Communication is an integral part of the human experience, given the fact that we are social creatures. We communicate in a million and one ways through speech, body language, music, instruments, art, books, etc. plus, we have thousands if not hundreds of thousands of languages which we speak throughout the world.
Having all this in mind, a clearer picture is painted as to why effective communication skills is like having the master key that can open almost any door of opportunity in life whether in work, dating, relationships, networking, family, etc. For this week’s blog post, we’re going to be looking at how to improve our communication skills. Let’s gooo!
According to Gale McCreary from wikiHow, “Communication is the process of transferring signals/messages between a sender and a receiver through various methods (written words, nonverbal cues, spoken words). It is also the mechanism we use to establish and modify relationships.”
We communicate with each other all over the world in both similar and different ways, the same words and gestures may mean different things in different cultures. So, it is important to be culturally sensitive especially when you’re in a different country.
You don’t even have to look beyond a different language to even get how some words may be used differently in different contexts, take a look at slang. For example, in proper English, “sick” means not being healthy but in slang term, it means something crazy, surprising or cool. In a similar way, “bad” is used to connote something positive. This means that “context” is what gives communication proper legs to stand on and without it, a lot will be lost in translation.
When you’re in another country, body language and hand gestures can go a long way especially when you’re learning their language or you can’t speak at all. For example, if you walk into a store asking for something, you’ll say the name and use your hands to describe it and hopefully, the person understands what you’re looking for.
How to Improve Your Communication Skills
1. Learn Non-Verbal Communication
Our words say a lot but our body language says even a lot more; the world may not have one language but our body language all across the world is very similar. For example, if you’re talking to someone and they keep looking away, it usually means they’re not so vested in what you have to say.
A study showed that non-verbal communication accounted for 55% of how an audience perceived a speaker. Obviously, this shows that your body language accounts more for communication than speech and it can be a dead giveaway for when we’re not feeling confident.
According to Deep Patel from Entrepreneur, to communicate effectively and confidently, you’ll have to adopt proper posture and use hand gestures. Avoid slouching, looking down, folding your arms or making yourself appear smaller than you are. Instead, pump up your chest, slightly lean your shoulders backwards, keep your arms open (think of your favourite hero like Superman, how does he stand?) Fill up the space you are given, maintain eye contact, smile, face your chest to whoever you’re talking to, if possible, move around the space you’re in and if you have to shake anyone, give them a firm handshake.
2. Listen and Listen Well
Richard Branson says “listen more than you talk.” When communicating with others, it’s tempting to talk all through so you can get your point across or even interrupt others as they reply to you. This usually causes the other party to be irritated or even to misunderstand you.
To really communicate effectively, you must listen to others, and not just to reply but listen attentively to understand, don’t listen with only your ears, listen with your eyes too so you can catch non-verbal cues. After all this, you can give a thoughtful answer which displays your understanding of what they said. Furthermore, you should keep this in mind “when you talk you learn nothing new, when you listen, you learn something new.”
3. Take Note of Who You’re Talking To
We can’t talk to everyone in the same way, we don’t talk to our parents same way we talk to our friends or siblings nor do we talk to kids the way we talk to adults. This means we take note of who we’re talking to and adjust according. For example, you can use acronyms and informal language when texting your friend, but if you are emailing a potential employer or your boss, you should use formal language not “wassup” or “what’s good bro” or “ttyl.” You shouldn’t assume that your boss knows what “ttyl” means and even if they do, it has no reason to be in a formal email. It may also be the case that some acronyms have different meanings to different people, I’m pretty sure you’re not trying to be misunderstood.
According to Right Management, 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. For example, when talking to a bunch of kids, you can use simple and informal language but when talking to adults you can expand your vocabulary.
4. Speak Clearly
This is one area I have problems with, it’s not like I can’t be audible but it’s become a bad habit, sometimes I’m just too lazy to talk audibly. Anyway, that aside, when speaking to others, you should speak clearly and don’t mumble. It’s annoying for people to keep asking you to repeat yourself, if that’s the case try to do a better job articulating yourself in a better way.
It is not just about speaking clearly, you should also slow down your speech like you’re approaching a speed bump. People will think you’re nervous and unsure of yourself if you talk fast plus, you’ll get dry lips quickly and nobody wants that. Just because I said you should slow down your speech doesn’t mean you should be as slow as a turtle where people have to speed you up or finish your sentences, you’re not effectively communicating, you’re just being boring!
Another element of effective communication through speech is your tone, don’t be monotone or use the wrong tone when talking about different topics. For example, if you’re talking about various topics such as the best day of your life and the worst, you can’t use the same tone throughout or use a high pitched and happy tone when talking about the worst day of your life especially when someone died and then use a low pitched and sad tone for the best day of your life. When talking about tone, your volume matters as well, you should speak softly when you’re in closed personal spaces and speak loudly when talking to a crowd.
5. Use Humour
Humour is always a way to break the ice when talking to strangers or people you don’t know that well. If you’re on a first date for example, humour can help you secure a second and even more subsequent dates. Laughing is the best medicine and it releases endorphins that can help relieve stress and anxiety. We like to laugh and we are naturally attracted to people who can make us laugh because they make us feel good.
Effective communicators are not afraid to employ humour when talking to others but they pay attention to where they are and who they’re talking to. For example, sexual jokes and innuendos may be great for some first dates but may not be appropriates for others or at a job interview. Humour can be a powerful communication tool as long as you know when and how to use it.
6. Tell Stories
Stories are what humans like a lot, you cannot overestimate the power of stories, whether it’s in movies, books, etc. or just a person to person interaction, stories go a long way to communicate a point effectively to someone else. It is a way to make yourself relatable to others and to find common ground with them. For example, if you go on a date with someone, you usually won’t connect with them properly until you teach each other stories about yourselves, laugh and have fun.
Effective communicators use stories to connect with their audience all the time, it’s not necessarily what you’re saying that matters but how you say it, your delivery, your timing and how long you can keep your audience engaged in what you’re saying. Great examples of these are stand-up comedians such as Trevor Noah who tells us about his life experiences, Kevin Hart who talks about his relationships, Dave Chappelle who talks about politics, celebrities, etc. and Basket Mouth who talks about his experiences as a married man, Nigerian pastors, etc.
It goes without saying that to improve your communication skills and to become an effective communicator, you must practice the above tips and more on a regular basis. Practice makes permanent so get to work! In no time you’ll become very effective at communication and you will see how it improves your life.
QOTD: "Communication - the human connection - is the key to personal and career success." - Paul J. Meyer
WELL, THAT’S IT FROM ME GUYS. NOW…
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My name is Ofai and I'm passionate about blogging and it gives me fulfillment that I can help you out so sit back, relax and enjoy your weekly carats of #SelfImprovementGems with me!