Communication between professionals is the foundation of a great business relationship. Speaking to others as an entrepreneur means more than just sharing ideas; it means garnering insight and creating a connection with the other person. For a good number of non-entrepreneurs, successful business owners are inspiring, and what they have to say carries weight, which means how an entrepreneur gets their message across is crucial for long-term success.

So, how can you improve your communication abilities so that you can more fully engage or move people when you speak? Below, members of the Young Entrepreneur Council share the habits they cultivate to enhance their oral communication skills, and why they consider those habits to be essential. Here is what they said:

1. Learn to Listen While Speaking

Learn to listen as you’re speaking. Far too many folks simply want to talk and talk without hearing from the other party. No matter what type of conversation you’re having, you’re probably not going to learn much if you don’t at some point stop talking and find out what the other person thinks about the topic at hand. – Andrew Schrage, Money Crashers Personal Finance

2. Ask How You Can Help Them

A good habit is to ask, “How can I help you?” Instead of focusing on what you want, by asking others how you can help them, you will show that you generally care about them and would like to add value to their lives. Most people will want to look for ways that they can help you in return. You will be amazed by how much you can help yourself by asking others how you can help them first. – Doug Bend, Bend Law Group, PC

3. Practice Mindfulness

Mindfulness helps you become more aware of those around you, including their feelings and moods, to better assess how you should communicate with them. Of course, this can still be challenging when you speak to people online, so be sure to connect with your remote staff or customers in person or on the phone as much as possible to pick up on these vibes and better address what they mean. – John Rampton, Calendar

4. Learn How to Think Clearly

Before I learned how to speak to others professionally, I had a problem with clear thinking, leading to me speaking in a stream-of-consciousness type of manner. Yet, once I learned how to think clearly and organize my thoughts in a coherent manner, I was able to speak in an articulate manner so the other person could understand my point of view. – Kristin Kimberly Marquet, Marquet Media, LLC

5. Use Concise Language

Language is pretty difficult to pick apart sometimes, especially if you’re talking to someone new. The best way to improve how you speak to others is by trying to use crisp, concise language when speaking. You’ll find that this tactic allows you to remain approachable while delivering clear expectations and guidelines. – Blair Williams, MemberPress

6. Ask Open-Ended Questions

The conversation will die pretty fast if you can only answer “yes” or “no,” so it’s important to ask questions that require an in-depth answer. Practice having a conversation with someone you’re comfortable with and make a note every time you ask something that leads to a dead end. You can work on coming up with questions that require more brain power so you succeed in conversations. – Chris Christoff, MonsterInsights

7. Mind Your Body Language

We don’t even think about how important body language is for a conversation, but the way it presents itself tells others how you feel even when your words don’t. Avoid exclusive body language, such as crossing your arms or avoiding eye contact. Keep a relaxed stance, look at the other person frequently without staring, and ease your face muscles. – Jared Atchison, WPForms

8. Take on Their Perspective

The best way to improve your interactions with others is to learn how to take on others’ perspectives. How do they see the world? What might they need from you? How can you better understand their perspective? Answering these questions will help you improve how you speak to others and how to approach different types of people. – Diego Orjuela, Cables & Sensors

9. Take a Voice Lesson

Voice lessons aren’t just for the aspiring Adeles of the world. Having a few sessions with a vocal coach will help you pinpoint areas to improve upon. For instance, vocal fry, upspeak, or incorrect breathing can all interfere with your messaging — similar to “like” or “um.” Communication is so much more than your choice of words. How you say those words affects the listener’s perception. – Chelsea Rivera, Honest Paws

10. Watch Your Tone

We’ve all encountered someone with a “rough” voice. These folks sound cold and uncaring, even if they are talking about one of their passions. There’s a good chance that some of you are out there reading this now. Make sure you listen to your tone and ask for feedback on how you sound from peers or family. Your tone is just as important as your words and body language. – Syed Balkhi, WPBeginner

11. Practice Outside of Work

Spend some time outside of work surrounding yourself in social scenarios. The best way to get better at speaking with people is to practice, so join a local group doing something where you’re conversing with strangers every week. It will naturally help you develop all your social skills, rather than just focusing on one. – Andrew Saladino, Kitchen Cabinet Kings

12. Don’t Speak in a Rush

You might have a lot of valuable insight, but if others can’t decipher your speedy talking, you won’t be able to express that. Make sure you slow down, take a breath, and speak out each word. If not, you’ll come off like you’re in a rush and have better things to do. It also makes you sound nervous and unsure of yourself, which is bad for any professional setting. – Thomas Griffin, OptinMonster

13. Make Eye Contact

Maintaining eye contact is important when communicating with others. If you can’t make eye contact with the person you’re speaking to or your eyes are constantly darting around the room, it can make you seem self-conscious or uninterested in the conversation, even if you’re not. So, remember to make eye contact when speaking with others. – Stephanie Wells, Formidable Forms

14. Use Their Name in Conversation

How many times do you immediately forget someone’s name after an introduction? Making an effort to remember someone’s name and repeating it back to them occasionally in conversation shows you’re actively listening to them. It’s also a great way to establish rapport and keep attention. As Dale Carnegie said, “A person’s name is to that person the sweetest, most important sound in any language.” – Stephen Beach, Craft Impact Marketing

15. Resist the Urge to Fill Every Silence

We’re taught that uncomfortable silences are to be avoided, but pauses for thought and reflection are a natural part of the rhythm of conversation. If your interlocutor pauses, let them gather their thoughts before you jump in to fill the silence. Don’t be afraid to take a second for yourself, too — a considered response is more valuable than the first thing that comes into your head. – Chris Madden, Matchnode

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