“How to Polish Communication Skills?” or “How to Improve Communication Skills?” is one of the most frequent questions students ask.
Strong communication skills play a significant role in achieving success in life, and therefore the question is quite natural.
Polished communication skills help students develop a better personality, and can also help them make a successful career.
For instance, you might have a secret wish to make a career in modelling. How about that? 😎
Now that we have talked a little about the importance of communication skills let’s discuss how to improve communication skills.
But before that let me clear the air a bit:
Many students assume “communication skills” means spoken English, and they use the terms “communication skills” and “spoken English” interchangeably.
(I believe this comes from the personality development classes billboards around).
That’s not entirely true!
Having strong communication skills means that you’re able to express your thoughts, feelings, and emotions, in a clear, easy to understand and ‘to the point’ manner.
Yes, spoken English is also a part of communication skills, but that doesn’t mean every English speaker is an excellent communicator. Had that been the case, all the people in England would have been impressive orators, but we know that’s not true.
There are many dimensions to communication, but for now, we’ll focus on four specific communication skills, that you, as a student must strive to polish. So, here they are:
Listening: The Forgotten Skill
You could improve communication skills if you paid attention to “Listening” because listening comes way before speaking. And by the way, did you know that listening is the most critical communication skill – the basis of all communication.
I bet you have never heard that listening is a communication skill and you’re not alone. Most of us haven’t.
Just like many other students, I also didn’t know the importance of excellent listening skills until 1995 when I was doing a 3-year software course from NIIT. One morning I came across a video series – “How to improve communication skills.”
In that program was a presentation titled “Listening – The Forgotten Skill!” The videotape explained that one must master the skill of listening to become an excellent communicator.
“But how can listening be a communication skill?” You ask.
Let me explain.
If you see carefully, the first step to learning a language (any language) is listening.
Remember the time when you were a little child? Did you start speaking the day you were born?
No. You listened, just like any other child.
A child listens to the sounds around him. He looks to his mother and father. Also, he listens to other family members and people around him.
That’s how a child gets familiar with the language people speak in the home. Gradually, he starts recognising different sounds. Over time, he learns to utter 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.
So you see, an average, healthy child starts polishing his communication skills from day one just by listening.
The more a child listens, the familiar he gets with the sounds. That’s exactly how you learned your mother tongue, and 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.
We usually don’t listen. And there’s a reason for it. People believe they are the most intelligent person in the world. And what they have to say is the most critical 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 conclude, they interrupt.
Do You Even Listen?
Next time you’re chatting with your friend, figure out if you’re listening, or are you pretending you are hearing? 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. Pretence 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 hear 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 complicated, you’re not alone. Most of us do.
And guess what? It’s not your fault because 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 because there were so many things around.
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 Remember Being an Inquisitive Child
I used to ask a lot of questions like why do 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 that my parents had to tell me to shut up.
You can’t do much about your past, but you can try some exercises to open yourself up. These exercises can help you improve your speaking skills.
Exercises to Help You Improve Communication Skills (Spoken)
#1 Reading Aloud
Take a book, or a newspaper, or a magazine. Stand in the corner of your room. And start reading aloud.
Reading aloud is important. Your voice should be double the level of your typical speaking level. It does not matter what you read, but it does matter how loud you pronounce 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 more natural.
#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 three 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 power you have over breath, the more graceful your speech shall be.
- Learn how to chant “Aum.” Click the ‘Play’ button.
#3 Stretching Jaw Muscles
Normally our jaw muscles (facial muscles) are not relaxed and open. They are 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 precisely 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. It 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.
- Learn how to do “Lip Trills.” Click the ‘Play’ button.
I’ve already written a detailed article to help you improve spoken English.
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 exciting book regularly. A reading habit can help you become a better writer.
Two Types of Written Languages
- Bookish (Academic)
Newspaper editorials are good examples of academic language. Every sentence is carefully crafted to appear formal and professional. That’s what you want to read if your goal is to improve your writing.
Novels, magazines, and storybooks are excellent examples of conversational language.
Strike a balance between reading the academic language and the conversational one. You need to make yourself familiar with both. 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 a diary is a great way to improve writing skills. Buy a journal or plain notebook. Make sure you use the journal 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 beautiful way to express yourself. Try it.
Don’t worry about what to write in the first few days. Most of the things appear steep 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.
Improve Communication Skills With Hypnosis
What comes to your mind when you hear the word “Hypnosis?”
A witch making you do things you wouldn’t usually do?
A clipping from a TV show, where a hypnotist is making a volunteer bark and people laughing at the poor thing?
I know, there are many misconceptions surrounding hypnosis. Some say it’s evil while some others label it ‘Anti-Christ’, but we’re not getting into that.
Instead, we’re here to discuss how you can use hypnosis to improve communication skills as a student.
But before we do that, let’s understand a little bit about the functions of the human mind.
Generally, you say “It just came to my mind” or “I changed my mind.”
If you could divide your mind into ten parts, then one element would be your conscious mind and the remaining nine pieces subconscious mind.
Since the subconscious mind is larger than the conscious, it has more power.
The conscious mind is your ‘go-to guy’ when it comes to performing your daily activities.
- When you listen to your teacher explaining your favourite subject, you do it with your conscious mind.
