In this new article you’ll learn how to improve your communication skills.
Humans are born communicators.
Even infants find ways to express their needs and desires to their caregivers. They may use cooing to show that they are pleased, crying to show that they are unhappy, and suckling to show that they are hungry.
As we age, we start utilizing body language and words to communicate with ourselves, other people, different cultures, and in our careers.
It is imperative to have good communication skills, especially in this day and age. In fact, it may be the most important skill we possess.
Communication skills are used to transfer information from one person to another and if these skills are lacking, our quality of life may be severely diminished. Our personal relationships and career relationships would die without some level of communication.
Good communication skills are necessary for survival. But GREAT and EFFECTIVE communication skills can give you the edge in life and open up countless opportunities.
The idea of effective communication is to be able to convey your idea to the person you are trying to communicate with as efficiently as possible.
This is especially important in tense situations where you might be arguing or trying to explain something important. Your words need to be clear, easy to understand, and interpreted by whom you are communicating with.
How To Improve Your Communication Skills:
Communication skills are important in every aspect of life: work, school, family, and social gatherings.
You need to be able to effectively communicate with people one on one and in groups, both verbally and non-verbally (writing and body language), and without these skills you won’t be able to function very well.
If you can master great communication skills, you will find yourself being more successful in every aspect of life. If you can communicate well, others will see you as a great leader. You will get that job promotion or raise.
People will start looking to you as a respectful, powerful source of information and advice.
If you can master the art of communication, you will have several new and amazing opportunities come knocking on your door.
Here I will teach you how to communicate powerfully in a variety of settings. You will also learn how to leave a lasting, great impression and conquer the art of getting your point across.
1. One-on-One Communication
Interpersonal communication is ‘face to face’ communication between people.
It’s done when you order that cup of coffee at your favorite coffee shop or talk to your Doctor about a problem you might be having.
Interpersonal communication is done over dinner with your spouse and children or when you talk with your boss about that important project on the horizon.
When someone engages us in conversation, we are taking in a lot of information about them all at once, whether we know it or not.
We combine their body language, appearance, and words, to interpret what they are saying.
Many people worry so much about what to say that they actually miss a huge part of communicating. Communication starts before the words even leave your mouth.
Our personal appearance goes a long way to communicate a message to someone in a face-to-face conversation.
Certain clothing might convey the message that we like specific fashion trends, have certain amounts of money, or want to show off certain parts of our bodies.
If we want to be taken seriously in a professional setting, we would want to make sure our personal appearance models that idea.
If we look dirty or smell bad, it will give the wrong message to someone who we are trying to communicate with, well before we say anything.
Think about it: would you want to go on a date with someone who looked greasy and unclean? Would you take the company’s board members seriously if they met with you in a bathrobe and curlers in their hair? Would you hire an accountant that came to the job interview in a bikini?
You get the point. It’s important to take care of your personal appearance. Wear clean appropriate clothing and maintain good personal hygiene.
Dress for the event in whichever way is most appropriate.
Always be aware that your personal appearance is the first thing people will notice about you and it is crucial to make a great first impression if you want to be a powerful communicator.
I would suggest buying a hygiene bag to leave in your car or purse. Fill it with dental floss, deodorant, tweezers, nail clippers, small scissors, lint roller, hair brush, breath mints, etc.
Basically, fill it with anything that you might need to freshen up while on the go.
I can’t tell you how many times I have used my emergency dental floss after eating broccoli for lunch. The last thing you want to do is meet with your boss with green gunk stuck in your teeth. Gross!
The way you are standing, sitting, or facing can tell a lot about the way you are feeling. Even your facial expressions can communicate certain thoughts to people that are interacting with you.
If your arms or legs are crossed, you may be portraying that you are “closed off” and unreceptive to the person you are communicating with. Likewise, if you are smiling and relaxed, you are displaying that you are open to communication.
