Being able to communicate effectively is the most important of all life skills.
Communication is simply the act of transferring information from one place to another, whether this be vocal, written, visually or non-verbally.
Developing your communication skills can help all aspects of your life, from your professional life to social life. The ability to communicate information accurately, clearly and as intended, is a vital life skill and it is never too late to work on your communication skills.
If you are applying for jobs, are newly employed or looking for a promotion with your current employer, you will certainly need to demonstrate that you have good communication skills.
As your career progresses, the importance of communication skills will increase, you will be required for example to speak with high level personnel and this sometimes requires you to present and communicate in a different way.
We use these skills when we engage in face-to-face communication with one or more people.We actually communicate more information using non-verbal signals, gestures, facial expression, body language and even our appearance.
Listening is a vital interpersonal communication skill, when we communicate we spend 45% of our time listening. Most people take listening for granted but it is not the same as hearing and should be thought of as a skill.
Good interpersonal communication skills enable us to work more effectively in groups and teams, which may be either formally (at work), or informally (such as in social situations).
It often helps to build strong relationships with others, which can in turn lead to better communication.
Interpersonal communication skills are essential to developing other key life skills. Being able to communicate well with others is often essential to solving problems that inevitably occur both in our private and professional lives. Decision making is another area which can benefit from good communication skills as it often requires communicating complex information so that the most appropriate decision can be made.
In many interpersonal situations, the first few minutes are extremely important as first impressions have a significant impact.
Everyone has expectations as to how initial meetings should proceed and people tend to behave according to these expectations. If these expectations are mismatched, communication will not be effective or run smoothly.
At a first meeting, formalities are usually expected: such formalities could include a handshake, an introduction to yourself, eye contact and discussion around a neutral subject such as the weather or your journey may be useful. A friendly disposition and smiling face are much more likely to encourage communication than a blank face, inattention or disinterested reception.
Learn to Communicate Effectively
Do not say the first thing that comes into your head but instead take a moment and pay close attention to what you say and how you say it. Focus on the meaning of what you want to communicate.
Consider how your message might be received by the other person. By communicating clearly, you can help avoid misunderstandings and potential conflict with others. By speaking eloquently, you will also come across as more intelligent and mature.
Be aware of the messages you are sending via non-verbal channels: make sure you use eye contact and avoid defensive body language. Present information in a way that its meaning can be clearly understood. Pay particular attention to differences in culture, past experiences, attitudes and abilities. Avoid jargon and over-complicated language; explain things as simply as possible. Request clarification if unclear and always avoid racist and sexist terms or any language that may cause offence.
Maintain a Positive Attitude
Do your best to be friendly, upbeat and positive with other people. Maintain a positive, cheerful attitude to life: when things do not go to plan, stay optimistic and learn from your mistakes. If you smile often and stay cheerful, people are more likely to respond positively to you.
Clarity of speech, remaining calm and focused, being polite and following some basic rules of etiquette will all aid the process of positive verbal communication.
An exercise to help develop your effective speaking skills:
- Find a document to read, something about two pages in length, the first few pages of a book would work well
- Read your document through silently first, then read it aloud in your normal speaking voice. Don’t worry if you stumble or falter, just pick up and continue to the end.
- Now read it a third time, recording your voice if possible and remember:
- Slow down: It is a natural reaction to want to get it over as fast as possible and this often causes people to stumble over their words.
- Speeding up also occurs when you are nervous and usually makes you more difficult to understand.
- Keep your head up: Try not to tuck your chin into the book as your voice is then addressing the floor. Hold your book higher and project your voice.
- Pause occasionally: Let the end of a sentence or the end of a paragraph give you a chance of a small, two or three second rest. Pauses can be useful for emphasis.
- Practise this exercise as often as you can.