One of the keys to success in any professional environment is understanding how to communicate effectively. And a big part of effective communication is monitoring how others react to what you say and how you say it. As a linguist, I spend my days analyzing language and how people respond to different styles of speaking and forms of expression.
For those of you just starting out in the business world, here are a few tips to keep in mind:
Pay attention to body language and facial expressions. How people physically react to your comments can reveal a lot about how your message is being received. Notice if people seem engaged or distracted, if they are nodding in agreement or shaking their heads. Look for smiles, furrowed brows, eye rolls—all of these can signal how your communication is landing.
Listen for feedback. The verbal reactions you get also matter. Listen for words of affirmation like "great idea" or "interesting insight." But also pay attention to questions, critiques, or dissent. How people respond verbally can tell you if you need to clarify your points or if you're on the right track.
Check for understanding. Don't assume that just because people don't react negatively, they fully understand or agree with what you said. Ask follow up questions to make sure your message was clear and that others share your perspective. Say something like, "Does this make sense?" or "Are we aligned on this approach?"
Tailor your style. Learn from the reactions of others and adapt your communication style accordingly. Maybe you need to be more concise or provide concrete examples. Perhaps you should speak with more confidence or less aggression. Make a habit of personal reflection and commit to continuous improvement of your communication skills.
With time and practice, monitoring reactions and adapting your message will become second nature. You'll be able to instantly read the room, keep people engaged, and ensure understanding. And that ability to connect and communicate effectively can set you apart and position you for success in your career. So keep practicing—and pay close attention to those reactions!