By: Ashley Tulio, Communications Specialist
The definition of communication is giving, receiving, or exchanging ideas, information, signals, or messages through appropriate media, enabling individuals or groups to persuade, seek information, provide information, or express emotions.
When I was in high school, I believed that communication was purely the exchange of words, either through verbal or written means. I wasn’t the strongest student within my English class, nor was I among the strongest presenters. I used to have rhotacism a speech impediment defined by the lack of ability or difficulty in pronouncing the “R” sound. For the majority of my life, my struggles in saying the letter “R” led to me developing anxiety when presenting or speaking in front of a large group of people since I couldn’t pronounce any words with an “R correctly. However, as I grew older and entered university, I attended events, classes, meetings, where I have received compliments on how great of a communicator I am. Eventually, I became extremely confident in my speaking skills and interactions with other individuals after having many opportunities to practice. Now, being able to reflect, I recognize my lack of confidence when presenting led to me relying on my strengths, including listening skills, and understanding non-verbal signs when interacting with other people.
Below are different types of communication:
Types of communication
- Verbal communication: when people engage in speaking/interacting with others
- Written communication: forms of this type of communication include: emails, messaging, reports, essays, contracts; they all have the same goal of providing information/ideas clearly and concisely.
- Visual communication: this includes anything with images such as pictures and videos.
- Non-verbal: this includes facial expressions, posture, eye contact, hand movements, and touch. These behaviours allow people to be more comfortable, as well as build trust and connections with others. To learn more about the role of non-verbal/body language within communication, please click here!
- Listening: active listening is being present in the conversation, understanding, remembering, and responding to the individuals with whom you interact. In order to actively listen, you need to pay attention, make eye contact with whoever is talking, be patient (do not interrupt!), ask questions for clarification, and most importantly, truly listen to what is being said.
Active listening was the main reason I was a great communicator; I was able to truly listen and read between the lines when interacting with others. I communicated with certain words and diction that allowed the person I was interacting with to feel more comfortable and engaged when talking to me. By observation and active listening, you can create a genuine and unforgettable connection with any individual you come across!
Tips to improve your communication skills
A good communicator organizes what they want to communicate to others before they start speaking. They summarize their statements understandably and concisely, and use language that their listeners will understand. It is also good practice to make notes that you can refer to when needed, but it is also crucial that you only use them for reference and don’t just read them when addressing your listeners. It is also imperative to maintain a clear line of reasoning/thought to communicate your ideas effectively. It would be best to avoid empty statements or slang, which will take away from your overall message. I personally stay organized by taking notes after the conversation takes place to retain as much as possible from our interaction, and this is only possible if you are actively listening and making mental bookmarks.
Picking the Right Tone
Choosing the right tone and diction when speaking is just as important as organizing your ideas. Your tone will dictate how your listeners engage with what you are saying. Most communicators choose to use a more assertive tone while communicating to their listeners because it allows them to emphasize the importance of what they are talking about and get through to as many listeners as possible. Assertive people are also seen as more confident and are taken more seriously by the audience as their ideas carry more weight. Confident people are seen as more energetic and express themselves in a way that is both engaging and entertaining. It is crucial that when conversing, you listen very carefully in order to assess how effective your tone is and if any changes are needed to be made. During my years in high school, whenever I had to present, people would always assume that I was extremely confident; however, all I truly did was use an assertive tone and projected my voice to portray my character as is.
Keeping an open mind during conversations allows communicators to empathize with their listeners and understand what is currently bothering them. This is especially relevant during one-on-one conversations or when speaking to a large crowd. The ability to “feel the room” and read non-verbal signs is essential for any communicator, as it allows them to quickly adjust their messages and the way they communicate them to their audience to get through to them. Communicators with an open mind can often spot opportunities during dialogue which is exceptionally beneficial as it allows for more two-way conversation, and provides the potential for future collaboration between speakers. You can also judge the other speakers’ open-mindedness by various factors such as their body language, the tone they use, and how they express their feelings and frustrations. These are subtle signs that can be extremely hard to observe and provide the communicator with valuable information they can use during their conversation to achieve their desired outcome.
Being self-aware is extremely important when engaging with other people. Sometimes conversations will prove difficult, and your listeners will not be on the same page as you, and instead of being frustrated, you must be able to recognize what you are doing wrong and adjust accordingly. Don’t be afraid of putting the conversation off for another time to allow both sides to gain a clearer mind and reach a final decision, or a compromise might require multiple conversations. Also, make sure you actively listen for clues and look for non-verbal signs/body language on what it is that ticks/frustrates your listeners and adjust your speaking accordingly.
In conclusion, there are many types of communication, and therefore if public speaking or writing isn’t your strong suit, you can still be an amazing communicator! There are always different ways and opportunities to enhance your communication skills; it just takes time and practice!