At school, college, or work, our communication skills are a significant determinant of our success.
If we develop the right communication skills and use them effectively, there’s no stopping us from achieving our goals.
Developing the right communication skills for college includes the development of reading, writing, speaking, presenting, and listening skills.
So, how do we begin to improve our communication skills?
Here are 8 Tips to Improve Your Communication Skills
1. Choose the Right Words
Choosing the right words can do wonders in getting across precisely what you are trying to say, without creating confusion or misunderstandings.
Whether you are speaking or writing, make sure you are mindful of the words you use.
Choose expressions that enable the reader or the listener to understand what you mean.
Using jargon and technical terms may show off your knowledge, but if it doesn’t get the point across to your audience, then it defeats the purpose.
Simplicity and conciseness often work much better when it comes to communicating ideas efficiently and effectively.
If you find yourself struggling to find the right words to express yourself, there are many resources you can use to help you communicate better.
Reading diverse materials, from books to online articles, and watching others speak in a variety of forums and platforms, can expand your understanding of how to communicate in different situations.
There are several online courses dedicated to helping you improve your vocabulary and language usage.
Meanwhile, services like Grammarly help you optimize your writing for impact.
2. Ask Questions
Whether it’s a professor, a colleague, or even your friend, ask questions to make sure you understand what the person really means.
Don’t read in between the lines and assume things, because this could result in creating a negative relationship.
Ask for clarification if you are unsure about what the other party is saying.
By doing this, you communicate to the other party that you want to know about their point of view.
It’s more likely to make them willing to explain themselves to you.
In turn, this also allows you to explain your position more thoroughly.
Establishing open and mutual communication lines can make your college and work life much smoother.
You know you can reach out whenever you feel unsure of something, and know that others can approach you as well.
3. Listen Well
Listening well is a great way to avoid careless errors.
You’re not going to be a great communicator if you are the only one doing the talking.
The flow of information will be one-way if you don’t listen well to others.
There won’t be any feedback.
You won’t be able to work on improving your communication skills if you don’t look out for whether your message landed the way you wished.
For you to become a great communicator, you must be willing to listen to the other person’s point of view.
You must fight any urge to respond immediately, take in what they’re saying, try to understand it, ask them questions if you are unsure what they mean.
By listening, you present yourself as an interested communicator.
This indicates to the other person that you care about the conversation and will make them more willing to listen to you in turn too.
Listening to others well can lead to a more insightful and productive discussion.
You will each be building on the conversation and knowledge with your own contributions.
It will give you the opportunity of learning from others, as well as teaching others.
Paying attention to what others say also lets you come up with the most effective and appropriate response.
Even at a heated college debate, when you listen to your opponent well, only then can you develop the right response.
4. Polish Your Speaking Skills
Speaking is a critical component that you should aim to improve in college.
Even if you do not follow a public speaking course, in most colleges, you have to deliver presentations regularly.
In these instances, you need to express your point shortly and sweetly.
You don’t need to be a good orator, but you need to practice your presentation skills.
Practice how to deliver your point in a way that will interest your audience and have an effect on them.
Many fall into the unfortunate habit of reading off slides.
Even if you have perfect diction, this can make your presentation drab and monotonous.
A significant determinant of how effective your presentation is is how familiar you are with your material.
Know your information inside and out, so that you can deliver it naturally and engagingly to your audience.
This way, even if you don’t consider yourself a brilliant orator, you can still come across as knowledgeable and informed about your topic, and communicate effectively.
By developing this skill in college, it will also be easier for you to face interviews and job presentations without stuttering, or second-guessing yourself.
5. Having the Right Attitude
Develop an attitude of dignity and respect for others and yourself.
Don’t merely assume that you are communicating effectively – how you think you’re communicating and how someone else perceives it could be different.
Be confident that you can communicate well, and always be positive.
Have an open attitude that is willing to understand people and accept their opinions.
This is especially important when you are working with people of different cultures, ethnicities, and backgrounds.
Familiarize yourself with what comes off as impolite or disrespectful.
Through the extra effort, you ensure you don’t offend anyone when you are trying to communicate with them.
This will significantly improve your communication skills in all relationships.
Others may appreciate the effort you are making to communicate in a way they are comfortable with, which builds toward mutual and open communication.
6. Pay Attention to Non-Verbal Communication
To communicate effectively, avoid misunderstandings, and enjoy solid, trusting relationships socially and professionally, it’s essential to understand how to use and interpret nonverbal signals.
Nonverbal communication includes facial expressions, eye contact, body postures and gestures, tone of the voice, and the space between the speaker and listener.
Knowing how to detect these signals in others lets you know whether you are communicating effectively.
If someone is tense while speaking to you, or is not looking in your direction when you present, you can infer that you are not communicating effectively.
Similarly, you have to manage such non-verbal cues effectively when you communicate as well.
A relaxed posture when presenting can communicate confidence, but overly casual may indicate that you are sloppy and not taking it seriously.
The tone with which you deliver your message can also significantly alter how others interpret it.
By learning to manage stress during communication, you will be able to improve your nonverbal communication skills.
This is because stress compromises your ability to communicate.
When your stress levels are under control, you will be sending positive nonverbal signals encouraging communication.
Make eye contact with your listener/speaker to let him know that he has your full attention.
Nod your head frequently, encouraging the person to go on.
Have the right personal space to ensure that both the speaker and the listener feel comfortable during the communication.
7. Make the Right Judgment
Understand what you want to achieve through communication.
By making the right judgment of where you want to go with the discussion, you will know what to say and what not to say.
This self-control will ensure that you don’t fall into any emotional arguments or meander away from the point, and you will reach the objective of the communication.
8. Ask for feedback
The best way to know if you are communicating right is to ask others.
Ask your friends, colleagues, professors, parents, etc. for their honest feedback about your communication skills.
You need to be able to handle both positive and negative feedback. Ask them what you think you’re doing well and what you think you can do better.
And there you have it – my top 8 tips to improve your communication skills!
Did you find them helpful?
Are you going to try any of them out, and if so, which are you going to try first?
Let me hear from you!
Ifaza works from home. She has a Master’s in psychology and loves blogging to help people improve their communication skills.
[ Updated – October 7, 2020 ]