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5 Practical Tips to Improve your Communication Skills

“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place” - George Bernard Shaw

When we say communication what exactly does it mean?

Does it mean sharing your ideas, knowledge, skills with others? Does it mean telling your story to the world? Will you still call it communication when no one in the room understands a word of what you said?

Communication, in reality is a two-way process. It can be said that you are a good communicator, if and only if you are able to share your ideas with the other person such that they understand it completely.

Though it might seem simplistic, but in reality, it is one of the most difficult and most sought-after art since time immemorial. It forms the actual basis for human interaction and is a building block for building as well as maintaining a relationship. The way you communicate with yourself defines a great part of your attitude, your confidence, your perception about yourself, your mental and physical health. The way you communicate with others define your position in your home, amongst your collogues, with your spouse as well as with your children. A total of the two defines your financial status, your place in the society and how significant your role is in shaping up the society.

According to Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP), there is a presumption stating that, “the quality of your communication is the response you get.” So, in order to judge your communication skills, you need to impact your words are making on others and how they are responding to you.

Albert Mehrabian gave the 7%-38%-55% rule of communication which clearly showed that how we speak is much more important than what we speak. According to this model, whenever we communicate, we do it in 3 ways: verbal, intonation and visual. Of these, verbal communication is only 7% of the actual communication. 38% communication depends upon your pitch and tonality or the intonation. Your body language and facial expressions take away a major chunk of this information, that is, 55%.

Today we will be discussing five tips you can use to improve your verbal communication. Though its only 7% of the total communication, it is very important that we mind our words. We need to think before we speak because words have the power to make or break a relationship. A wrong sentence can cost someone their relationship or in some cases even their life. So, what are the 5 things you can do to improve your verbal communication:

  1. Use pauses instead of fillers – Many people use fillers like “aaa”, “ummmm”, etc in while communicating. This makes their talk ineffective as many people perceive them as unconfident or unprepared. Instead of using these fillers, pause between your talks. When you are giving a speech, come prepared, take time to breath and don’t be afraid to give short pauses between sentences. This will make it easier for people to hear you and digest what you said, thus creating an environment of trust and understanding.

2. Paraphrasing – Paraphrasing means expressing the meaning of something using different words in order to gain clarity. When someone is explaining you something, never assume that you have understood the exact meaning. Instead, paraphrase and wait for the other person to confirm that you both are on the same page. This would not only save you from miscommunication but would also help you in building you your brand as you would be providing exactly what the other person has asked you for. For this, you need to be an active listener. You would need to listen to understand rather than reply and then politely repeat your understanding in your language to the other person.

3. Conversational threading – Whenever someone starts speaking, they say a number of things that can be treated as a conversation starter. Conversational threading is about picking up a topic from a series of words they have used, and asking open ended questions, which would inspire them to speak for a longer duration. For example, if one person says to you, I live in Himachal Pradesh, there I teach English to students. Here you can pick multiple topics and start speaking ranging from Himachal Pradesh, your own city, teaching, English, students, etc. Just pick up a topic you are most comfortable to. An example could be: I live in Delhi, but I wish to move to Himachal Pradesh because of the beauty and clean air one day. How was your experience living in Himachal Pradesh and which places did you like most?

An important thing to note here is, speak positively about their things of interest. People are interested in you when they know you are like them and are genuinely interested in them. Criticizing would kill the conversation much before it starts.

Also, when someone asks you a question, don’t end it with a simple yes or no. Explain a little, while keeping it relevant, so that the other person can continue building the conversation threat.

This skill would come with practice, so try to move out of your comfort zone and talk to as many people as possible.

4. Humor

“A sense of humor is part of the art of leadership, of getting along with people, of getting things done”                                                                                                                                                                                        – Dwight D. Eisenhower

Humor adds quality to any communication. If you can use humor in your favor, you will be winning friends for life. Like any skill this too can be learned. Learn to add humor to your talks. An important part of this should be you should not make anyone else a victim of your joke. If you must tell a joke, make sure it is very generic or confined to you. In a crowd, if you make a joke on one particular person, you might lose that person for the rest of your life.

You must have noticed many speakers and trainers use humor in the middle of a story, to make people laugh and relate them to the topic instantly. Once the audience laugh, they start connecting with the speaker almost instantly. That is the power of humor.

However, the quality of your humor can define the quality of your relationships. So, ensure you use it with lot of care and humility. If you are the one who gets easily offended, then it would be in your best interest to not use humor against anyone else as well. 

5. Take opinions for what they are – I stress this point time and again because I can’t underestimate the impact of opinions on most people. Of the many people I meet, most are scared to take action in their life because they fear what people will think about them. You might not be the best speaker when you start. However, the fact that you are trying, would ensure that ultimately you are going to achieve the success you are looking for. Provided, you don’t stop because of what someone thinks about you – that is the biggest challenge you would need to face. There would be people who would claim that you can never be good at this art. Instead of believing their beliefs, think of it as an opinion.

Not many people can judge your potential. You need to prove yourself every single time. So, it might be that currently you are not the best speaker, but you are for sure a potential best speaker. Believe this and keep taking action. Keep talking to people around. Keep communicating and achieve the success you are looking for. Let opinions be opinions.

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