10 Ways to Improve Effective Communication Skills
Summary: This essay is about effective communication and how you can improve your communication skills in personal and professional life.
Communication means transfer or exchange of information from one point or place or person to another. Effective communication means, the communication must serve the purpose for which it is intended, without any loss or distortion of the original message. Communication is usually interpersonal and involves two or more ends or two or more people or groups. However, communication may happen between two aspects of the same person. An example is self-talk. This essay does not deal with this type of communication.
In today’s world, communication has become vital. The means and methods of communication have also undergone a revolutionary change with the advances in wireless, internet and radio technologies. We can now communicate with manmade objects in other planets or those traveling beyond the solar system. Effective communication is vital to our personal and professional success and our Wellbeing. It is necessary to express one’s thoughts and ideas, and desires and intentions to seek what one wants, or establish fulfilling relationships. Poor communication can disrupt our lives and relationships. How can you make your communication effective and purposeful? Here are a few important suggestions.
1. Pay attention to listen and to know
Communication is not about yourself, your ideas and opinions, or your accomplishments. Its primary purpose is not to impress others with your knowledge and eloquence, unless it is the explicitly purpose of the communication such as in a job interview. Inmost cases, it is a two-way interactive, interpersonal process in which you have an opportunity to interact with others and exchange information with them for desired ends. Therefore, it involves not only speaking and conveying your thoughts and words but also paying attention to the people in it and knowing about them and their message or intention. When you pay attention, you will not only listen to the words but also understand the nonverbal communication and the psychology and motivation behind them. Further, by paying attention, you can greatly improve the quality of your communication by fine-tuning it according to the situation.
2. Facilitate a two-way communication
As stated before, your communication must offer ample scope to facilitate a two-way communication rather than one-way. It means you cannot entirely dominate the conversation and not let others respond or reciprocate. Even if it is just an email message or an official memo, there must be an opportunity for the recipients to respond and express. An effective communicator is aware of this simple but important principle of communication and strikes a fine balance. He or she facilitates a two-way communication by recognizing and respecting the rights and privileges of the other side. You too can do it with simple approaches such as listening, asking questions, engaging in complementary rather than cross transactions, avoiding judgmental attitude, rephrasing or summarizing the conversation, maintaining eye contact, keeping your emotions under control, etc.
3. Cultivate right mental attitude
Certain behaviors and attitudes are conducive to effective communication. For example, certain qualities are greatly useful to establish rapport with the people and facilitate a two-way communication such as humility, open-mindedness, mindfulness, positive mental attitude, cheerfulness, patience, tolerance, objectivity, thoughtfulness, emotional intelligence, social intelligence, knowledge, discernment, commonsense, etc. They also help one to engage in effective and attentive listening, which is key to good communication. An effective communicator acts according to the situation since he is good at understanding human emotions and psychology. He also remains focused on the process. Usually, he aims to establish rapport and harmony, but if necessary does not mind to speak frankly or express his opinions..
4. Improve knowledge and language skills
In today’s world, communication includes not only interpersonal communication but also communication through various means such as emails, audios, videos, blogs, social networks, messaging, message forums, reporting, public speaking, presentations, meetings, and so on. Written communication requires a different approach compared to oral communication. In both cases, right knowledge and command over the language and choice of words play an important role. Knowledge speaks for itself. When you have knowledge and command over the language, you can communicate effectively in any medium. Since nowadays a majority of people live in communities and organizations that are marked by diversity, we need to be familiar with the cultural and linguistic barriers that are specific to them. Command over the language is certainly useful to convey complex ideas, without ambiguity and confusion.
5. Practice diligently at every opportunity
There is no better way to effective communication than regular and persistent practice, and making use of every opportunity to polish your skills. In today’s world you have many opportunities to do it. For example, you can find certain applications on the Internet which will instantly evaluate the quality of your communication and give you suggestions for improvement. You can find mentors or role models to know how you effective you are in comparison to them. Further, you can learn by observing others and learning from them and by learning from your own mistakes or others’ mistakes. You can experiment with different methods and approaches to know what works in a given situation. Presently, there are many avenues and cost-effective training programs and applications to improve your voice quality, modulation and written communication, which you can use to your advantage.