- Cracking that tough numerical requires you to use your conscious mind.
- Learning a new skill like, riding a bike also needs you to utilise your conscious mind.
An Interesting Fact About the Conscious Mind
The conscious mind rarely accepts a notion that doesn’t match with its present beliefs. Let’s say you have poor communication skills. No matter how hard you try to persuade your conscious mind to believe you’re good at expressing yourself, you’re bound to fail.
The subconscious mind is a powerhouse that stores your beliefs and other functions that don’t require your active participation. This part of your brain is not easily accessible. It’s functioning all the time though, but you never even think about it.
- Your subconscious mind controls your hands, eyes, and legs when you ride your motorbike – you shift gears, you take turns without much effort on your part.
- The subconscious is in play when you go back to your hostel after attending college. Have you noticed you don’t consciously decide which turn to take? No, it happens almost automatically.
So, that’s how the subconscious mind works – on autopilot.
An Interesting Fact About the Subconscious Mind
The subconscious accepts everything without questioning.
If you can make it believe you have excellent communication skills, it’ll accept that. And if you make it think it’s difficult for you to speak on stage in your college fest, it’ll take that too.
Subconscious mind stores your habits, beliefs, fears, and phobias. So if you want to change a mindset or pattern that no longer serves you, it needs to be done in your subconscious mind.
The Reason You’re Unable to Improve Communication Skills
The chances are that like the majority of us; you too were born in a family where expressing your needs and desires were considered arrogant. And so, over time, you developed a belief that it’s not OK for you to speak with clarity and confidence. And guess what, that unproductive belief is still holding you back from developing excellent communication skills.
The good news though is that you can free yourself from that belief with the help of hypnosis.
What is Hypnosis?
It is the process of accessing your subconscious mind to remove negative beliefs and installing positive ones. Here are some specific terms used in Hypnosis.
The person who helps you get hypnotised and change your subconscious programming is called a hypnotherapist.
Remember – relaxation is the fundamental requisite for a successful hypnosis session. The more relaxed you are, the deeper you shall go into hypnosis.
The hypnotherapist asks you to lie down in a comfortable armchair or something similar. The ambience is supposed to be calm and relaxing, and also, there might be some incense burning and soothing music playing in the background.
The process of helping you relax is called induction.
The therapist might ask you to concentrate on your breathing or to visualise something – like you are lying on a freshly cut grass in a garden, there’s a river flowing nearby, birds are chirping, it’s a warm and pleasant sunny day and so on.
There could be numerous induction processes a therapist could use, depending on your particular situation and the results you want to achieve.
By the time you are relaxed your conscious mind shall be entering into a half-sleep like a state. In this state, the therapist can access your subconscious mind and install positive suggestions.
The state you will be in at this point is called trance. Now your subconscious mind is open to receive suggestions.
The therapist may install a suggestion like “Your communication skills are improving day-by-day. You’re confident in expressing yourself. You talk to your teachers and classmates clearly and confidently.”
The process of making you relax, going into a trance and installing suggestions in your subconscious mind may take about 20-40 minutes.
You want to polish communication skills, but you don’t have access to a Hypnotherapist. Can you install the suggestions in your subconscious mind all by yourself?
Yes, you can, by practising Self-hypnosis.
Self-hypnosis is the process of hypnotising yourself without the help of a hypnotherapist.
A Sample Self-hypnosis Session
Lie down or sit in a comfortable position.
Make sure your clothing is comfortable, and the room temperature is normal. Turn your mobile phone off. Close your eyes and take three deep breaths.
Start talking to your body and say, “Relax, take it easy, relax.” Talk to each body part individually.
For example, you can start with your toes. Focus your attention on the toes and say “I want you to relax now……… loosen up…… relax…… yes……, you are relaxing now.”
Just imagine your toes relaxing with each breath.
Repeat the process with your legs, thighs, abdomen, chest, shoulders, arms, head and face. Soon you’ll find your body relaxed.
Once you’re are relaxed, concentrate on your breathing. Imagine that with each breath you are going deeper into your subconscious mind.
Now, speak to yourself, “I am going to count 10 to 0, and by the time I reach 0, I’ll be in a trance.”
And then start counting 10………9………….8………..7…………6…….……………………………………0
By the time you reach 0, you’ll find yourself in a trance.
How to Use Self-hypnosis for Excellent Communication Skills
When you are in a trance, start speaking your suggestions. Repeat the ideas as many times as you want. For example -“My communication skills are improving day-by-day. I am confident in expressing myself. I talk clearly and confidently.”
Once completed, wait for a while. Let the suggestions sink deep down into your subconscious mind. Now, when you feel like it, start coming out of the trance. Tell yourself, “I am now counting from 0 to 10, and when I reach 10, I’ll be out of the trance and fully awake.”
Then start coming out of the trance by counting 0………1.……..2……….3………4……………..5……………………………………………10
When you reach 10, open your eyes slowly. Your Self-hypnosis session is complete. (You might fall asleep during the process, but that’s fine, nothing to worry about.)
You may find it difficult to relax in the beginning, and that’s normal. It’s just a matter of practice, and you’re bound to get better with each session. So, go ahead and reprogram your mind to improve your communication skills.
I hope this article helped you gain some insights to polish communication skills. I wish you all the best!