What’s communication and how to improve your communication skills?
Communication is the act of transferring information from one place to another. How to improve your communication skills?
We achieve it through four different means:
- written: letters and emails
- non-verbal: body language and gestures
- visual: graphs and maps
- and verbal communication: speaking
Verbal communication is:
- bi-directional, when interacting with others
- or uni-directional when, for example, delivering a speech
This article focusses on how to improve your communication skills
Some hacks can help on how to improve your communication skills and make you sound less clumsy, and decidedly more eloquent than you might think.
We base the advice dispensed here on our team’s experience as multi-lingual interpreters, a profession that hinges on communicative abilities.
Here are three ways in which we honed our communication skills in our mother tongue and also in foreign languages.
1. Become a critical reader
As interpreters, we are only as good as our ability to convey messages naturally and effectively in English and other languages.
To do so, we need in-depth subject knowledge and a more significant word bank to glean from. How do we build up our vocabulary?
Enhancing our speaking range
We read actively every day for at least 10 minutes. What does this mean in practical terms?
It means that for every article we read, in any language, we note down five words or expressions and add them to our “language booklet”: a notebook where we record all our new linguistic findings, be it:
- new idioms
- turns of phrase
We then make a conscious attempt to use these in our oral communication, thus actively enhancing our vocal range.
Setting aside 10 minutes to read an article online is not that much of a chore, but be sure to pick your reading material wisely!
There is a lot of mediocre content out there, so opt for a reputable website.
We recommend newspapers and magazines written by professional journalists, such as the Guardian, for English.
2. Practice makes perfect
A strenuous exercise, albeit a beneficial one, is to record yourself.
Although very daunting and somewhat cringe-worthy at first (do I sound like that?!), this exercise proves invaluable as it forces us to listen to how we come across and to spot important, yet avoidable, issues such as:
- the excessive use of gap fillers: notice and stamp out all the ‘ums,’ and ‘erms.’ They make us sound insecure and even unconvinced of what we are saying;
- the overexploitation of empty interjections: so many of us have become lazy with language. We often (ab)use utterances as ‘like’ (‘So, like, what do you think, about this, like,?’), which lower communication’s tone and quality.
Learn how to use intonation
The recording also allows us to hear whether we are using tone to our advantage (Do I sound flat and monotonous, and therefore sleep-inducing? Do I vary my intonation, keeping the delivery bouncy and engaging?).
Get over the fear of hearing your voice and try recording yourself!
There’s lots of free software available for download on phones and computers (e.g., Audacity).
3. Map it out
‘I’m so happy I didn’t plan this speech!’ said no one, ever! ヅ
A little bit of preparation and some rehearsing can go a long way to making what you have to say sound good ➤ but, more importantly ➤ , ensuring you deliver your words with confidence.
This advice is particularly true if you have to give a presentation to a group of colleagues or deliver a valuable speech in front of a broad audience.
The organization is always the key
Organize what you are going to say beforehand: our team has lost count of the number of speakers we have interpreted for who:
- ramble on
- go off-topic
- or repeat themselves!
- Stick to your points
- Deliver them clearly and concisely
- And trust us ➤ not only will you communicate effectively ➤ , but you’ll also gain a lot of respect from your listeners in the process.
TED Talks are an excellent resource for learning how to deliver speeches. Actively observe the techniques adopted by the speakers and apply the ones you find useful to enhance your communication skills.
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