“How to polish communication skills?” Many of my students keep asking me.
The question is quite natural. Strong communication skills play a major role in achieving a high degree of success in life.
Now, before we discuss how to polish communication skills, let me clear the air a bit. Many students assume “communication skills” refers to spoken English. They use the terms “communication skills” and “spoken English” interchangeably.
That’s not entirely true!
Having strong communication skills mean: You’re able to express your thoughts, feelings, and emotions, in a clear, easy to understand manner.
Yes, spoken English is also a part of communication skills. But that doesn’t mean every English speaker is a good communicator. Had that been the case, all the people in England would have been wonderful orators, but we know that’s not true.
The four communication skills you need to polish are:
Listening: The Forgotten Skill
Anybody wanting to polish communication skills must pay attention to “Listening.”
Listening comes before speaking.
Have you ever heard listening is a communication skill? Probably not. I also didn’t know until I came across a video presentation in the NIIT library in Karol Bagh in 1995. I was doing a 3 years software course. It was titled – “Listening-The Forgotten Skill!”
“But how can listening be a communication skill?” You ask.
Listening is not just a communication skill, it’s the most important communication skill. The first step to learn a language is listening. Any language.
Remember the time when you were a little child? Did you start speaking the day you were born?
A child listens to the sounds around him. He listens to his mother. He listens to his father. He listens to the family members. That’s how he gets familiar with the language people speak in the home. Gradually, he starts recognizing different sounds. Over time, he learns to speak words like, “Mamma” and “Papa.”
(Here’s an interesting thing to note: Most of the children speak “Ma” as their first word).
That’s how a child learns. A normal, healthy child starts polishing his communication skills from day one-by listening.
The more a child listens, the familiar he gets with the sounds. That’s exactly how you learned your mother tongue. That’s how everybody learns any language: by listening!
Listening is the first and the most important communication skill you need to polish.
How to become a good listener
You can become a good listener by taking time to listen.
Normally we don’t listen. And there’s a reason for it. Everybody believes he’s the most intelligent person in the world. And what he has to say is the most important thing (including you and me). 🙂
Notice people having a conversation in marriage functions, or other social settings. You’ll find most of the people impatient to speak. They are just waiting for the other person to finish, and if the other seems not to finish, they interrupt.
Next time you’re chatting with your friend, figure out if you’re really listening, or are you pretending you are listening? Most of the times we pretend to listen, while in reality, we keep thinking what we’re going to speak when the other shut up. Pretense can never make you a good listener.
When you listen to somebody, listen totally. It’s no coincidence that Ram Ji has given us two ears (so we could listen more) and one mouth (so we speak only meaningful words).
Notice the way the speaker is trying to convey his thoughts. Notice the pitch, the emotions, the choice of words- everything! Become all ears.
Polishing listening skills take time and compassion. You surely can polish listening skills if you’re patient to understand and eager to learn.
Are you listening?
If you find starting a conversation difficult, you’re not alone. Most of us do.
And guess what? It’s not your fault. It comes from your childhood. People used to stop you even before you began speaking.
Try going back to your childhood memories.
You wanted to speak about this and about that. There were so many things around you to speak about.
Initially, things were going smooth. But later on, people around you stopped giving you much attention. The moment you tried to speak more than your parents could handle, you’re told to keep quiet. They were busy people. Busy with other things. “Sorry cutie pie, I don’t have time.”
I do remember that. I had been quite an inquisitive child. I used to ask a lot of questions – why birds fly, why the trains run on tracks only, why the butterflies have so many colours in their wings? (And things like that). I used to ask so many questions my parents had to tell me to shut up.
You can’t do much about your past. But you surely can try some exercises to open yourself up. These exercises can help you improve your speaking skills.
Exercises to Help You Polish Speaking Skills:
#1 Reading Aloud
Take a book, or a newspaper, or a magazine. Stand in a corner of your room. And start reading aloud.
It’s important to read aloud. Your voice should be double the level of your normal speaking level. It does not matter what you read, but it does matter how loud you read that.
When you speak aloud; you challenge your voice. You might feel a little uncomfortable in the beginning, but the discomfort will go away with time. Read 1-2 paragraphs daily. And the next time you have the opportunity to speak, you’ll find initiating a conversation much easier.
#2 Chanting “Aum”
This exercise needs to be done first thing in the morning – on an empty stomach.
Sit down in a relaxed posture. Take 3 deep breaths. Now take a deep breath, as deep as you could. Chant “Auuuuuuuum” for as long as you can. Repeat the process thrice. i.e.- Chant “Aum” 3 times.
This exercise gives you control over your breathing. Breathing is the base of your voice. The more control you have over breathing, the more graceful your speech shall be.
#3 Stretching Jaw Muscles
Normally our jaw muscles (facial muscles) are not relaxed and open. They are kind of tense. They don’t let your mouth open wide. That’s why you feel a kind of pressure and hesitation while speaking. The solution is to stretch your jaw muscles.
Here’s how to do it:
Put your hands on your jaw muscles, and slowly open your mouth as wide as you can (as if you’re yawning). Keep your mouth open for about 10-15 seconds. Repeat this process thrice.
#4 Lip Trills
Remember the sound you used to make while playing ‘bike-bike’ – “brurrrrrr?” You need to do exactly the same in this exercise. Sit in a relaxed posture. Breathe deeply.
Start making “brurrrr” sound with your lips still in contact with each other. This is called “Lip Trills.” You can do lip trills for as long as you wish. Lip trills help you make your lips supple and flexible so you can speak with ease.
I’ve already written a detailed article to help you improve your spoken English.
Polish Your Written Communication Skills
You must be a good reader before you can be a great writer.
The more you read, the better your writing shall be. Make it a point to read at least 5-10 pages of an interesting book regularly. A reading habit can help you become a better writer.
Two Types of Written Languages
Newspaper editorials are good examples of bookish language. Every sentence is carefully crafted to appear formal and professional. That’s what you want to read if your goal is to improve the written language.
Novels, magazines, and storybooks are great examples of conversational language. Strike a balance between reading the bookish language and the conversational one. You need to make yourself familiar with both of them. Become a member of your local library. That way you shall have access to lots of books. Strive to read at least one book per month.
Start Writing Diary
Writing diary is a great way to improve writing skills. Buy a diary or plain notebook. Make sure you use the diary only for writing your daily experiences.
Writing thoughts on paper helps clear the head. The result is a much peaceful mind. Writing a diary or ‘Journaling’ (as some people love to address it) is a wonderful way to express yourself. Try it.
Don’t worry about what to write in the first few days. Most of the things appear difficult in the starting phase. Just write whatever comes to your mind, and within a week you shall notice an improvement.
What if I told you I had no clue how to write articles when I was getting started in blogging back in 2011? That’s true! I had no idea how to write, but I was determined to write.
One day, I turned my computer on, chose a topic, and started typing. The words started flowing through my fingers. I kept writing, and within 2 hours, my first ever article was ready.
From that day, I made it a point to write. Yes, I made many mistakes, especially grammatical ones. I’ve had no formal training in article writing. I had studied in a government school in Delhi where English was never a concern for most of the students. (I still learn more about English grammar almost every day.)
If I can do it, you can too. The point is to keep writing. Your writing is bound to get better with time.
I hope this article helped you gain some insights to polish communication skills. I wish you all the best!