How to Improve Communications
By: Greg Harms
Looking for some practical ways to improve communications skills? One of the primary reasons people seek out counseling is to gain new insight into this all important skill. When you think about it for a moment, you quickly recognize that communicating with others represents a large part of what you do on a daily basis.
This is particularly true if you are a teacher, healthcare provider, manager or salesperson. And to state obvious, your ability to prevent conflicts before they turn into major problems is a major part of the communications dynamic.
What follows are 10 practical ways to improve communications skills. These suggestions can be used for traditional, face to face conversations or when you are online (aka: social media).
Some of these tips may seem like common sense while others are less obvious. Use what feels right and apply whatever fits into your own unique situation.
Are you ready? Let’s jump right in!
1. Speak with direct precision
The best way to express yourself clearly is to select words that accurately describe your thoughts and feelings. Be as direct as possible about your ideas and perceptions by verbalizing the intent of your message as clearly as possible.
2. Use language appropriate for your audience
The manner in which you speak to a small child will likely be a lot different than how you might address adults. Choose your words, gestures and expressions with care and in a way that most effectively gets your main points across to your listening audience.
3. Enhance your vocabulary
Your vocabulary affects the overall effectiveness of verbal communications. A small vocabulary decreases the ability to express yourelf. A wide vocabulary, however, let’s you choose words with deeper meaning and offers the element of flow into your discussions.
4. Focus on issues, not people
When you are trying to resolve a conflict with someone or a group, focus on the specific problem and not a single personality. In other words, don’t attack someone. When you think about it, attacking another person clouds up the issue and makes problems harder to resolve.
5. Don’t put others on defensive
When you begin a conversation with another or self-disclose personal information, begin your statements with the word “I”. Using “I statements” places the emphasis of responsibility on yourself rather than blaming someone else.
6. Avoid passing the buck
This point simply means that you should avoid having someone else communicate your points. In other words, don’t use a third party. If you are having a disagreement with a co-worker for example, go to that person directly and avoid having someone else run interference.
7. Avoid overloading your audience
Most people live busy lives and have little bandwidth to absorb a lot of information. Calibrate your message in a way that keeps attention spans in mind. Don’t overload your audience with lots of unrelated material or “side stories”. Stick to the main points. Allow time to pass in between major thoughts so that your audience can mentally digest what you are saying (aka don’t ramble!).
8. Validate your assumptions
All this means is that you confirm what you think to be true with those who you have given you this impression. For example, if someone looks at you with a face of confusion, ask them directly if they need something to be clarified. By paying attention to the body language of the person you are conversing with, you will improve your communications skills drastically.
9. Resolve problems when they come up
A major barrier to effective communications is passive aggressiveness. If you are looking to improve communications skills, do yourself a favor and resolve problems when they come up. Don’t let them fester and grow into a bigger problem than already exists. The faster your address the issue, the less likely you will encounter complications down the road.
10. Demonstrate you are listening
Communications is a two way street. One of the best ways you can go about the business of improving communications skills is by actively listening to the person you are conversing with. This means employing elements of body language. Make eye contact with the person and nod your head as a way of affirming your understanding of the main points being discussed.
Improving Communications Skills Resource