Usually, your nonverbal methods of communication reinforce whatever it is you are saying or feeling. You can use this type of communication to reinforce a relationship you have with another person.
You can also use these special cues to gain insight to someone else’s feelings or state of well-being.
If someone appears “closed off,” you may want to wait until they are more relaxed before communicating your thoughts to them.
It’s important to use your body language to help convey the right message, even if you aren’t feeling the emotion you are trying to convey.
For example, if you are in a conversation with someone, try sitting firmly in your chair and lean forward slightly. This will make it appear, with your body language, that you are listening (even if you are really uninterested in what they are saying).
Try nodding when someone else is talking to you to let them know that you are not only listening but that you understand what they are saying.
A good firm (but not painful!) handshake is a great way to portray that you are confident and excited to meet them.
Also, smiling and looking attentive will make people more interested in talking to you because they will feel you are being receptive to them.
Make eye contact and try to avoid those nervous habits you may have developed over the years, like tapping your foot or playing with your hair.
Make sure you give the person you are talking to a reasonable amount of personal space so you don’t crowd them.
Avoid looking at your watch or a clock in the room, as it gives the impression you ‘just want the conversation to be over with’.
Also, hold back that yawn until after your conversation. I have come to find that if you are feeling nervous and fidgety, it is because you are concentrated on yourself way too much.
Simply remind yourself that you look great and try focusing on what the other person is saying instead. Really think about exactly what they are trying to communicate and how they are feeling.
Be a sympathetic and proactive listener!
The Importance of Listening Skills
Because we spend 45% of our conversations listening to others, it’s important to make it count. Listening skills go hand-in-hand with communicating effectively.
How hard can it be? They talk, and you listen, right? Wrong.
There is a huge difference between ‘listening’ and ‘hearing’. Hearing is just absorbing sounds that are made at you.
Listening involves interpreting those words as well as the nonverbal cues that someone is communicating to you.
Good Listening Skills
How can you be a good listener?
Start by removing distractions. Turn off the TV or set your cell phone down to make sure that the person you are talking with knows that you are paying attention to them.
There is nothing more frustrating than someone who is texting while you are trying to talk to them. If your conversation partner looks tense, try putting them at ease before continuing the conversation.
Make sure that they know that you are listening to them and them only. Nod occasionally so that they know that you are understanding the words they are speaking.
Try and empathize with the person you are communicating with.
You don’t have to agree with everything they are saying, but try and make a point to see where they are coming from and make sure they know that you are trying to view the world through ‘their eyes’.
Show patience as well.
Give them time to get everything they want to say out. Sometimes, simply talking about something can help someone figure out what it is they are feeling or trying to say.
Let them finish their own sentences and try not to interrupt.
Let them have time to pause and formulate exactly how they want to say whatever it is they are trying to say.
Good listeners stop talking. When good listeners stop talking, they focus on what the other person is communicating to them.
They take in both the words they say, the tone in which they said it, and the body language of the person they are communicating with.
Bad Listening Habits
We all have bad listening habits. They can be detrimental to effective listening techniques. “Becoming distracted” is the number one ‘bad listening’ habit that most people have.
Whether it be distracted by the person who’s talking (perhaps you find them very attractive or very unattractive), focusing on another conversation or something else nearby, or you simply can’t focus because you have a lot on your own mind.
These can all be major factors in making it difficult to listen to what another person is saying.
You might simply be uninterested in the topic, or be overly tired or hungry. All of these can make it difficult to focus on the words the other communicator is trying to portray.
You might also be frustrated with the topic. Perhaps you have a closed mind about this particular subject or you are being judgmental.
Try to keep an open mind and empathize with whom you are conversing with. Try not to change the subject, daydream, or fiddle with your nails or earrings.
All of these habits can make it very difficult to listen effectively, and in turn, communicate clearly.
Once you say something, you can’t ‘un-say’ it. This is why it’s extremely important to never say anything out of anger or frustration. Criticism is one of those things that everyone has to deal with.
