The ability to speak persuasively and eloquently is an incredibly useful skill which relies on both natural talent and extensive practice. It is almost impossible to give a description of what makes a good speaker: some people are naturally funny; others always come across as being sincere whilst others are very logical. All these (and many other) styles work! There are, however, some guidelines (given in this part of the manual) which can help you to develop a successful speaking style.
Communication is probably the one skill which made us distinct amongst the animals. Along with our ability to think, it has brought progress in the world.
Since we are born with superb inbuilt tools for communication, we often think we are born with good communication skills too. But unless you consciously exercise your communication skills, just like exercising your brain, it will not be powerful or effective. Even if you learn every rule still the only way to develop speaking skills is to participate. The formal rules and structure are only a portion of what constitutes proper conversing – the rest is wit, enthusiasm and that certain spark that allows you to say to that irritating member of the opposition who is interrupting you, mid-sentence, with a fourth point of information: «Your chair must be very uncomfortable Sir, but please sit down – I have something important to say.....»
It is true that since childhood you have been given verbal and non-verbal inexplicit instructions on how to behave and talk to people. In spite of this, how many of us interrupt while others speak? On the other hand, how many of us can confidently say we are good in handling interruption?
We have been taught to speak to people rather than speak with them.
It was discovered that not only are these the default values passed on from one generation to another; there was no proof that these were the best methods to use. Most of them can’t even be called good communication skills. For example, while we are talking to others, seldom do we stop and ask ourselves what is it that I am trying to communicate? There is no definite goal for most of our conversations. From the childhood, we are taught that those who can talk faster are usually sharper than others.
There are a lot of programs which promise instant success in public speaking. If you come across any one of them, run away as fast as you can. Public speaking or good communication, in general requires practice and guidance.
Successful public speaking (good communication skills, in general) consists of three parts:
- Good content – the know-how about the subject.
- Confidence – enough courage to stand and speak.
- Connection – ability to convey the message.
The untold rule of communication is to use as less words as possible and still communicate as much as required.
Good communication skills are extremely important to have through your entire life span, and in every possible situation you can think of. If you consider yourself to be shy in nature get over it.
People are shy for many reasons, they may have a withdrawn personality, be insecure, feel like they aren't good at socializing, have a hard time expressing themselves, and so on.
People who are shy, usually do not like the fact that people point out that they are shy, quiet, or both, and chalk it up to «That’s just the way I am.»
However, the sad reality is that if you don’t open up, voice your opinions, and learn to be more outgoing, your communication skills will suffer. If your communication skills are poor you will experience a great deal of trouble in your personal, working, and general relationships. You may have even noticed that being shy causes you aggravation in your day to day life.
Some people experience bouts of shyness, for instance, someone who might normally be outgoing, may be afraid of public speaking, or talking to their boss, or talking to a member of the opposite sex.
Bad communication (be it written, oral, or body language) can send the wrong message in more ways than one. Most people would rather be around those who are easy to communicate with, and are open, than those who need «special treatment» like shy people.
Good communication skills are skills that facilitate people to communicate effectively with one another. Effectual communication engages the choice of the best communications channel, the technical know-how to use the channel, the presentation of information to the target audience, and the skill to understand responses received from others. Self development, interpersonal skills, mutual understanding, mutual cooperation and trust are also important to set a complete channel of most effective and winning communication skills.
There are mainly three types of communication skills :
expressive skills, listening skills and skills for managing the overall process of communication. The basic fundamental of all these types of communication is emotional skills.
Expressive skills are required to convey message to others through words, facial expressions and body language. Listening skills are skills that are used to obtain messages or information from others. These help to clearly understand what a person feels and thinks about you or understand the other person closely. Skills for managing the overall process of communication help to recognize the required information and develop a strong hold on the existing rules of communication and interaction.
Importance of communication skills can never be ignored or neglected. These skills are the key to executing good management skills. With good management skills, you can have a team of members who together create an ambience of open communication, concise messages, probe for clarifications, recognize nonverbal signals, and mutual understanding.
The modern world today calls for high scale effective communication skills in order to win the heavy competition in all spheres of life. For effective communication a sender transmits his or her message in a clear and organized form to maintain and promote the need and interest of the receivers. Receivers or listeners show interest only if the person communicating is loaded with confidence, gestures and softness. Apart from management professionals, good communication skills are also required at all stages of life.
