11 Ways to improve your communication skills

You speak with a wide range of people.  Even if you don’t alter your personality to cover this, I’m sure you change the way you speak.  It only takes a few subtle differences to make you sound like another person.  How you talk to a mate isn’t how you talk to your Mum.

However, the way you communicate should be similar, whoever you talk to.  Here are 11 ways to communicate with clarity:

photo by Torley

photo by Torley

  1. Pay attention – Don’t start thinking about what you’re going to say next when someone is talking to you.
  2. Watch the person – No need to stare, but always try to maintain a good amount of eye contact. If you’re looking around all over the place, you’ll look bored or distracted.
  3. Listen – Communication can break down more easily than you think.  You have more chance of finding common ground with someone if you truly listen to what they have to say.  Even if you don’t agree with the other person, give them a chance to explain their view before you crash in again.  Understanding someone else’s view isn’t a weakness, it should help strengthen (or alter) your position.
  4. Show interest – How much do you take your friends for granted? The more you get used to your mates, the more casually you will become in showing interest.  We tend, almost bizarrely, to hang on every word of someone we’ve just met.  But as a friendship develops, the effort fades even though you’re becoming closer.
  5. Ask questions – Ask when you don’t understand, ask when you need further information, ask when you’d like their opinion, ask when you’ve been doing all the talking, ask when you’re interested.  Enjoy asking questions as much as you enjoy answering them.
  6. Don’t waffle – Make your point, give an example if you need, and perhaps ask a question to finish.  Don’t ramble on for hours unless you’ve been asked to tell a story or you’re up on stage. Don’t give people the chance to switch off.  Do give people more chance to talk themselves.
  7. Respond to the wants of your audience, not yourself – It’s easy to go on a mission and forget that everyone else has moved on.  Don’t get carried away with your own importance.
  8. Respect others – Disagreements are common, no matter how close you are to a person. In fact, those we’re closest to can sometimes get the worst of you.  If you don’t see eye to eye, respect the other person’s opinion.  Unless the matter is purely objective and is problematic until you get an answer, you’re better off letting go.  And if the matter really is that important, actively seek out the information you need before carrying on.
  9. Take a break if the communication has broken down – You can’t always find resolution or compromise or even a natural cut-off point.  If the conversation gets too heated, suggest a rest so you can clear the air a bit.  Without a break, the chances are nobody is listening to others any more.
  10. Treat all communications like a presentation – When faced with a public talk or presentation, we want to make an impression.  Advice on delivering a speech is available all over the place.  Take advantage of these tips when putting your point across in less formal situations.  If you can learn to look good on the stage, why not learn to maintain a good impression at all times?
  11. Use the right platform – Face-to-face, over the phone, through a text, via a tweet…there are many ways of communicating.  Before you pick one at random and before you choose what’s easiest for you, consider how much better you could make the discussion using the right format for the recipient too.

Communication is not just about what you say.  Just as important is how you communicate that information.