Whether you are giving criticism or taking it, it is important to choose your words carefully.
There are two types of criticism; constructive criticism and deconstructive criticism.
The first is designed to critique but offer helpful suggestions on how to fix a possible issue. Deconstructive criticism is often thoughtless and can even be malice in nature and designed to make someone feel bad about themselves. Both can be hard to accept.
While constructive criticism is easier to accept, it won’t cause anger and aggression like deconstructive criticism can.
When communicating, always try to make your criticism as constructive as possible. Instead of denying someone’s idea, look for ways that it can be improved and offer helpful suggestions.
A leader is someone who doesn’t put others down, but lifts them up. Be helpful, caring, and constructive when it comes to criticism.
Communication isn’t just about what’s being said with your mouth, or even your body or facial expressions. It is also about the context in which the communication is being held.
This includes where the communication is happening and what is happening around the communicators. Location, for example, plays a huge part on the context of communication.
In order for both people to understand what is being conveyed, it’s important to have the conversation at the right time.
For example, choosing to discuss next week’s dinner plans while your wife is in the middle of labor might not prove to be the best timing.
Also, you wouldn’t tell your daughter about a funny movie you watched as you are walking her down the aisle at her wedding.
Timing is imperative to making sure your message is getting across, and picking the right time to have that communication is important.
Likewise, the location of a conversation can go a long way to hindering your communication.
If you are taking someone out on a date, the front row at a heavy metal concert might not be the best place to have a conversation. Pick the places you want to have important conversations.
Make sure they are free of distractions and in a place where you both feel comfortable opening up and talking freely. A coffee shop is usually a perfect place to have great conversation.
In college, I used to use the library group collaboration rooms to have great conversations with students I was working with.
Also, just a side note, if you are breaking up with someone, don’t choose the person’s house or
a location that will make the breakup more difficult – Trust me, I know ;)
Also, if the person you are communicating with looks upset or closed-off, you may want to reschedule your conversation to when they are feeling cheerful and receptive.
How To Communicate Effectively In Groups
Taking everything we have learned from one-on-one conversations is important when you are socializing and communicating in groups.
We participate in groups every day: at work as employees, at church, in public places like the mall or the movie theatre, and even at school. People can be grouped for any number of reasons.
As a group, communication is likely to happen inside the group and outside the group between other groups that may be different than your own.
Inside these groups, you might notice that people embody certain roles that represent certain skills and responsibilities.
It’s common to have a leader in most groups, and this person usually directs the group and makes decisions based on the group’s objectives and needs.
They might be democratic, where they take the input of the group into account. They might be autocratic where they, themselves, have final say on the decisions being made.
Aside from the leader, other group roles usually form out of personalities that are inside the group.
Some examples are:
The Implementer: This is the person who likes to get things done. They take the information the group has talked about and helps put it into action.
The Shaper: This person tends to be more assertive and steers the group into making decisions. They aren’t afraid to make changes and they can sometimes cause friction to more ‘people orientated’ group members.
The Team Worker: This person helps wherever they are needed. They usually help with projects or provide emotional encouragement to keep the group focused and in good spirits.
The Finisher: This person is usually detail oriented, has a hard time delegating tasks, and prefers to work on projects by themselves. They tend to be perfectionists. (This used to be me)
The Coordinator: This person is usually calm, charismatic, and is a positive force on any team. They are usually leaders on the team and have good listening and communication skills.
When groups work together, everyone must be able to effectively communicate their messages to one another, for the good of the group. This is where ‘meetings’ come into place.
Meetings can be effective (1) if there is good communication. Meetings are designed to make decisions, come up with plans and ideas, solve problems, encourage the group as a whole, and create a common purpose for everyone involved.
Meetings are important for groups to make sure everyone is staying on the same page. However, without good communication, meetings can often fall apart and become chaotic.
