Being able to communicate effectively is perhaps the most important of all life skills. It is what allows us to transmit information to other people and to understand what we are told. You just have to observe a baby listening carefully to its mother and trying to repeat the sounds she makes to understand how fundamental the need to communicate is. In this article we will elaborate you the communication skills.
Communication, in its simplest form, is the act of transferring information from one place to another. It can be vocal (using voice), written (using print or digital media such as books, magazines, websites, or emails), visual (using logos, maps, charts, or graphs), or non-verbal (using body language, gestures, and tone and tone of voice). In practice, it is often a combination of several of them.
Communication or communicative skills are the ability to convey information to another person effectively and efficiently. Business managers with good verbal, non-verbal, and written communication skills help facilitate the exchange of information between people within a company for their business benefit.
What are basic communication skills?
Communication skills or communicative competences are the abilities we possess to be able to communicate efficiently and skillfully. Throughout our lives, thanks to listening, reading and writing, we develop our communication skills under a series of socio-cultural rules that allow us to make our message understand the recipient, in a more or less efficient way.
Possessing competent communication skills will determine our success in social relationships. That is why communicating well will allow us to enjoy better relationships at work, relationships, friendships, family and in general, with all the people around us.
The 12 basic communication skills that you can enhance
These are the main communication skills to pay attention to in order to enrich personal relationships.
Assertiveness is the core of basic communication skills, and consists of the ability to find a balance between what is meant and the consideration of the interlocutor’s interests and possible vulnerabilities. In other words, someone who has a good level of assertiveness is able to find respectful ways to say something that is relevant to communicate, even though it may not be pleasant for the interlocutor, and to do it in the least painful way possible.
For example, if someone asks us for our opinion about how he plays the guitar and we believe that he has done it wrong, assertiveness will consist of not hiding this fact, while at the same time telling him so, being careful not to offend gratuitously.
2. Eye contact
Eye contact is basic, and it is the first step in establishing a smooth face-to-face conversation. Not looking into each other’s eyes despite being able to (because you have visual access to the other person’s face) doesn’t just mean wasting the opportunity to connect with someone ; In addition, it will probably create a rarefied environment, in which there is mistrust and insecurities emerge, because it is noted that at least one person considers that it is an uncomfortable moment.
3. Adoption of the other’s perspective
This communicative ability has to do with what we know as theory of mind, which is the ability to know at all times what other subjects know that is not oneself. It is an ability that appears around 4 years of age, although in some people it never fully develops, as is typically the case with those with Autism Spectrum Disorders.
However, beyond the fact of knowing the knowledge that others have at each moment (that is, without confusing this with what one knows oneself), it is very important to be able to keep in mind the motivations and interests of others. when having a conversation. A clear example of this can be found in what commercials do: they don’t simply throw out the advantages of what they sell, but they adapt their speech to the priorities and needs they have detected in the potential client.
4. Emotion-message coherence
This is one of the basic communication skills, since mistakes in this aspect can quickly degrade the course of a conversation . It consists of maintaining coherence between what is said and the way in which we transmit emotions both from our gestures and from the modulation of the voice. Inconsistencies in this aspect can appear, for example, if we experience a lot of nerves, so in these cases it is important to train anxiety management.
5. Negotiating capacity
Putting negotiation skills into practice does not mean getting involved in a formal negotiation, but it happens every time we get involved in a dialogue in which there are at least two people with partially opposing interests. It implies rejecting the hostile ways of communicating this clash of interests, and betting on keeping the focus at all times on what both parties have in common, to reach agreements so that everyone loses something and wins something at the same time.
6. Active listening
Active listening is something relatively simple: tending, spontaneously, to show that we are listening to what the other person tells us. It involves nodding from time to time, showing reactions to what the other person says, making small comments that express interest but do not interrupt the flow of the dialogue, etc.
Empathy has more to do with what is shown and done than with what is said. It consists of the ability to make the other person see that what they communicate is understood by us at an affective level . For example, a person who is proficient in this aspect of communication will show support for another if he says that he has failed an important exam, even if for the first the exams do not matter much.
8. When nervous, take an active role and ask
As paradoxical as it may seem, if you feel nervous about engaging in a conversation with someone you don’t know well or who commands respect for you, a good way to keep stress at bay is to not be passive, and to ask questions, engage in ideas and other’s opinions.