Effective communication skills and self development are a quality and ability to communicate well with people around you and add spice to your life. By adding spice we mean that your own communication skills will attract people towards you. Your friends, relatives, customers, clients or colleagues will show interest in you and you’ll feel zing in your life.
Most aspects of good communication may be illustrated by the given diagram:
Fig. 4. Diagram of good communication
Tips that will improve your communication skills
In a conversation, really listen . People often think they’re listening, but are really thinking about what they’re going to say next when the other person stops talking. Truly effective communication goes both ways. While it might be difficult, try really to listen to what your partner is saying. Don’t interrupt. Don’t get defensive. Just hear them and reflect back what they’re saying so they know you’ve heard. Then you’ll understand them better and they’ll be more willing to listen to you. You can show you are really listening by smiling, tilting your head to the side, nodding, inserting signs/words of agreement and so on. If you want people to hear you, you need to hear them. Be interested in other people – show that you are by asking questions (but don’t be insincere or hypocritical). Do not mundane comments about the weather. Say something interesting like: «How’s the back yard?» Be tactful. Don’t say, «has grannie 'popped off' yet?»
Try to see their point of view. In a conflict, most of us primarily want to feel heard and understood. We talk a lot about our point of view to get the other person to see things our way. Ironically, if we all do this all the time, there’s little focus on the other person’s point of view, and nobody feels understood. Try to really see the other side, and then you can better explain yours. (If you don’t «get it», ask more questions until you do.) Others will more likely be willing to listen if they feel heard.
Try to put yourself in the other person’s shoes. Respect people (for what they are).
Recognise that right and wrong are never black and white . There are always three sides to any story: your side, the other person’s...and the TRUTH.
Try to expand and develop your voice with softness . Avoid a
monotone and use high pitch and soft sound to communicate. Don’t mumble while speaking, pronounce each word clearly. People will judge your capabilities through your vocabulary.
Use the words you know . Don’t use any word, if you are not sure of the meaning. Improve your English speaking skills.
Have good body language . Stand up straight, it will show confidence. Smile, you will seem approachable. Don’t cross your arms over your chest, this tells people you disapprove. Keep your hands to your side, or if you are sitting, keep them on your lap. Make sure that your words, body gestures, facial expression, message and tone all match with one another. None of these should be different. For example, if you say you are concern, show that in your body gestures and facial expressions along with a sift tone.
When having a serious conversation with your boss, or a higher up, always turn a negative into a positive ... for instance, if your boss says, I heard that they work pretty slowly, you should say something like «That’s true, they didn’t meet the original deadline, but the final product was of really high quality.» I know it’s easy to vent, and skip adding a positive in, but employers want you to be a «yes» person, not a complainer. Tell the good news (without being a «Bible-basher», please). Be positive and other people will enjoy your company. Keep your sense of humour. Tell people what you like about them without embarrassing them.
Respond to criticism with empathy. When someone comes at you with criticism, it’s easy to feel that they’re wrong, and get defensive. While criticism is hard to hear, and often exaggerated or coloured by the other person’s emotions, it’s important to listen for the other person’s pain and respond with empathy for their feelings. Also, look for what’s true in what they’re saying, that can be valuable information for you.
Own what’s yours. Realize that personal responsibility is strength, not weakness. Effective communication involves admitting when you’re wrong. If you both share some responsibility in a conflict (which is usually the case), look for and admit to what’s yours. It diffuses the situation, sets a good example, and shows maturity. It also often inspires the other person to respond in kind, leading you both closer to mutual understanding and a solution.
Use «I» messages. Rather than saying things like, « You really messed up here,» begin statements with «I», and make them about yourself and your feelings, like, «I feel frustrated when this happens.» It’s less accusatory, sparks less defensiveness, and helps the other person understand your point of view rather than feel attacked.
Take a time-out. Sometimes tempers get heated and it’s just too difficult to continue a discussion without it becoming an argument or a fight. If you feel yourself or your partner starting to get too angry to be constructive or showing some destructive communication patterns, its okay to take a break from the discussion until you both cool off. Sometimes good communication means knowing when to take a break.
Don’t give up. While taking a break from the discussion is sometimes a good idea, always come back to it. If you both approach the situation with a constructive attitude, mutual respect, and a willingness to see the other’s point of view or at least find a solution, you can make progress toward the goal of a resolution to the conflict. Unless it’s time to give up on the relationship, don’t give up on communication.
