Communication Skills

An ability to communicate well is a key soft skill. Many other skills depend on good communication skills. Your ability to work in a team, have good interpersonal skills and be professional depend on your ability to communicate. There are some key aspects of communicating that you should know to be able to communicate well.
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Be detailed and unambiguous

If you leave out details there is a good chance that what is understood is not exactly what you meant. Therefore it is good to put in a little effort and give details. If you feel there is a chance of ambiguity creeping in you should specifically address that. And make sure that a misunderstanding does not take place. If you will take the time to give details people will listen to you more attentively. They will also be more earnest when they put the communicated information to use.

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Respect your language and use it well

Languages are one of the greatest gifts we receive from our forefathers. We should respect languages and learn to use them well. Improve your vocabulary all through your life and also pay attention to the right pronunciation of each word. A good command over language will go a long way towards communicating well.

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Pay attention to your body language as well

When we talk our body’s posture and our gestures become part of the conversation. You should use them well and make them add to the effectiveness of your communication. Remember if you do not use body language well, it may detract from your ability to communicate effectively. A stable body posture and small controlled gestures will help you have a serious conversation. Although if you are naturally more expressive with your body language that is fine. So long as it is not too distracting. Your audience needs to focus on the spoken words while they visually interpret your body language.

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Also pay attention to your tone and diction

If you take care to speak your words clearly then your listeners will appreciate it. They will be able to understand you more easily with little need for interrupting you. Your tone of voice is important as well. When used wisely you can get more feeling across than is carried by words alone. But an incorrect tone of voice can also put off people and make them lose their interest in listening to you.

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Use silence wisely

We learn that silence is golden. What you leave unsaid can be as or even more important than what you say. However it can also be that the communication suffered, because something needed to be said and was left unsaid. Nice things are easy to say and you should try to say them if you feel that way. When what you have to say may not be nice for someone, you should decide where the greater good lies. And if the greater good lies in saying it you should have the courage to go ahead and say it.

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Check your facts

When you are using verifiable facts in your communication take care to double check them. This will require some extra effort but it is well worth it. Getting the facts wrong will lead to loss of credibility. And then you have to wait till you can earn it back. And chances are, once in a while, you may have got the facts wrong. At such a time you will be happy you made it a habit to check your facts.

Be a great listener

Your ability to listen attentively and patiently is key to having good communication skills. You should avoid interjecting a listener. Though it is fine to communicate that you are able to understand, say with a simple nod. At times you may not be sure that you have understood what was said. At such a time you can state what you have understood and request the speaker to confirm. It is not a good idea to pretend to listen and let your mind wander. If you have something on your mind, you can inform that you wish to talk some other time.

Take due care that people are emotional beings when you are communicating

You should avoid being casually critical, judgmental or accusatory. If you are unduly critical, judgmental or accusatory you will create resistance to your communications. At times though you may need to have a sensitive conversation that you know can affect the other person strongly. At such times it is a good idea to choose words and tone carefully. And also to make sure your body language serves to help the other person cope with the situation. Words that are critical, blaming, judgmental or accusatory tend to create a resistant and defensive mindset. This is not conducive to productive problem solving.

Conflict & conflict resolution

Conflicts and attempts to resolve them test our communication skills a lot. Conflicts also rarely result in discussing an issue well and lead to nothing more than bruised egos on either side. If you are getting into a conflict like situation you should keep your emotions in check and stay polite. You should articulate your view point and reasoning in a calm manner. And prevent things from getting aggravated. Do not get personal and do not let your tone carry messages that your words do not mean. When trying to resolve a conflict it is not necessary to back down or concede a point that you do not wish to concede. A common reason for a conflict is that some person or persons are not aware of the relevant details. They make incorrect assumptions which leads to a conflict. This can be resolved relatively easily, if everyone goes through the relevant details carefully. If a conflict seems imminent, you can move away from it. You can step away from the conversation, or agree to disagree, or you could request an intervention. You can even go ahead and just say what you have to, but do not be rude, insulting or show someone else down. If you are able to take the heat out of the conversation, it is quite possible that a mutually acceptable solution emerges. Human history is filled with instances of divergent views getting reconciled or co-existing. There are many conflict free methods of discussing issues where opinions differ. You can choose an option to properly debate the issue in a conflict free manner.

Email Communication

A lot of the communication done today is with email. Here are some tips to help you communicate well using email.

Be prompt

Email replies should be sent preferably within two days, if not sooner. If you cannot send a detailed reply you can just send a message indicating by when the person can expect a reply. This will let people know you are a responsible communicator. If a mail remains unreplied for more than two days it can imply that the communication is not dependable. If you are waiting for a mail be sure to check in the junk or spam folder. It can be that the mail has been placed in that folder by your mail client software.

Avoid spelling mistakes

You should also spell-check your mails to avoid sending obvious misspellings and typos. Since email is a very fast means of communication errors can creep in. A simple spell-check will solve that problem for most mistakes. If it is an important mail you should carefully read through it before sending it as well. You should also avoid using short forms in an email that you use in an sms. Unless the mail is being sent to a person, who you know will be fine with the short forms.

Use proper formatting

You should capitalize words just as you would if you were writing a letter. Using all lowercase (small) letters gives a sense of informality and even laziness. Do not use capital letters unless for effect, people will feel you are shouting out your message. Use bold case only where you really emphasize something. Avoid using different fonts and colours of text and background unless it is a fun communication with a friend.

Be emotional when you need to but with care

If you receive an email that strongly affects you emotionally, take care to read it more than once. Make sure you have understood it correctly. It is easy to jump to conclusions when you get emotional and you should be careful about that. If you are sending an emotionally charged mail take some time before you hit the send button. You may want to reconsider sending it or you may want to change the wording. Do remember that email is a fast means of communication and misunderstandings can happen quickly.

Take care to address the email carefully

Make sure you are sending the email to the right address or addresses. Read them an extra time to be sure, email addresses can be deceptively similar. Make sure you use the To, CC and BCC options properly. Use the BCC option judiciously. It may not be proper to share the contents without the receiving person’s consent.

Avoid forwarding mails from strangers

Forward only mails that are from persons known to you, professional or personal. Unless you have a compelling reason to believe the mail is not spam. Forwarding mails from strangers that you have received as spam is risky. You may only be helping to spread a hoax mail.

(content courtesy IIT Kanpur)