone. It doesn’t take much effort to say, “Hang on a second and let me put this on my calendar.”
R: In the midst of your daily interactions, so much can be said that it becomes easy to forget the important details. One of the purposes of communication is to inform. When someone is giving you information, your role as the listener is to process the information being presented so you can act on it. Taking notes cuts down on the chance of you not acting on the information because you forgot.
T: Two weeks will give you time to establish a habit of taking note of important details in a conversation. Again, habits result from consistent repetition.
13. Put Away Mobile Phone
“Over the next month, I will put down my cell phone when someone is speaking to me.”
S: This goal addresses a common communication block that many people create by continuing to look at their smart phone when someone is talking to them.
M: By requiring that you put down your phone for every in-person conversation, you can easily measure whether or not you’ve achieved your goal. If you keep looking at your phone during at least one conversation, you’ve not achieved your goal.
A: For some, this goal will be tough. Looking at our phones during conversations has become a bad habit, yet it’s not impossible to break a bad habit. It just takes more work. Therefore, this goal is achievable with effort.
R: A communication block is anything that gets in the way of proper communication. Continuing to look at your phone while someone is attempting to talk to you definitely gets in the way of communication. It’s a distraction that splits your focus. Also, it conveys the message that what you’re doing on your phone is more important than what the speaker is saying.
T: Unfortunately, it takes longer to break a habit than to start one. Therefore, a month is an appropriate time limit for this goal, as opposed to a week or two.
Final Thoughts on SMART Goals Examples for Improving Your Communication
It would be hard to claim that there is nothing more someone could learn to improve their communication skills. For most people, improving communication skills will be a lifelong, ongoing process. You (and everyone around you) will continue to make mistakes and learn from the situations that result.
Investing your time in improving your communication skills is sure to pay off in the end. Try one or two of these SMART goals in your own life and see what you can notice and learn just in the short time it takes to complete a goal listed in this article. Chances are, once you finish one, you will be eager to start on another.
If you work as an administrative assistant and want to improve your communication skills, check out this post.
Finally, if you want to take your goal-setting efforts to the next level, check out this FREE printable worksheet and a step-by-step process that will help you set effective SMART goals.
Connie Mathers is a professional editor and freelance writer. She holds a Bachelor’s Degree in Marketing and a Master’s Degree in Social Work. When she is not writing, Connie is either spending time with her daughter and two dogs, running, or working at her full-time job as a social worker in Richmond, VA.
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