Ask for help if you need it. If one or both of you may have trouble staying respectful during conflict, or if you’ve tried resolving conflict with your partner on your own and the situation just doesn’t seem to be improving, you might benefit from a few sessions with a therapist. Couples counselling or family therapy can provide help with altercations and teach skills to resolve future conflict. If your partner doesn’t want to go, you can still often benefit from going alone.
Look for compromise. Instead of trying to ‘win’ the argument, look for solutions that meet everybody’s needs. Either through compromise or a new solution that gives you both what you want most, this focus is much more effective than one person getting what they want at the other’s expense. Healthy communication involves finding a resolution that both sides can be happy with.
Have confidence when you speak. If you are shy and quiet, project your voice. Always look the person in the eye when you are speaking to them. If you avert your gaze, you will look nervous and not trustworthy. Never turn your head away from someone when you are speaking to them, it may show them you don’t care enough to give them your full attention, and it will make it harder for the other person to hear what you are saying. Don’t mumble and enunciate your words. Even if you feel intimidated, make sure you project your voice enough so that you are being clear. If someone has to keep asking «I’m sorry, I can’t hear you, what did you say?» they will get irritated with you and the conversation. If you aren’t sure how you sound to people when you are talking, record yourself and listen really closely to how you sound. Then pick out the areas you need to improve upon and get to work. Try to be decisive – this shows confidence. The most important part of having good communication, especially if you are shy, is to remain relaxed, open, and confident. This will give you the appearance of being easy-going. People like to communicate with easy going people, because it’s easier to communicate with them! So, it’s all about confidence. If you are confident in yourself, you will automatically speak more clearly and have better communication than someone who is not confident (and quiet, shy, and mumbles, etc).
Don’t let people intimidate you . If you feel intimidated by someone you are in a conversation with, do not let it show. Think before you speak. Speak in an even tone of voice. Slow down your speech to avoid showing that you are nervous. Like yourself and be positive about your life. Doing this will draw others towards you.
Never answer with «I don’t know» . This will make others feel like you don’t care enough to give a response, or that you aren’t knowledgeable enough to answer. When people ask questions, they want answers. If someone puts you on the spot, you don’t have to answer them right then and there. Say something like «I’m in the middle of something, can I get back to you?» or «I don’t want to ill advise you, let me find out for you.»
In written communication, always be clear . Before you send an e-mail, or any type of written communication, read over it at least once, to be sure it makes sense. If you aren’t sure it’s clear, have someone else read it before you send it. Avoid spelling and grammar mistakes. Write in clear, concise, declarative English. Written forms of communication can be tricky, because there is no way to put your tone of voice in, so if you feel like you are writing a message on a touchy subject that could be misconstrued, its probably best to have a face to face conversation.
Be punctual – this shows you are responsible, courteous and respectful of other’s time.
Be realistic in your goals, plans and desires.
Spend time alone with your partner /«significant other»... Go on walks together. If you are not in a close relationship, discuss what’s happening in your life from time to time with a close friend. Be assertive, but cautious .
Don’t gossip, backbite and backstab . Treat others, as you’d LIKE to be treated yourself – with dignity and respect.
Be true to your values and beliefs . Personal integrity is crucial at ALL TIMES.
Stay Focused. Sometimes it’s tempting to bring up past seemingly related conflicts when dealing with current ones. Unfortunately, this often clouds the issue and makes finding mutual understanding and a solution to the current issue less likely, and makes the whole discussion more taxing and even confusing. Try not to bring up past hurts or other topics. Stay focused on the present, your feelings, understanding one another and finding a solution.
A good communicator remembers people’s names , greets them in a friendly manner and speaks to them with courtesy and respect.
A good communicator focuses on the person with whom he is speaking . He makes this person feel like the most important person in his universe. It will definitely enhance the effectiveness of communication.
A good communicator usually reads great books to develop his communication skills . He is also interested in learning the proper way to speak well because he believes in the saying: «Speech is a mirror of the soul. As a man speaks, so is he».
This doesn’t work in every situation, but sometimes (if you’re having a conflict in a romantic relationship) it helps to hold hands or stay physically connected as you talk. This can remind you that you still care about each other and generally support one another.
Remember that the goal of effective communication skills should be mutual understanding and finding a solution that pleases both parties, not ‘winning’ the argument or ‘being right’.
Keep in mind that it’s important to remain respectful of the other person, even if you don’t like their actions.