As you make your New Year's resolutions, consider the wisdom of business magnate Warren Buffett to inform your decisions.

In a recent video, Buffett told a young entrepreneur that the way to become worth 50 percent more this year than you were last year is to naturally invest in yourself. More specifically, hone your communication skills, both written and verbal.

The Oracle of Omaha said:

If you can't communicate, it's like winking at a girl in the dark--nothing happens. You can have all the brainpower in the world, but you have to be able to transmit it. And the transmission is communication.

6 ways to master your communication skills

Buffett admits that he was once terrified of one form of communication any person in a leadership role will have to master -- public speaking. That all changed after he took a public speaking course at Dale Carnegie, which, he said, changed his life. 

While Buffett is dead on, there are many other forms of communication that one cannot simply reduce down to simply talking or writing. Truthfully, business and work cannot exist without mastering the science and art of interpersonal communication.

Here are six ways to do it.

1. Slow down your speaking rate.

Donna Van Natten, affectionately know as the "Body Language Dr.," wrote an insightful book called Image Scrimmage, in which she states the "optimal rate" we process information is between 170 and 190 words per minute. If you speak more than 190 words per minute about complex work stuff, you can bet the person across from you is headed for deer-in-the-headlights. Worse, Van Natten says, if you use more than 210 words per minute, expect the listener to abandon the conversation. 

2. Be aware of your voice pitch.

Van Natten states that there's a definite connection between our tone of voice and how we engage with others who evoke emotion from us. "Without thinking," she says, "your tone may give way to your true feelings if left unchecked. It impacts both our communication and perceptions by others." She says, "We'd be wise to gather our emotions and check how our inner feelings emerge through our voice, even though no words are uttered."

3. Maintain eye contact. 

Having good eye contact is important in conversation because it reflects our sincerity, integrity and comfort when communicating. It also sends the message that the communication exchange is going well. Typically, we maintain eye contact 30 to 60 percent of the time (to avoid the creepiness factor). More than that is welcome, as it signifies that you're interested in what the other person has to say, but know what is socially appropriate.

4. Smile with your eyes.

Smiling with your eyes is warm, genuine (not fake) and communicates two things: You're a safe person, and others can be open with you. You'll also benefit from it. Research at the University of Wisconsin in the 1990s found a unique link between positive emotion and the "Duchenne smile," where you smile with your eyes and mouth. Try practicing it: Stand in front of a mirror and activate both corners of your mouth and your eye sockets. 

5. Match your body language with your message. 

Just like making good eye contact and smiling with your eyes, if you're excited and happy about an announcement or good news, sound and act excited and happy. Also, pay attention to your posture. Bad posture could hurt you as it may send the wrong message about a lack of confidence or a closed-off personality. For example, slumping conveys disinterest, rocking or leaning back says you're bored. Instead, lean forward when listening to someone, which indicates an active interest in what's being said.

6. Mirror the other person.

We've been there before -- the conversation is hitting on all cylinders and both parties are totally engaged. When the magic happens, it's common to see both sides subtly imitating each other's posture, stance, gestures, or facial expression. That's because mirroring nonverbal behaviors creates the sense that you're on the same page, which conveys feelings of trust.

Published on: Jan 8, 2019
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