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How to Improve Your Communication Skills

Communication skills are some of the most valuable skills a person can have. Whether in the business or in personal life, effective communicators tend to excel in all aspects of their life.

Effective communicators become so with practice. If your communication skills could use some brushing up, there are a number of things you can do and resources you can take advantage of that can help you develop and improve your communication skills.

  • Listen. One of the most important traits of a good communicator is a good listener. Good listeners stay focused on the topic at hand and actually listen to what the other person is saying. Oftentimes in conversation, it's tempting to let your mind wander or to think about what you're going to say next rather than focusing on what the person talking is saying. In addition, part of being a good listener is letting the other person finish talking without interrupting or becoming defensive. Remember that communication is two-way; allowing others to speak and share their opinions and insights is part of effectively communicating.
  • Think first. You may have a mindful of good ideas or insightful comments, but they will be next to useless if you are unable to convey them in a way that makes sense. Think about what you're going to say before you say it. By organizing your thoughts before conveying them, you are doing your listener a favor, as it is easy for him or her to follow along with what you're saying.
  • Take responsibility. In order to understand others' viewpoints and communicate your own, it's important to admit when you've made a mistake when trying to resolve a conflict through communication. Do not blame others or make excuses. You are more likely to be respected if you admit you made a mistake.
  • Take a class. There are many courses, whether they are online, audio, or through community outreach programs, that offer courses on communicating effectively in the workplace or in any other situation. These courses are often helpful as they allow the students to practice what they've learned right there in the class. If you are in a field that requires public speaking or a lot of presentations, take a public speaking class. In addition, there are many books available that can help in becoming effective communicators.
  • Use appropriate language. This is especially appropriate in the business world. Avoid swearing or using slang when communicating with co-workers or superiors. In addition, you should avoid metaphors that may be confusing to some.
  • Be aware of your voice. Make sure you don't speak too loudly, too softly, or too fast. Practice speaking on a tape recorder. Play it back. If you are having difficulty understanding what you're saying, chances are other people are as well. Make note of things you might need to change, whether it be enunciating or slowing down.
  • Concentrate on your body language. Whether you realize it or not, you are communicating just as much with your body as you are with your mouth. Keep in mind that certain gestures and postures convey a certain attitude. Folding your arms shows that you are defensive, and looking away or not making eye contact shows you are disinterested or distracted in what the other person is saying.
Few people are natural-born communicators. However, you can improve your communication skills by becoming aware of the above-mentioned tips and then working to improve your weak areas.
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