Improve Your Communication Skills

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200350314-001The beginning of a new year is the perfect time for students and adults to work on their communication skills. Let’s look at what effective communication is.

Effective communication skills are made up of three things; words, sounds and body language.

Ten percent of effective communication is words. Your vocabulary and using proper grammar are important when talking with people. Avoiding empty filler words like “um,” “ah,” “you know” makes you sound more confident, professional and educated.

Thirty percent of effective communication is sounds. Your tone of voice, volume, pacing (how fast or slow you speak), energy and enthusiasm all contribute to effective communication. Don’t mumble and don’t look down while you’re talking with someone, this causes your words to fall to the floor where they aren’t heard. And try not to speak too fast. This quote from Maya Angelou is worth remembering: “Words are more than what are set down on paper; it takes the human voice to infuse them with shades of deeper meaning.”

Sixty percent of effective communication is body language. Let your enthusiasm show when you’re speaking with someone by being physically expressive. If you’re excited about something and talk about it, show it with your body language. And, by all means, make eye contact with people you’re talking with, it’s really important.

Effective communication involves not only speaking with people; it is also about listening to them. There are four ways to listen and they’re all important. We listen with our ears, eyes, body language and emotions. When someone is speaking with you, look at them, not away from them. Pay attention to what they’re saying and really hear the meaning of their words with your ears.

Use receptive body language when you listen. Show that you’re interested. And finally, allow your emotions to be engaged if someone is talking about something that has touched them emotionally. Being an ‘active’ listener is important.

Here are some suggestions regarding using technology, phones and tablets as the new year starts. When you have a face to face conversation with someone, turn off your phone and tablet and focus on the person you’re speaking with. If you’re in a social setting with other people, it is impolite to use your phone while you’re with them. If you have to make or receive a call, excuse yourself from the group to do so. It is rude to talk on a phone while you’re in the presence of others.

Finally, effective communication is about making people React, Respond and Remember. These are the HOPE 3R’s of effective communication. You accomplish them based upon; what you say, when you say it and how you say it.

Happy New Year. The first month of a new year is the perfect time to practice effective communication skills.

BobWolfColumnistBob Wolf is founder of HOPE The Students’ Bridge To Business and the HOPE Skills Program (www.hopeskills.com).

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