4 Effective Ways to Strengthen your Communication Skills
Communication is a vital part of both our society and our lives. It aids in the process of sharing information, as well as in developing relationships with others. In the workplace, people use it to encourage others, share ideas, connect with each other, inform others, and more. Without strong communication skills there can very easily be misunderstandings. It is also a major factor in business, as good and effective communication is vital to a business’ success.
1. Understand the meaning of ‘communication skills’.
Communication skills are developed all throughout our lives. As babies, we start out with very basic skills such as gurgling, laughing, or screaming. These noises are generally used to indicate that we want attention, food, or changing. As we get towards the ‘terrible twos’, we start to develop basic speech which, again, heavily revolves around getting attention and food. Once we reach preteen age, we can hold general conversations and in school we are beginning to be taught the basics of working with others and communicating in the correct way. Interestingly, as we become teenagers we tend to communicate a lot less. However, we are still encouraged in school to work in groups and with others at school.
As we become adults, we look at ways to manage both interaction and communication with what we do. As we reach adulthood, we invariably fall into one of three categories: an extrovert- someone who is socially outgoing and confident, an introvert- someone who is more shy and reserved, or somewhere in between the two.
When communicating, we also need to consider the disabilities of anyone around us. Some people with disabilities have made amazing strides in communication technology, such as Stephen Hawking and his machine that helped him talk regardless of his ALS.
2. Formal communication.
To write a formal letter, you must follow a specific layout. First, you need to have either your address or the address of the company you are representing on the top right hand corner of the page. Immediately under that, you put the date that you are writing the document on. On the top left hand corner of the page, you need to put the name and address of the person or persons you are writing to.
You should always begin the document with ‘Dear Mr/Mrs/Ms/Miss/Dr [Name]’. When you are ending the letter or document, you can sign it one of two ways. If you have used the name of the person(s) at the start of the letter, then you use “Yours Sincerely,”. If you have used ‘Dear Sir/Madam’, then you end the letter with ‘Yours Faithfully’.
There are five steps used in the process of creating a formally written document.
In the planning stage, you think about who you are writing to, what you are writing about, and what the outcome or goal of the document is.
In the drafting stage, you write a rough layout of your document. Although it doesn’t have to be perfect, it does have to be focused on what you are writing about. You need to put your clear ideas on paper, and then decide what order they are going to be presented in.
In the revising stage, you check your draft and rearrange it if needed. You can also decide whether or not you need to add or remove details to aid in the flow of the document.
In the editing stage, it is best to check the tone of the letter against who you are writing it to. You need to ensure there are no grammatical or spelling errors, and once you have made any final checks and changes it is best to get the letter proofread by another.
Publishing: this is the most simple step- hit send! The hard work is done, and now your completed document is ready to go.
3. Verbal communication.
Verbal communication is a type of oral communication where the message is conveyed through spoken words. This can be done either face to face, over the phone, or through online meetings. Verbal communication is really important as it allows the speaker to give words to their feelings, thoughts, ideas, and opinions. This then allows them to express these words through speeches, discussions, presentations and conversations.
When communicating verbally, you need to ensure you speak in a clear and concise manner. This should be done face to face, so as to gauge the person’s reaction and modify your speech accordingly.
It also helps to use good grammar, such as avoiding jargon and bad language. It is a good idea to check if the person understands or, if necessary, repeat what you said for those with hearing impairments. Ensure that you regulate your tone, pitch, pace, and volume and ensure that you actively listen to what is being said.
You should also consider the environment that you are having the conversation in, such as how loud the area is. You should also adjust for language barriers, ensuring that you speak slowly and clearly so they can understand. The same goes for those with hearing impairments, as mentioned before.
Telephone conversations are a little bit of a barrier, as you cannot see the person you are speaking to. You have to rely on tone and pitch to get your ideas across, as well as read how the person on the other end of the phone is doing.
4. Effective listening.
Effective listening is a major part of communication. There are a few steps that make up effective listening, beginning with facing the speaker and keeping eye contact. You must be attentive but relaxed, and present in the conversation by attempting to listen to what is being said. It is best to pay attention, and block out any distractions around you. You should be open-minded, as it is best to not judge or mentally criticise someone. When you are listening, a good tip is to either create mental pictures of what is being said or, if the conversation is quite long, focus on key words and phrases.
It is very important that you don’t interrupt the person speaking. You need to let them finish everything they have to say. Another thing to note, if there’s a problem with what is being said you should refrain from interrupting to offer solutions unless you are asked. If you need to clarify something then wait until the person talking takes a pause, and say something along the lines of ‘I didn’t understand what you said about [topic]’.
Ensuring your understanding of the situation is also very important. If you are listening to someone effectively, you only want to ask questions which ensure your understanding has been reached. If the conversation diverges away for any reason, politely ask for more information on the topic at hand.
You need to feel the other person’s feelings. You should, if necessary, show empathy through facial expressions and tone if you are given the opportunity to speak. This takes experience to do so, however, as you don’t want to come off as fake but you do want to come off as sincere.
It is a good idea to give appropriate feedback. This is done as the conversation progresses, through either verbal feedback such as ‘really well done’ or ‘excellent job’, or non-verbal feedback such as nodding your ahead or attentive noises like ‘mhm’. This shows that you are keen to listen, and keeps you involved in the conversation. You should also try to reiterate tasks or instructions given during the conversation.
Finally, you should ‘pay attention’. This doesn’t necessarily mean just listening to what the person is saying, as it also means you should look out for non-verbal signs such as crossed arms or an avoidance of eye contact. These are clues that the conversation has strayed away and that you’ve lost the person you are speaking to.
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