How to improve communication skills

Good communication skills are extremely important in today’s age. Whether you are a working professional looking for further opportunities or are a fresher searching for a job, good communication is fundamental for achieving any of your goals. Furthermore, good communication is required to maintain healthy personal relationships.

In this blog, we have discussed the key factors that can help you improve your communication skills and present yourself as a more confident individual.

A. Basic communication skills

Let’s have a look at some basic communication skills that are required in daily life, and how one can improve these.

1. Observe

The key to effective communication lies in good observation skills. Look at the person you are talking to and observe his/her tone and body language. This will give you a better understanding as in how to start a communication and lead it through.

2. Listen

Practice active listening. This means not just hearing the words of the other person, but also understanding what he or she is trying to convey. Try to listen to the conversation attentively and open-mindedly. Even if there is something you need to say, let the speaker finish before putting your thoughts across. Furthermore, do not forget to maintain polite eye contact during your conversations.

3. Understand the non-verbal cues

Non-verbal communication is communicating through everything but words. This includes facial expressions, body language, the tone of voice and gestures. The subtle ways in which a person behaves can guide you to communicate effectively by mirroring his or her behavior. For example, if the other person is nodding his head, this could mean he/she is actively listening to the conversation. However, a shrug or lack of eye contact may imply a lack of interest.

4. Think before you speak

Before starting a conversation, take a moment to think. Use the pause to articulate your thoughts. Consider a few things like:

  • Do I have something meaningful to say?
  • Whatever I am saying, is it appropriate for the listener?
  • How can I convey the message clearly and in a crisp manner?

Once you have answers to these questions, make sure that you put them across confidently.

5. Speak clearly

Be brief and specific during your conversations. The idea is to convey the essence of your thoughts without giving away too much information or unnecessary information. Do not rush to finish the sentence. Rather, speak slowly and use an occasional pause to make your speech more effective. Also, ensure that you maintain a pleasant tone when speaking.

6. Have the right attitude

Your attitude determines how people perceive you. Good communicators have a positive attitude and an open mind. This helps them think about a subject from the other person’s perspective and reply accordingly. Speak in a calm and cooperative manner that shows your respect for the listener.

7. Watch your body language

A subset of non-verbal communication, body languageincludes postures, facial expressions, and hand gestures. Avoid using closed postures such as slouching and crossing your hands during conversations. Try to appear calm and maintain eye contact with the other person. The same gesture can have different meaning depending upon the setting – formal or informal. Hence, adapt your body language accordingly.

8. Avoid distractions

Distractions serve as a barrier to effective communication. It may occur due to external factors such as cell phone or TV. Alternatively, it can be an internal distraction, taking place due to inner conflicts and unwanted thoughts. To converse effectively, it is better to concentrate on one task at a time.

9. Network

The more you interact with new people, the more you learn about different ways of communicating with others. So, go and get yourself out there. Actively participate in social events that will help you meet like-minded people. For example, you can explore platforms like Meetup, Eventbrite, and GroupSpaces. It is an excellent way to increase your connections and meet new people.

10. Read

The more you read, the more knowledge you gain and the better you become at understanding different topics. Reading also helps in expanding your vocabulary and exposing you to the various sentence structures. A good reader knows how to engage people in conversations and always has something valuable to add to it. You can read books or web content on various different topics of your interest.

11. Practice

Practice communication on a daily basis. Try to converse regularly with at least five different people. They can be your colleagues, friends, or even strangers that you meet during commutation. Replay those conversations in mind, and see what you could have said differently to make the communication more effective. If you have a fear of speaking in public, stand in front of a mirror and rehearse. This will help you build confidence and refine your communication skills.

B. Communication skills at workplace

Good professional communication or workplace communication is an extremely important factor for career growth. Let us look at some ways to improve your workplace communication.

1. Use key points to make an impact

Whether you are giving a presentation or speaking at a conference, make sure that you have already memorized the key aspects of the subject. Reiterate those key points at the beginning and the end of the presentation. This is to ensure that your audience has understood the essence of the topic clearly.

2. Communicate effectively by reiterating

It is very common for most listeners to get distracted in the middle of a conversation. That’s why never hesitate to repeat yourself in front of your employees. Make sure that they have understood your message properly. You can use other channels as well, such as written memos, formal emails, and texting for follow-ups.

3. Be firm, not aggressive

A calm and collective tone of a person speaks of his confidence and reliability in the workplace. Hence, it is better to be firm in your speech when communicating with others. Just make sure not to overdo it. Aggressiveness from your side will create a negative impression on the listener and may even affect your reputation.

4. Write things down

When you are handling several things at once, taking notes of your tasks can prove to be extremely helpful. This can help you keep yourself organized and simplify your routine. Take notes during your office meetings, presentations, and brainstorming sessions. If needed, use followup emails to reconfirm that you have understood what was discussed during these meetings.