6. Understand the main components of communication
You must be aware of the key components of any communication, because if you are careless, they can become potential obstacles to effective communication. They may also cause the distortion of the message, resulting in miscommunication and misunderstanding. Therefore, if you want to ensure that your communication reaches the recipients exactly as you intended, you must pay attention to each of them. For example, any formal communication involves the following key components or steps namely the motive, the message, the medium, the transmission, the factors that influence the transmission (such as time, distance, noise, etc.), the reception, the decoding of the message, and the interpretation. When a message passes through these steps, anything can go wrong and the intended purpose of the communication or the message itself may become lost or distorted, resulting in communication gap and other associated problems.
7. Improve your nonverbal skills
In a direct or personal communication between two or more individuals or groups, nonverbal communication plays an important role. In a social setting, people usually wear masks. For one reason or the other, they do not readily reveal their hidden feelings or motives and prefer to play along whereby it becomes difficult to relate to them or address their true concerns. By paying attention to gestures, the time people take to speak or respond, bodily language, facial expressions, eye movements and level of eye contact, dress and appearance, choice of words, etc., one can learn a lot about others and their hidden motives. The nonverbal cues also reveal the honesty and integrity of people and how far their communication is authentic and reliable. By paying attention to them and learning from them, one can make the communication more effective and purpose oriented.
8. Good communication depends upon good preparation
In informal settings when you are communicating with people whom you personally know and trust, you can relax and be yourself. However, when you communicate in a formal setting with people you do not know or with whom you have an official or professional relationship, you cannot make mistakes or take things for granted. You must adequately prepare for the occasion and make sure that your communication reaches the audience exactly as you intended, with little scope for distortion or ambiguity. For that, preparation is important. You must rehearse what you want to say or convey and bring out the best in you to show your knowledge and expertise and accomplish the goals of your communication. Further, you must also know your audience and their expectations. Your communication must meet not only your own expectations but also the recipients’ expectations. Expectations play an important role in communication. Imagine for example you are expecting a reply or a response from a person and you do not receive it in time, or you do not respond to a person in time according to his or her expectations. In both cases, it may lead to negativity.
9. Use the right strategies
Effective communication means you use right strategies to communicate with others, according to the purpose and the recipient involved. You cannot use the same strategy for everyone, since people widely differ in their thinking, knowledge and behavior, and your relationship with them also varies accordingly. For example, you can be formal with people you know and trust, but you have to be careful when you are communicating with strangers, superiors or competitors. People differ in their abilities and behavior. Some are auditory. They rely more upon words and their meaning in the communication. Some are visual. They rely more upon images to make sense of things, and some are kinetic, who go by feelings and emotions. You have to be aware of these subtle differences in your perception and thinking, and accordingly fine-tune your communication. Similarly, the communication strategy may change according to the medium of communication. For example, you cannot use the same strategy for writing a letter and for communicating through a video or audio.
10. Know the barriers to communication
There are many barriers to communication, which can seriously impair, distort or dilute the message or its intent and purpose. Not all barriers can effectively be removed since they may not entirely be under the control of the communicator. Important barriers to communication are physical barriers such as the distance between the two sides, system barriers related to the organization or the process, attitudinal barriers related to the people involved, linguistic barriers related to the manner in which the message is composed, cultural barriers related to the background of the people, gender barriers related to the natural and psychological differences between men and women, and so on. For effective communication, one must pay attention to them to know what can go wrong and try to overcome them to the extent possible.
In conclusion, we may say that effective communication depends upon right strategy, hard work, commonsense, prior preparation, and a good understanding of the communication process and human psychology. Communication is a two-way process. It is not only about you but also the recipient of it. As the initiator of the communication, you are important, but for your communication to serve its intended purpose, the others for whom it is meant also become important. By knowing the intricacies of effective communication, the steps involved in it and the barriers that work against it, and by fine-tuning your communication according to the method and medium, you can greatly improve your communication skills.
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