"How to improve my communication skills?" A question we often hear from someone who just embarks their journey in college as well as in their dream career.
Communication skills can be referred to as transferring and receiving information between two or more person, which are commonly referred to as the informer and the recipient. We often communicate through different channels such as meetings, conversations, phone calls, even video games. This skill not only involves our hearing but also our sight and body language. With this skill under your belt, you will be able to maintain effective communication between your friends, boost your confidence level during a presentation and even increase your productivity in day to day life.
To help you understand better on how to improve on your communication skills, we will divide them into 2 stages.
Stage 1: Understanding
Before we begin, you may want to question yourself the following:
Question #1: What is your goal?
A goal such as “How to improve my English” seem to be too broad and general. By setting a specific goal will help to reduce your time and direct your focus in the right place. For instance, instead of “How to improve my English”, we can narrow down to different skills, such as speaking with the right pronunciation, writing in with the correct grammar or challenge yourself to read advance English literature.
Question #2: How much time are you willing to allocate to work on your communication skills?
Take learning a foreign language as an example, one interesting way to learn in a limited period of time is to start with something that you are interested in. For example, John is interested in learning English, but he only has 10 minutes to spare each day. To brush up his ability of listening and writing, John cultivates the habit of writing down song lyrics when he is listening to English songs. This helps him in evaluating his English writing skills. Alternatively, he can approach someone who is good in English, to assess his understanding of the meaning of the song. Throughout these processes, John may learn some new vocabulary and the correct pronunciation of words, all just within the 10 minutes of his free time. Workaround the time frame where it is feasible for yourself and make it enjoyable. By doing so, you will be able to achieve the result with half of the effort.
Question #3: What are the resources you have that can help to improve your communication skills?
Perhaps the budget is not on your side? Fret not, free wifi nowadays is accessible in most places such as restaurants, workplace, or even on public transport. Make use of the wifi provided to improve your skill such as watching tutorials or interview program on YouTube, or listening to communication skills related podcast on iTunes. It is a plus point if you managed to set a budget aside as you may also consider attending professional training or courses that will improve your communication skills more systematically and effectively.
Question #4: Do you have a positive learning environment?
From the quote "You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with" by Mr. Jim Rohn, an entrepreneur, and high profile motivational speaker, stated that the peers around you do play an important role when comes to your personal development. A good learning environment will provide you with the confidence you need when comes to practicing your communication skills. Therefore, you should let your close friends know that you are trying to improve your communication skills. They can act as your pillar of support and encouragement throughout your learning journey. However, you might feel demotivating and demoralize if your peers consistently deny your achievements and joke about it.
Stage 2: Execution
After reviewing the questions, you should have a better picture of your current situation. Now comes to the part on executing it. These are some of the ways or learning platforms that could help you on honing your communication skills better:
- Find a buddy to converse (preferably a native speaker if language is the thing you are working on)
- Find a community or a group of people that share the same intention/ interest as you
- YouTube/ podcast - where there are tons of learning materials in the form of step by step tutorials, interviews, movies, where you can observe and learn
- Writing - in the form of a journal, blog, or even lyrics
Once you have identified the platform you feel comfortable with, you may begin to practice the skill with the tips below:
Tip #1: Empathy And Authenticity
Communication is all about quality. Thus, you will need to consider your audience and the message that you are going to convey in order to get a genuine and quality connection. Additionally, you will need to be accountable for the way you communicate and be consistent in order to build a good rapport with your audience.
Tip #2: Communicate With Respect
An effective way of sharing information is through two-way communication, whereby a sender transmits a piece of information or message to the receiver; when the receiver gets the information or message, they responded back to the sender with an acknowledgement or feedback.
Let us discuss further by using an example we often encounter often in our daily life. While in the midst of communicating with others, John is distracted by his vibrating mobile phone in his pocket. His attention slowly drifts from his peers towards his phone, where he might be projecting himself being bored or disinterested. His peers might also see him as being disrespectful and choose to end this communication with him instead. But if John chooses to ignore his phone, the communication then can continue on; or if he chooses to inform his peers prior to attend to his phone, he is then demonstrating courtesy and respect towards his peers and the communication they are having. An effective communication is all about giving our respect and attention to the audience and be attentive to their feedback or response, hence, the name of two-way communication.
Tip #3: Keep It Short And Simple (K.I.S.S)
There are a few ways to keep your content short and simple, easy to understand by everyone, for instance, reduce redundancies in your communication. No one likes a lengthy lecture that repeats the same thing over and over again, so remember to arrange your content in a simplified way that is acceptable by your audience. Besides that, being decisive on what you plan to communicate is very important too. For example, if John could not make up his mind on what to convey during his presentation whereby he has gotten used to applying fillers such as "um", "you know...?",'well..", between the transition of a content to another in his presentation. He might just leave an impression that he is unprepared and lacking confidence in himself.
Tip #4: Be Mindful On Body Language
When comes to communication, body language plays an important role. Every aspect of our voice, volume, intonation, pitch, even the pace we speak will affect the outcome of our communication. For instance, some speakers will always end a sentence or phrase with a pause. It helps the audience to remember their words and create memory points.
On the other hand, a loud voice may depict anger, panic, or danger; and hushed voice may express weakness, uncertainty or confusion. Beside our voice volume, intonation and pitch; hand gestures, body posture, and eye contact are equally significant. For instance, when a colleague is asking your opinions on a certain issue, instead of maintaining eye contact with your colleagues, you have been looking at the floor, glancing on your mobile phone or your watch, and even tilting your head. These body languages might give negative impressions such as boredom, disinterests, impatience, and may even disrespect your colleague or even provoke some argument between both parties.
Tip #5: Conversation Starters
Sometimes during a conversation, our audience often drop hints on things related to themselves, where we can pick it up and continue from there. For example, John explained that he enjoys exercising, as it helps to keep him healthy. Based on the information that John has given, we can explore a few more things about him. Firstly, where would he usually exercise? Is it the gym or a park? Secondly, how frequently does he exercise? Is it 2 days a week or 5 days a week? Thirdly, how does his exercise routine look like? Does he enjoy weightlifting or endurance running? These are some of the conversation starters that we can continue based on John’s statement. Hence, being observant is an essential skill for a good conversation starter.
"How to improve my communication skills" seems to be a complicated question, but working with a specific goal and appropriate platform, you will be able to become a competent and confident communicator. Thus, start practicing and communicate fearlessly as the only way to get better is by doing it continuously and consistently.