5. Be confident

Make sure that you appear confident in your workplace, even when you don’t feel it. There are multiple ways to do it. Speak slowly and evenly during your conversations. Avoid rambling and keep your words as concise as possible. Maintain a calm and relaxed posture. Remember, confidence is an attribute that can be cultivated through practice. So, keep practicing!

6. Use new approaches

Instead of relying only on visuals, try using other means as well. For example, in place of powerpoint presentations, use storytelling to convey your message to the audience. Incorporate various tones and gestures to accentuate your point and create a clear picture in the listener’s mind.

7. Ask relevant questions

Workplace communication becomes very easy when you know how the pose the right questions. However, it can be a tricky task. Thus, asses a few things before you ask a question: Is your question relevant to the topic? Are you phrasing the question properly? Is it okay to ask the question in a meeting or is it better to ask it in person? etc. Also, know when not to ask a question.

8. Record important videos/presentations

At work, there are times when you have to give the same presentation again and again – in front of different clients. It proves to be not only time-consuming but also renders the communication process ineffective. Hence, a good course of action is to record it and share it. There are platforms like Zoom and Wistia where you can record your work-related videos and presentations in a quick and efficient way.

9. Proof-read

Whether it is a simple email or an important fax, always double-check before hitting the send button. Look for any major or minor errors, such as spelling mistakes, wrong address or name, or incorrect details. Also, download grammar and punctuation checker tools like Grammarly, Ginger Online, and GrammarCheck in your computer to leave any potential silly mistakes at bay.

10. Ask for feedback

It is a good idea to ask for feedback from your peers and managers after every meeting or presentation. Honest feedback on your performance can help you realize your shortcomings and work upon them. If you regularly solicit feedback, it will show your employer that you are enthusiastic about learning and will help you create a good impression.

C. Communication skills in personal life

Personal life communication includes communication with family, friends, relatives, etc. It is very important to have healthy personal communication skills. Let’s see some ways to improve personal communication skills.

1. Treat everyone equally

No matter who you are talking to, be respectful and polite in your conversations. Get in the habit of saying ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ whenever needed. Show interest in what is being said. Your occasional nods and little affirmations will not only encourage the other person but will also help you communicate better.

2. Practice being present

When you zone out in the middle of a conversation, you make the other person believe that you are not interested in talking to them. This is not only disrespectful for the other person but also becomes a barrier in effective communication. Practice being present during your conversations.

3. Assume the best intention

Even if someone doesn’t speak amicably to you, try to assume the best intention behind his or her action. This technique helps a lot in improving personal communication. Take your time to analyze the situation and then choose a course of action accordingly. If needed, talk to the person directly to clear out any misunderstanding he or she might have.

4. End the conversation properly

Give your conversations a proper end. Make sure that the other person has understood what you have been trying to convey. If you are communicating with a large group, summarize the entire conversation and highlight the key points before ending the talk.

D. Communication skills in public

Public communication is quite an important requirement in today’s age. Here are some of the ways for you to improve your public communication skills.

1. Communicate through stories

When speaking in public, try conveying your message like a story. The audience is usually more receptive to narratives than straightforward instructions. Make your conversations engaging by using emotion inducing plots, but also ensure to keep it real and relevant to your audience.

2. Know your audience

When you know your audience well, you instinctively understand what to say to hold their interest for long. This lets you devise a better speech with to-the-point topics and clear direction. Get an idea of your audience’s preferences. Don’t hesitate to ask questions regarding their concerns. By understanding your listeners’ expectations, you can communicate more efficiently in public.

3. Build rapport

The best way to build a positive rapport with your audience is to have an honest conversation with them. Keep a smile on your face, use words like ‘I’ and ‘we’, and make eye contact while speaking. It is when you show them that you have their best interest at heart, that your audience actively starts responding to you.

4. Master the art of timing

When it comes to speaking in public, timing matters a lot. Most public speakers, comedians, and journalists plan their speech or act in a way that can relay the necessary information without stretching the time slot. This includes putting the most important information first, keeping the points succinct, and improvising the script as per the audience reaction. Feel free to skip on a subject if you feel like the audience would not like it.

5. Try extemporaneous speech

To improve your communication skills, avoid memorizing the entire speech. Instead, simply write down the main topics that you intend to discuss and expand on it during the conversation. This way, you can easily cover all the necessary points while having the flexibility to make communication more interactive.

6. Use visual aids

Visual aids such as pictures, infographics, sketches, slides, and videos help the audience understand a matter with clarity. This method can be tremendously helpful during public conversations, where you have to address a large group of people.

Effective communication is a two-way process and requires a lot of practice to develop. Follow the tips mentioned above and you will be able to nail your next presentation, meeting, or public debate perfectly!

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