When working in groups, presentations are very common for communicating your ideas to a group of people. Giving a presentation on a topic can be a little nerve wracking if you have never done it before.
However, by following these simple steps, you are sure to give a good report and effectively communicate your idea to the people you are talking to.
Be calm and stay focused on what you are trying to say.
It can make anyone nervous to get up in front of others and talk, but by staying calm and focusing on what you are trying to communicate, you can make your point without coming across as weak, nervous, or unsure of yourself.
Instead of thinking about how nervous you are, think of the experience as one that will expand your comfort zone. Think of it as something “different” than what you are used to.
Understand that doing different things is good and is crucial for development. Know that by giving that presentation, you will be acquiring more experience.
Be confident. It’s easier to listen and follow someone who seems like they know what they are talking about, even if they don’t. Stand up straight and tall when you are presenting your information so your voice can be clearly heard.
Use hand gestures when talking and keep your hands out of your pockets. Try your best not to sway your body and even pace comfortably around the room.
Make eye contact. People are more likely to be engaged if they feel like you are talking to them instead of ‘at’ them. Making eye contact establishes a relationship, which is more likely to keep your audience interested. Make it a goal of yours to look every one of your audience members in the eyes.
Prepare your information. Keep the presentation as short and concise as possible. No one wants to listen to someone go on and on about nonsense.
Make your presentation clear, easy to understand, and straight t o th e point. After y o u are finished presenting, be prepared to answer any questions people have in the same manner.
Practice. If you know you are doing a presentation for a group, practice it a few times in front of a mirror or in front of friends or family. This will make it easier when you present your information to the group if you’ve done it a couple of times before hand.
I also recommend timing your presentation to make sure it is not too long or too short.
Change your tone. Try to sound interested in what you are saying, and add inflections to keep your voice from sounding monotone and boring. Move around and use facial expressions and hand gestures to keep things fun and entertaining!
Setting Goals & Mastering Communication Skills
We have gone over 3 types of communication, that when mastered, will give you a HUGE advantage over your competition.
By mastering one-on-one communication and improving your listening skills, you will be able to effectively build meaningful relationships (2) in the workplace and in your personal life. You will be able to land large business deals or might even score a hot date.
Working in groups is sometimes necessary, no matter how tedious it might be.
By being able to identify different roles, you will have an advantage over your peers. You will have a birds-eye view of your group and will be able to see how effective it is.
By analyzing your group, you can make adjustments where necessary and become a leader who takes charge and moves the group in the right direction.
Lastly, with the popularity of social media, written communication skills might be the most important skills to have.
Nowadays, peoples’ first impressions of a person are from their writing. It is important that you strive to master this form of communication effectively and efficiently.
When you combine these 3 forms o f communication together, you will be unstoppable and will be able to communicate with anyone.
Like all skills, all it takes is practice, practice, practice.
Set small goals for yourself and go out into the world and achieve them. A goal that I set for myself years ago was to simply talk to a stranger every day. I could not go to bed at night unless I talked to somebody new.
If I didn’t go out that day, then I could simply message somebody on Facebook or interact via social media. This helped me greatly with overcoming nerves and being comfortable with meeting new people.
Try setting a goal like this and you will be surprised at how far it can take you and your communication skills.
Some good goals could be:
- Practice public speaking (Toastmasters is great practice – Google it!)
- Volunteer somewhere that requires you to communicate with new people.
- If you are in school, make it a goal to answer at least one question out loud in class.
- Form your own club or get involved in some extra-curricular activities.
Be creative and test your comfort zone. Being an effective communicator is easier than it sounds, it just takes practice. The more you practice your skills, the more powerful they will be.
I hope this article about how to improve communication skills was able to help you to discover more ways to work on your communication skills, and how to use them to lead people.
The next step is to put it in to practice.
By following these guidelines, you are sure to have meaningful communication with the people around you and be more helpful and comfortable in group settings.