By DeVry University
In everyday life, you communicate with people. Communication helps us connect with others, obtain and share information, work out conflicts and build relationships. It is one of many soft skills—interpersonal or "people" skills—that can help make you an asset to organizations, teams and even your family.
When it comes to the workplace, however, the importance of communication skills can be even more prevalent. Consider the potential impact on your career if the tone in your email was misconstrued. Or the possible conflict that may ensue if you misspeak while trying to resolve a disagreement with a coworker. Communication acumen is instrumental in every industry and role, regardless of level.
From interacting with the public in a client-facing position to discussing company business at the corporate level, communication skills are applicable everywhere. Your ability to communicate will help you lead teams, make contacts, resolve conflicts among team members and ensure positive employee relations. Whether you’re entry-level or running a company, communication impacts your success.
Plus, these skills are just as applicable in the online work environment. Remote work is often a standard in the modern world, making it even more challenging to convey tone and intent through digital communication.
If you’re looking for advice on how to improve your communication skills, it may be easier than you think. We've gathered a 5 tips to help you hone your abilities and become a more effective communicator in your education, work and daily life.
How to Improve Communication Skills
Communicating more is one way to work on your communication skills—but it may not be the most effective. Here are simple tips to help you enhance your communication skills in a positive way.
1. Invest Time in Volunteer Opportunities to Expand Your Horizons
Volunteering is rewarding and supports the community, which are two excellent reasons to explore opportunities in your area. But volunteerism can also help expand your skillset in multiple ways.
When you first join an organization, you’ll need to learn how it operates and how fellow volunteers interact. The culture can help dictate how you must change and adapt your communication tactics. Taking on a leadership position in a volunteer organization is another way to work toward communication skills improvement.
Leadership tasks also help boost such soft skills as creative thinking and flexibility. Being a team player is also a necessity when you're contributing to or managing a team. At the same time, volunteering can help boost your confidence as you navigate unfamiliar territory. This means you’re helping others while building leadership skills that will follow you to new opportunities and environments.
2. Focus on Storytelling for a Communication Boost
Think about how you tell stories. Do they flow smoothly, or are they choppy as you add details here and there to create a cohesive tale? Are you able to concisely summarize big ideas into bite-size pieces for your audience? Can you sense when it’s time to wrap things up before your friend, coworker or boss becomes bored?
Contemplating the way that you approach storytelling says a lot about your communication style and skills. Focusing on improving your storytelling abilities is one way to make a significant impact on the quality of your communication. Talking more isn’t always the answer—making your words count is what matters.
Plus, as you navigate your career with your newfound storytelling skills, you will become adept at summarizing your organization’s mission and goals. Streamlining those values into your workplace mantra can help make a strong impression on your manager and team.
3. Don’t Forget Face-to-Face Interaction: It's All About Balance
While online communication has its place, balance is a necessity. Your communication practice in digital environments shouldn’t take the place of interactions with coworkers, friends, peers and professors.
Think about ways you can continue applying communication strategies as you navigate work and your personal life. Showing emotions—and recognizing them in others—can be beneficial for your interpersonal relationships as well as work connections. Make time to engage in conversations with your friends, family, children and even strangers as you go about your day.
Finding ways to connect with others in daily life can go a long way toward building both your confidence and your communication abilities. Plus, you’ll build additional soft skills like conflict resolution as you have more personal interactions. Improving your ability to communicate spans every facet of your life, and the benefits of effective discourse can help enhance relationships, too.
4. Practice Active Listening to Continue the Flow of Communication
Active listening is a cornerstone of effective communication. Instead of passively listening and remaining quiet (or not paying attention at all), active listening requires an investment on your part. The strategies for listening actively include:
- Remaining neutral while listening to another person speak.
- Allowing pauses as they talk—rather than filling in before they finish.
- Showing attentive body language such as nodding, smiling and making eye contact.
- Asking thoughtful questions.
- Restating what the person has said to be sure you understand.
- Requesting clarification if you feel confused by something.
- Summarizing their statements to confirm and validate their feelings and perspective.
By implementing these active listening strategies while talking with others, you are showing that you care about the conversation and the other person. These steps also require you to be fully attentive to the other person, instead of allowing distractions to interfere. Focusing on the other person's communication also keeps you from being too hasty about your feedback.
Processing time is helpful, no matter which side of the conversation you're on. Speaking out of turn can disrupt communication and cause others to feel as if they are not heard, but active listening allows for a natural flow of conversation and effective communication.
5. Develop Your Emotional Intelligence with Online Communication
Communication is key to navigating digital environments and building relationships in new ways. The people you interact with online are often located in varied geographic locations, may come from different cultural backgrounds and can have perspectives that may vary greatly from your own. Technology allows you to bridge the gap and learn how to listen and communicate efficiently with multiple personality types.
Diving into online communication also helps you develop your Emotional IQ (EQ). Emotional intelligence is tied to self-awareness and self-control, as well as social awareness and the ability to maintain relationships. Interacting online requires that you read, listen and think about the perspectives of others while also communicating your points of view.
As you navigate online communication while keeping in mind the feelings and perceptions of others, you grow as a communicator and as a person. Accepting and considering constructive criticism while also offering helpful feedback to others are EQ skills that can also transfer to in-person interactions.
Another vital online skill that is helpful for in-person interactions is the ability to understand how and when to deploy different communication approaches, from long form explanations to quick and informative commentary. Likewise, knowing the best ways to communicate your message through email, collaboration tools, video chat and even text messages can prove vital in the workplace.
When you're communicating remotely, the absence of nonverbal cues can make a huge difference. Without your tone of voice, facial expressions or hand gestures to help convey tone, people on the receiving end of your communication need to read between the lines. Honing your communication skills in the online world can uniquely prepare you to handle these interactions.
Learning How to Improve Your Communication Skills: Start with Education
Communication is all around us, whether in print, digital, verbal or media form. This means that now, more than ever, adapting your communication skills to the modern world has the potential to influence your career as well as your personal relationships. For those who want to grow this particular skillset, there are flexible academic options to supplement self-learning and solidify important communication concepts.
Whether you attend online or in-person classes, engaging with peers is an excellent way to hone your communication acumen. Your classmates will each bring a unique perspective to the group, therefore listening and interpreting other points of view are critical skills that students can begin to develop quickly.
Communicating with like-minded peers and professionals means more opportunities for perfecting your emotional intelligence, active listening and countless other soft skills. Take advantage of opportunities to communicate so you can build your skills for both professional and personal growth.