Being able to communicate effectively is perhaps the most important of all life skills. It is what enables us to pass information to other people, and to understand what is said to us. You only have to watch a baby listening intently to its mother and trying to repeat the sounds that she makes to understand how fundamental is the urge to communicate.
Communication, at its simplest, is the act of transferring information from one place to another. It may be vocally , written , visually or non-verbally (using body language, gestures and the tone and pitch of voice). In practice, it is often a combination of several of these.
Communication is a two-way process
Communication is not the same as broadcasting, or simply sending out information.
It is a two-way process. In other words , it involves both the sending and receiving of information.
It therefore requires both speaking and listening, but also—and perhaps more crucially—developing a shared understanding of the information being transmitted and received.
- If you are the ‘sender’ of information, this means communicating it clearly to start with (whether in writing or face-to-face), then asking questions to check your listeners’ understanding. You must also then listen to their replies, and if necessary, clarify further.
- If you are the recipient, it means listening carefully to the information, then checking that you have understood by reflecting back, or asking questions to ensure that you both have the same understanding of the situation.
It is, therefore an active process. There is nothing passive about communication, in either direction.
Developing Communication Skills
It is a longterm process, you will have to keep yourselves updated.Good communication skills can improve the way that you operate through life, smoothing your way in your relationships with others.
Poor communication skills, on the other hand, can sour relationships from business to personal, and make your life significantly harder.
Some people seem to understand how to communicate without even trying. They are able to tailor their language, tone and message to their audience, and get their point across quickly and succinctly, in a way that is heard. They are also able to pick up the messages sent to them rapidly, understanding both what is said, and what has not been said.
This may seem effortless, but the chances are that they have spent plenty of time honing their skills.
Along the way, they have probably also developed a good understanding of themselves and habits of reflecting on success and failure, and the actions that have led to one or the other.
Ways to Enhance Communication Skills
1. Listen, listen, and listen. People want to know that they are being heard. Really listen to what the other person is saying, instead of formulating your response. Ask for clarification to avoid misunderstandings. At that moment, the person speaking to you should be the most important person in your life. Another important point is to have one conversation at a time. This means that if you are speaking to someone on the phone, do not respond to an email, or send a text at the same time. The other person will know that she doesn’t have your undivided attention.
2. Who you are talking to matters. It is okay to use acronyms and informal language when you are communicating with a buddy, but if you are emailing or texting your boss, “Hey,” “TTYL” or any informal language, has no place in your message. You cannot assume that the other person knows what the acronym means. Some acronyms have different meanings to different people, do you want to be misunderstood? Effective communicators target their message based on who they are speaking to, so try to keep the other person in mind, when you are trying to get your message across.
3. Body language matters. This is important for face-to-face meetings and video conferencing. Make sure that you appear accessible, so have open body language. This means that you should not cross your arms. And keep eye contact so that the other person knows that you are paying attention.
4. Check your message before you hit send. Spell and grammar checkers are lifesavers, but they are not foolproof. Double check what you have written, to make sure that your words are communicating the intended message.
5. Be brief, yet specific. For written and verbal communication, practice being brief yet specific enough, that you provide enough information for the other person to understand what you are trying to say. And if you are responding to an email, make sure that you read the entire email before crafting your response. With enough practice, you will learn not to ramble, or give way too much information.
6. Write things down. Take notes while you are talking to another person or when you are in a meeting, and do not rely on your memory. Send a follow-up email to make sure that you understand what was being said during the conversation.
7. Sometimes it’s better to pick up the phone. If you find that you have a lot to say, instead of sending an email, call the person instead. Email is great, but sometimes it is easier to communicate what you have to say verbally.
8. Think before you speak. Always pause before you speak, not saying the first thing that comes to mind. Take a moment and pay close attention to what you say and how you say it. This one habit will allow you to avoid embarrassments.
9. Treat everyone equally. Do not talk down to anyone, treating everyone with respect. Treat others as your equal.
10. Maintain a positive attitude and smile. Even when you are speaking on the phone, smile because your positive attitude will shine through and the other person will know it. When you smile often and exude a positive attitude, people will respond positively to you.