Effective communication skills are something no one can do without, on the job or in your personal life.
There’s no enterprise in human affairs, from top-level negotiations to everyday personal interactions, that can go smoothly in the absence of great communication.
And learning how to communicate clearly is an ongoing learning process, which continues over the course of one’s entire life.
Not all of us are born orators or brilliant writers; but, at the same time, communication isn’t the domain of a lucky few. It’s a skill that can be learned, practiced, and improved. And believe it or not, it’s a skill you already have, and practice with greater skill and subtlety than you may imagine. You have a lot to work with as you embark on improving your basic communication skills.
Good communication skills involve speaking and listening; communication isn’t a one-way street. It involves being speaker and audience simultaneously. It involves appreciating the dynamism of human encounters, according to which things are always in motion, always changing.
Listening closely to your interlocutor’s words allows you to constantly adjust your own approach, to better convince the other person. Most often, effective communication isn’t about formulating your thoughts and foisting them on another person; rather, it’s about putting yourself in the listener’s shoes, imagining what he wants to hear, seeing the situation from his perspective, and adapting your words based on his reactions.
Keep in mind as well that not all communication is verbal. How you present yourself, your facial expressions, and your gestures speak volumes as well. Non verbal communication skills are key.
Below are just a few pointers regarding the importance of good communication skills.
1. Every individual has his own unique language
Generally speaking, there are as many languages as there are individuals; because every person uses his or her own unique combination of spoken languages, non verbal communication skills, and styles of argumentation to express thoughts.
Language is about a lot more than German, Spanish, or Chinese. It includes the entire thought process, and the entire range of communicative methods, from body language to the emotions expressed by the eyes or mouth.
2. Know who you’re speaking to
Empathizing with people from different backgrounds, and seeing the world through their eyes, can allow you to communicate with anyone, anywhere in the world.
For an effective communicator, the audience is first and foremost; one cannot formulate one’s argument until one properly understands where the listeners are coming from. Don’t coerce—persuade.
Guide your audience to reach the proper conclusions themselves; if they draw those conclusions independently, they’ll be more likely to recognize them as their own, instead of as something foreign, foisted upon them by a condescending speaker.
No one wants a hostile audience. Win them over by understanding their expectations, and tailoring your words for their unique ears.
3. An embarrassment of riches
Everyone realizes that people communicate by speaking. But it’s amazing to consider how much of our feelings and even thoughts we convey by non verbal communication.
Our gestures and facial expressions can tell the listener (or rather, watcher! ) a lot about us. Often, the impression we give by our body language and movements can color the message we are trying to express with our spoken words. If you seem nervous or fidgety, the listener will be put on edge, and may even wonder if you yourself are convinced of the truth of what you are saying.
4. Be aware
Be aware of every factor in the communication process—your own strengths and weakness, the expectations of your listener, the logic of your arguments, and, most importantly, the goal you have in mind for the interaction.
If the conversation strays, guide it gently back to the central issue at hand, and pursue your aims with good communication.
Communicating with others is part of being a human being—we are, after all, social animals. Begin to improve your communication skills today. Make the gift of speech (and non-speech) a formidable weapon in your communication arsenal.