Why? Because if you keep doing nothing, it is easier for you to feel more pressure by not controlling absolutely anything that happens in the dialogue, while if you ask questions, speaking relatively little, you will be able to make the conversation go along the paths that you interest them, and that there are far fewer times when you sit under the microscope.
This is one of the most useful tips to improve communication skills, because it shifts the pressure from oneself to the interlocutor, and makes you adopt the role of a person who is willing to positively or negatively assess what the other says.
9. Use humor
This is one of the basic communication skills, humor is a great ally to create friendly communication contexts and in which tension does not accumulate. Use small improvised jokes to create complicity, but always keep in mind the context in which the dialogue takes place, so as not to abuse informality.
10. Anticipate the moments of discomfort of the other person
There are ideas or comments that, when said out loud, can be interpreted as an attack. Therefore, to improve communication skills, you have to get used to anticipating this kind of problem, to use the appropriate linguistic formulations and give the necessary explanations so that what you say cannot be interpreted as an accusation, a mockery, etc.
11. Avoid defensive postures
If you want to convey honesty and desire to build bridges, do not use non-verbal language that says otherwise. Don’t cross your arms in front of your chest all the time, don’t stand sideways when talking to someone, don’t maintain a tense posture, etc.
12. Keep in mind the important ideas to communicate, but do not memorize
Except in the case of speeches given before an audience, memorizing entire sentences of what needs to be said is counterproductive. Instead, remember basic ideas, concepts that summarize what you have to express, and improvise in the way you communicate them. In this way, you will not divide your attention between what is happening in the present and what you memorized in the past.
Types of communication skills
The written word is still powerful after centuries of use and it is not something we should only associate with journalists and writers. Poorly written sales pages, for example, will terribly damage your personal brand reputation. Make sure to improve your writing skills if you think they are below average.
Non-verbal communication comprises 93% of what we “say,” so it is very important! Include eye contact, hand gestures, body language, and tone of voice. Practice standing with your arms open and your legs relaxed. People will find that you are more approachable and friendly and are more likely to try to talk to you.
This has to do with what we say, and although it only represents 7% of communication, it is still important. You need to evaluate the conversation to decide how to proceed. For example, you would use short sentences and speak slowly to a child, and you would do the same with colleagues when trying to explain a complicated work process.
The practice of reflection consists of repeating what a person has told you to check that you understand. Use this if you find that you often get a person’s message wrong.
When talking on the phone, you need to adopt a positive tone, project enthusiasm in a natural way, and maintain an attentive and courteous tone at all times. This skill is important in any job where you have to answer the phone, just like receptionists or people who work in a call center.
Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that technology is hurting our communication skills! Use it to improve them. Communicating through text, email, and social media is a good way to get things moving or to carry on a conversation; although there is nothing better than face-to-face meetings to get to the heart of an issue.
In a way, this could be related to wildly gesturing with your arms while throwing funny faces at each other! However, it is commonly used to describe making presentations at work. Good visual communication skills allow you to get your point across on a handful of PowerPoint slides.
As a general rule of thumb, try to listen twice as much as you speak, remain alert and attentive, and do your best not to interrupt until the speaker has finished. Human beings need to be understood and also understand. Listening to a person is the best way to understand them.
How to improve communication skills
Although some interpersonal skills seem natural to certain people, there is no reason why you cannot improve your communication skills. If all you do is the promise to be a better active listener, you will be way ahead of the competition! However, you should also add these little weapons to your communication skills toolbox:
- Learn the art of networking to hone your communication skills.
- Work hard on your level of empathy.
- If you’re feeling brave, practice public speaking. Once you overcome the hurdle of communicating with a large audience, you will find that daily communication in the workplace is a walk in the park.
- In the event that you are in a long and detailed conversation or meeting, do your best to get the meat off the bones in the form of details of the key points of the most important issues.
- Take notes at business meetings and reread everything you write. Ask questions if what you have written does not make sense to you.
- Consider your target audience and determine the mode of communication based on what you feel is best for their needs and the situation.
The importance of communication at work
Regardless of your position or level of responsibility, communication skills are important. In fact, a 2016 study by the British National Association of Colleges and Employers (NACE) found that verbal communication skills were ranked # 1 among skills and qualities candidates should have. A failure in communication affects performance, morale, and work efficiency.
One of the things about communication skills is that yours will be tested during an interview. It involves speaking clearly and concisely with a group of strangers while demonstrating healthy vocabulary, maintaining eye contact, conveying relevant information, and displaying personality. If you can pass that test, your communication skills are probably fine.