You may want to master the best way to communicate to ace your college interview, give a speech at graduation or learn to hold your own in a class discussion. The good news is anyone can benefit from using sound communication techniques.
Communicating can sometimes seem innate. People who are charismatic or persuasive appear to be that way naturally. Quite often, it is just an important skill that was learned long ago. So long ago that they do it without thinking now. They may have mastered active listening, empathizing with people, and using receptive posture to create a community feeling.
Good communication is an art. Here are some pointers on this important skill.
Table Of Contents:
- Use Body Language
- Include Empathy in Your Communication Skills
- Play to Your Crowd
- Pay Attention to Formality
- Use Tone of Voice for Effective Communication
- Tailor Your Word Choice for Clear Communication
- Use the Correct Communication Medium
- Get the Hang of Virtual Communication
Use Body Language
You probably don't consciously notice body language in your everyday conversations. When you see someone leaning in towards you, you know that you have caught their attention. Nonverbal cues are important to us all, so face the person you are talking to, don't look at your phone, and keep an open posture.
Adapt Your Body Language to the Context
When you are in a formal academic environment, adopt an open posture. Avoid slouching, tapping your feet, drumming your fingers, or crossing your arms. A straight, open stance facing towards the person as you talk will go a long way. Nonverbal communication is a reciprocal exercise, and if you find a person mimicking your physical position, you can be sure they are listening to you.
If you are talking to a teacher or advisor, you should be especially mindful not to slouch or check your phone.
Facial Expressions and Eye Contact Make a Difference
Face to face communication gives you the opportunity for strong eye contact. It gives a visual reminder that you are paying attention and investing in the conversation. Smile, nod, or slightly tilt your head to give off the right impression and promote open communication. Your teacher may be looking for these cues in a classroom to show that the class is engaged.
Include Empathy in Your Communication SkillsListen carefully to others and don't be afraid to pause, but when you speak to co-workers or classmates, try to draw them into your point of view. Provide evidence but use empathy to inform how you deliver it. For example, when working on a group project, you could say, 'I understand that it is difficult to change approach, but pursuing this new strategy will provide these improvements'.
Good communication is also about reading your environment. It would help if you considered who you are talking to. For example, in a group conversation, you need to consider what you can say to each person to bring them into the discussion. You might say, 'I liked your idea about the new project, but what about if we combined it with their strategy?'. You can communicate your idea in the best light by highlighting common ground.
Play to Your Crowd
In a study group or team meeting, you should be talking to the group rather than focusing on one person. Make sure you look at each person and pause for your co-workers to reply. Ensuring you use language that the whole group can understand avoids confusion and helps you seem relatable. If you need to follow up in detail, make plans for a smaller conversation later on.
Remember that you are all learning, and if you can be inclusive for other people, they are likely to do the same for you.
Pay Attention to Formality
If you are in a formal situation, be formally courteous. Remember to say "please" and "thank you". Avoid slang words and use humor sparingly. Even if you are getting along well with someone, do not mention any touchy subjects like politics or religion unless they are directly relevant. You can always loosen up later, but it shows respect to begin formally.
If you have a new teacher, make sure to start respectfully. They may choose to be more casual later, but they will appreciate your manners.
Use Tone of Voice for Effective Communication
Change your tone of voice to suit the subject matter and the person you are talking to. A younger child will need you to speak slower and make your voice more gentle, but a classmate might find it patronizing. A teacher or coach may find it rude. Using a softer tone can help you deliver bad news sensitively. Whether you use a happy tone can demonstrate if you consider a piece of information positive or negative.
Tailor Your Word Choice for Clear Communication
If you think there is a chance you aren't clear, change your word choices to make it easier for your audience to receive your message. For example, say 'They were unhappy with the result' rather than 'There was some disenchantment with the project'. Word choice affects comprehension.
If you are talking to team members with different areas of expertise and students with different strengths, steer away from jargon and abbreviations. They make you harder to understand.
Use the Correct Communication Medium
Some messages come across more clearly in different forms. Other ideas might be best expressed as a chart. A good example would be making a PowerPoint with a chart to show data in a presentation. If you wanted to show the proportions of a business's profits from different types of stock, you might choose to make a slide with a pie chart that you can talk through in a presentation. It is better to use a mix of communication styles rather than try to talk your way through a whole spreadsheet.
You could also consider a hand-out. If you are being tested on public speaking, then you could put the key points down, with references to your sources. In a meeting, a hand-out or digital agenda sheet could keep the discussion on track. Essays are ideal for complex points but keep to key points in a speech.
Get the Hang of Virtual Communication
In this day and age, virtual communication is widespread. Recently, many work environments and study groups have become remote. Being a good communicator is harder in this format. Teamwork has a different pace when your classmates are just sections of the screen, and body language is hard to read. So how can you keep the atmosphere positive?
A teacher leading a discussion will need you to pay close attention to them so that they can set the tone of the virtual class. In a discussion, pausing for others to respond is even more important than usual, and you should make an effort to respond to statements rather than nod verbally. You will also look better to others if you look at your webcam rather than at your image on screen or coworkers in the meeting.
Reach out to your audience with your words, your body language, and your expression. As a communicator, you have all the tools you need already. You need to sharpen them with awareness and decorate the results with good manners.