The importance of communication skills and ways to improve them

Communication - the human connection - is the key to personal and career success.

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importance of communication skills
Credit: Pixabay.com/Mohamed–hassan

Humans are the only species on the planet that can communicate through a complete language. That means that humans function well together in harmony achieving great things, right? Wrong! Though most human babies can speak by the age of four, effective communication is a skill that they might not achieve until they are older, or maybe never.

This may seem confusing, but it makes more sense once you know what communication is. True communication is the concise ability to give someone else the message that you want them to hear and succeed. That is the communicating part of the definition. The other half is the opposite side. True communication is also listening for the concise message that someone is trying to get across to you.

Most people when they walk into a room are focused on what they are doing, they are focused on themselves and what they are going to say or do. That is well and good, but there is better. The better is walking in a room and thinking, “How can I best get my message across?”. If you can’t get your message across, there is not a point to communicating, is there? Don’t be lazy. Communication is work, and like all work, it yields great rewards.

The Power of Listening

We know why we speak. Hold on to that. That reason we have for speaking is going to drive us to a new world of better communication. Now, ask yourself this: you know that you want to get your point across, but how often do you focus on hearing other people get their point across to you? Too many people will find themselves in an argument that is progressing nowhere. This is because, in the midst of it, you are too busy composing the argument while the other person is talking.

How can any conversation progress with no one listening to the other? Listening to others helps you understand what is going on and how to respond to it. Listening to the other person before composing your argument is what makes your side of a debate more reasonable.

Related: Tips to Make Your Team Successful

Choosing Your Words

Now that we have seen how important listening is, what about speaking? There is a saying: “Keeping silent may make you seem like a fool, but speaking up removes all doubt.” It is true. People who talk a lot can come across as narcissistic, selfish, or one-tracked. Obviously, that’s not the image you want to present. 

Studies show that the first few words are the only ones people pay true attention to and will remember. With that in mind, choose them carefully. Keep it concise. Unless you are doing some sort of exposition, around three or four sentences should be enough. You may repeat yourself though. Repeating yourself helps your listener to remember what you say. Just be careful not to overdo it.

More to Communication

If you think that speaking and listening are the only parts of the communication process that you need to worry about, you’re certainly not alone. Think carefully over times people have said things to you, and it has made an impact. It was not just what they said that impacted you, was it? It was how they said it: the tone, the voice, their expressions, the hand motion they used, even their timing. All those things factor in communication. 

Hands and Body Language

Hand motions are not as big in the world of skilled communication as most of the other things we have discussed. However, using your hands to unconsciously close off your body will bring effective communication to a halt. Clasped hands, folded arms, fidgeting fingers: these things all indicate that you do not want to be there. Either you are too nervous or you are angry or perhaps just exasperated, maybe even all of these.

However, just because you are feeling this way does not mean you need to project it through your body language, people are surprisingly sensitive to body language, even without realizing it. Keep your hand relaxed at your sides, if your hand comes up to cup your chin, fine. Just do not close your body off. People will be much more communicative if they feel that you are relaxed and open.

Expression and Tone

In the same way that your body language should not reveal negative emotions, keep the negativity off your face as well. Even if you are angry, having a pleasant expression will get you a lot farther than a nasty scowl. In addition to a pleasant expression, try to keep your tone even and logical. Although belting something out can create quite the impact at times, usually, an even tone is the best way to deal with a stressful situation.

Don’t raise your voice. It can lead to a shouting match, which in turn will just frustrate others more. Soon, you can become so taken over by shouting that you forget to listen to one another. Instead, try approaching a conversation with a calm and relaxed voice. Watch out for other tone’s in your voice, like whining, which can also send a negative message. 

Think First

Keeping these tips in mind we are ready to go about our day productively, with a focus on improving our communication. In the end, just try to be logical. Think before you speak. Thinking before speaking is the most important step in communication. Thoughtfulness before speaking could sum up all of the above tips. So next when you are communicating, think of these tips. It will be well worth your while.

Communication via technology

Face to face communication is vital, however, effective communication via email and over the phone is just as important. Be concise and clear – emails are easier to misinterpret, so re-read and ensure they are to the point and grammatically correct. Think, if you were to receive this email, would you understand it? 

If you’ve received an email that has caused upset, do not reply instantly. Remember, once an email has been sent, there’s no turning back. Give yourself a few hours to respond to ensure that it remains professional. 

There is also numerous HR software, such as the one from Advanced, that enable effective communication. Certain software takes away the admin jobs, allowing management to focus more on their employees and communicate with them successfully.

Every person is different, therefore, being able to adapt and change your approach in communicating is essential when successfully gaining it as a skill. Some people will be able to handle a more blunt, straightforward manner, whereas others may need to be spoken to with a softer tone. However, one thing remains the same throughout all approaches; ensure you are clear, concise and everyone has understood everything properly.

Related: E-Learning making education more easy and time-saving

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