Good communication skills are perhaps the most invaluable skill one can have.
No matter how much you know or how good you are at a specific task, without the ability to express yourself clearly and efficiently, you’ll never progress as far in life as you could have if you had this ability.
Luckily, great communicators are made, not born. The 8 tips below along with some practice will put you on a streamlined path to communication excellence.
(1) Understand Your Message – If you don’t understand what you are trying to say, how can you expect to others to understand? Try summarizing in one or two sentences what is the main idea of what you want to say. I find this works best by writing your intended message down.
(2) Remove Ambiguity – Look for any ambiguous words in your message and replace them with something more certain. There are two types of ambiguity for which to look.
- Definition Ambiguity – In the English language, most words have more than one meaning. For example, saying “I need a couple reports by this afternoon,” could mean a few reports or exactly two reports. In this case, it would be best to replace the word “couple” with an exact number or range of numbers.
- Sentence Ambiguity – Also known as Garden Path Sentences, it is possible for a sentence to have an unclear meaning. An example is “I know a man with a dog who has fleas.” Does this mean the dog has fleas or the man has fleas? Consider revising this sentence to something like “I know a man with a flea-infested dog.” The meaning is much clearer in the latter sentence.
(3) Record Yourself – It is often the case that nothing helps more than switching roles. In this case, try making yourself the listener. Grab a tape recorder or use your computer and give a speech or have a conversation with a friend. Listen analytically and critically to the tape. Try to notice things that you may need to change. You are your own best critic.
(4) Avoid Reaction – Mind the difference between ‘response’ and ‘reaction’. A ‘response’ is a product of your mind. A ‘reaction’ is a product of emotion. While in a conversation, carefully chose your tone of voice, words, and timing before saying anything. THINK about what you are going to say and how you are going to say it before you speak.
(5) Eyes, Eyes, Eyes – As cliché as it sounds, eyes really are a window to the soul. Making consistent eye contact conveys interest and sincerity. If you show a real interest in what you have to say, this interest will surely be returned by your listeners.
(6) Practice – There are tons of daily opportunities to practice your communication skills. These opportunities range from social environments to more professional environments. Talk with the people with whom you ride the elevator and jump on the opportunity to give that presentation for the new project your team is proposing. The only surefire way to get better is practice. However, practicing communication skills requires one thing: courage.
(7) Do Not Be Afraid: Take pride in your voice! It’s there for a reason. Have the courage to say what you think. Never feel that your opinions are not meaningful as they are your opinions. Odds are that in any given group of people, at least one person is thinking the same thing you are and does not have the guts to speak up. The very worst (maybe best?) that could happen is someone will open your eyes to a completely different perspective and you will receive the respect you deserve for voicing your opinion.
(8) Listen! – Keep in mind that communication requires more than one side, more than you. Beware of getting all wrapped up and tangled in what you want to say that you ignore what others are saying to you. Listening well and actively to others’ ideas is just as important as expressing your ideas well and clearly. For a more in-depth guide on how to listen well, this article has 10 Great Tips To Be A Better Listener.
In my personal opinion, the most valuable of these tips is practice. If you practice enough, everything else will fall into place in time. Be mindful of your progress and be confident!
Image by e-strategy.com