By Martha Payne
Are you the definition of shy in your social or professional circles? Are you often afraid of interacting with new people or starting conversations? Well, don’t worry because it’s possible to shake off your speech problems and become a better communicator. You don’t have to be a naturally gifted communicator; communication skills are easy to learn and develop. This post explores 9 tips for improving your communication skills, both through listening and speaking.
1. Be open to feedback
To be great in anything in this world, you must be open to feedback from your peers, seniors, and critics. Becoming a great communicator isn’t exempted from this reality. Whenever you give a speech or share ideas with other people, be sure to leave the door open for anyone who could have an opinion about your speech. You will be surprised at how criticism can help you discover areas for improvement.
2. Aim at being understood
The goal is to be understood, not to appear sophisticated. Ensure that you take your time to listen to other people and understand their point of view before responding to them. If you are patient enough to listen to arguments, you will always be able to come up with an appropriate response. And in case your response is misunderstood, take it upon yourself to clarify or rephrase.
3. Make a point of knowing people you talk to
Choosing the right words for the right audiences is key to effective communication. That is why you need to decipher the status and social standing of the person you are addressing. Know where your listener is from, their political views, their personality, and as much as possible understand their levels of emotional temperament. The key is to garner as much information about the listeners as possible before and during a conversation.
4. Ask questions if you don’t understand
Don’t assume that you know what someone is trying to say even when he/she is uttering gibberish phrases. It is better to ask for clarification than to guess the message someone is trying to convey. And because people are social beings, whoever is speaking to you will feel appreciated when you ask questions between conversations. Asking questions is the surest way of showing someone that you are interested in whatever they are saying.
5. Relax. People are not judging you
Maybe you struggle to communicate with new people because you feel like they are judging your every statement. If you have this problem, you tend to feel nervous when people clap for you or murmur when you deliver a keynote point. What you may not know is that not many people care about how you talk. They don’t even notice the little details you worry too much about. Relax and do your thing.
6. Don’t fixate your mind on past negative interactions
You will encounter hostile audiences every now and then, but don’t allow them to put you down. If you want to have a better communication experience after that, it would be beneficial to you if you could forget past negative interactions immediately they happen.
7. Engage your audience
Your audience has a limited attention span. Even the most experienced public speakers know that without interactive discussions and brainstorming seasons, effective communication cannot take place. Always keep your audience engaged.
8. Work on your body language
People will read your emotions from your body language. Your body communicates even what your mouth was reluctant to convey. If you aren’t confident, for example, people will know about it from your tonal variations, or from how you move around the podium. It will help if you can influence your body language. Be alert and aware of everything happening around you. Mind how you sit, how you talk, and how you pronounce words. Before an important meeting, learn how to sit confidently and to dress appropriately. When you rise to speak, always break the ice with a cool but relevant joke.
9. Find help
The great public speakers you admire were also not perfect in the early stages of their careers. Some of them have taken numerous lessons on how to write clear and relevant messages for the right audiences. Be like them and find help from companies that help people who struggle with speech problems. These companies offer speech therapies. You will be an expert public speaker by the time you are done with their training.
Effective communication ranks up there among the most important skills anyone could possess. Our hope is that the 9 tips above will help you to communicate well using nonverbal cues. Also, remember that in order to cultivate your communication skills, it is important that you listen carefully to other people.
Martha Payne is a speech pathologist from North Carolina, with over 8 years of experience in working with children, adults, in acute care, rehabilitation, and community-based services. She is interested in augmentative communication, community capacity building, and enhancing the quality of life for people with disabilities.