How to improve your communication skills

I’ve been speaking for a long time. I have won Debates and Extempores in school and college and sometimes, I manage to win an argument or two against my wife, which I must say is more impressive than all other wins combined.

Here are some of the fine thoughts that I have on how one can improve their way of communicating so that they can make a compelling argument that may reach out to their audiance’s logos, pathos and ethos.

The complexity of communication

Communication means transfer of ideas from one person to another by the means of our senses. We communicate in our personal life and professional life differently because the place, person and time determine the type of words, tone and logic we use to communicate. To complicate matters further, most of us get no training for doing this in life other than our actual experiences of what works for a certain situation and what does not.

In life, three things will dictate the level of your professional success – your ability to speak, your ability to write and the quality of your ideas

Patrick Winsten, American Computer Scientist, MIT

Another feature of Communication is that it is an interactive process. It has a feedback loop. The person you are communicating with will give you suggestions about what works for them better and what does not. These suggestions can be direct instructions or subtle hints.

Some people are more perceptive of these hints and are, as a result, become excellent speakers and communicators. Great Orators can sense what their audience is thinking and they move a great number of people to action just with their words, a really tough task if the audience is not paid to listen to you. Others can write books filled with stories of information that can keep you sitting for hours, staring at some words etched on a page. They are communicating, just with different mediums.

So, it all comes down to this. What makes communication great? What makes people listen to you every time you say or write or gesture something?

Improving the Fundamentals

There is one trick that nature uses to create all the living and non-living things around us. It repeats the same step in different situations. How do mountains and volcanoes form? The tectonic plates move and when they press against each other, they either go up or down. Repeat that with continental plates, you get Mountains. Repeat that with Oceanic Plates, and you get Volcanoes. How does a tree grow so complex and tall? Each branch divides into two similar branches but smaller in size. Repeat that couple of times, and boom, a tree. And repeat that in Brazil, you get a Rainforest. Repeat that in the Himalayas, you get Pine trees.

Learning from nature’s simple yet powerful rules, we are going to form some rules about communication and we are gonna define ways to do that so that we can use them in different situations to generate different solutions.

Rule # 1: Speak with a compassionate tone

Tone means the character you reflect in your voice. It is present in both the written and spoken word. For both, it is important to focus on the balance of facts, emotions and the need of the listener. It becomes easier to control and modify if you focus on the welfare of the listener and the needs of the listener. Even if you are expressing your need to have something, you should take care of the listener’s ability to do that. Let’s see the example below to show what I mean..

PhraseToneListener’s opinion
Would you like to go to a movie tonight?CompassionateOpen to suggestions, considerate of listeners’ choice, Polite
We should watch a movie tonight.AuthoritativeInconsiderate the listener’s choice

Let us take another example. Both are ads, aimed to introduce a certain Printer to customers.

PhraseTone Reader’s opinion
P55 is the best product in the market in its segment. Our products have stood out the test of time and our customers have rated us the best in the service category.SelfishFocussed on self, not very humble
Our P 55 printers are designed for your business needs and our services are focussed to keep your projects on time. We take pride in serving you the best product and services.CompassionateHumble, considerate of customer’s needs

A compassionate tone comes from an honest wish to be gentle to other human beings.

Whenever possible, practise the most compassionate way to say something in your head, and then say those words until this becomes your second nature. If it is not clear to you what is a compassionate tone, just watch someone you admire talk. For example, I like how Tom Hanks talks. He is one of the most liked people on Earth for a reason. You like him just by hearing him.

Rule # 2: Always have greetings ready

First impressions are hard to shake off. It is better to practice some form of greetings and goodbyes to make you stand out and sound confident. If you start with a good handshake and a confident introduction, the next words coming out of your mouth will have a better chance of being heard and remembered.

So, Practise the 1-2-3 of a greeting: Eye contact-Handskake/Gesture-Greeting in words. This will improve your reactions to sudden encounters and you would start off communication by sounding confident as a Leader.

Rule # 3: Do not start with a joke

Humour is a powerful tool to create a personality around people. It reflects intellect and openness to criticism. But never open a conversation with a joke. The danger with that is that in the beginning, people may still be adjusting to your tone, voice and loudness. Your well-timed and hilarious opener may as well be not heard at all because people were not adjusted to your talking. It’s best to put some jokes later or in the end.

Rule # 4: Know your volume

The correct speaking volume can help you become a much better speaker because then people can actually listen to you longer without having a headache. How to find it? Next time you speak to a friend, ask them to spot your volume. If it gets too high or too low, they should warn you. This was, in some time, you will notice yourself and control it.

Rule # 5: Understand the central issue

Whether you are debating in college or talking to someone at work about a new issue, to effectively be heard, you must always keep an eye on the main topic. You may get distracted by your own argument because maybe you just a long winding example of something not directly related to the issue or your opponent created some diversion, you must reorient yourself to the topic asap. Ask what is the end result of this debate? Is my next argument going to being me closer to it? Was the last argument going in the right direction?

Conclusion

Successful communication not only conveys your point to the listener but also tells you what the other side is feeling about the issue. Communication goes beyond words and gestures but also involves empathising with the person in front of you. All the steps and rules above are there so that you may understand the person you are communicating with, so that you may speak in a way that they understand.

So, understanding people around you will automatically improve the quality of your communication.

Author: Ykazmi

Hi, I am Yasir, a Civil Engineer, working in Germany. I am a firm believer that we should leave the world a better place than we came in. Along these lines, this website is dedicated to helping you, motivating you and supporting you in your journey to a better and happier life. As with everything in life, including you and me, it is a work in progress but I am dedicated to being there when you need me.

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