How to improve your English Communication Skills?
“Communication is a process by which information is exchanged between individuals through a common system of symbols, signs, or behavior “.
In today’s fast changing global environment, communication plays a significant role in every individual’s life. The ability to communicate information accurately, precisely, but more importantly effectively is a vital life skill.
Improving communication skills helps individuals in both their personal and professional life. It is the act of conveying precise, intended meanings from one entity to another through the use of mutually understood signs and semiotic rules.
What is effective communication in the first place?
Effective communication with a wide variety of people involves not only written or spoken words but good eye contact, effective listening, a varied vocabulary and a customization of language for your audience.
Few examples of communication in our daily lives:
- We interact with our family before going to college or work
- We book an Ola using our mobile apps
- We check our Whatsapp and Facebook while travelling
- We greet people at college or work
- We make presentations for clients in meetings
So what are we trying to say?
It boils down to the simple fact that communication is an integral part of every human being and it is required in every walk of life. Improving communication skills therefore needs a perfect understanding of all the factors present in the communication process.
Elements of the Communication Process
Types of Communication
There are two types of communication:-
- Verbal Communication
- Non Verbal Communication
Both these communications outline our interactions with people in business and interpersonal interaction. They determine our financial and personal success as well as physical and psychological well-being.
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Verbal Communication Skills
It is the sharing of information between persons by using speech. It is a type of oral communication wherein the message is transmitted through spoken words. Here the sender gives words to his feelings, thoughts, ideas and opinions and expresses them in the form of conversation, discussions, speeches and presentations.
The effectiveness of the verbal communication depends on the tone of the speaker, clarity of speech, volume, speed, body language and the quality of words used in the conversation. In the case of the verbal communication, the feedback is immediate since there are a simultaneous transmission and receipt of the message by the sender and receiver respectively.
Non Verbal Communication Skills
Non verbal communication is an important component of most human communications. It encompasses facial expressions, gestures, posture and tone of voice among many. Transmission of messages by a medium other than speech or writing is called non verbal communication. Non-verbal communication is ambiguous. It is relied on to judge another’s attitudes and feelings, rather than assuming the truth of the verbal message alone.
7 C’s of Communication or Essentials needed for Improving English Communication
As we are all aware communication is a vital skill set that each individual should possess in order to express oneself effectively. We communicate on a daily basis whether at home, at work or with our neighbors or at the park. The better we communicate, the more creditability we’ll have with people around us. Hence understanding English communication skills appropriately is essential for everybody and one can’t do without it.We communicate verbally, non-verbally and in writing through emails/letters etc. Unfortunately, the message does not always come across as we intend.
Hence it is important that we incorporate the & 7C’s in our routine life to be successful communicators. The 7 C’s of Communication provides a checklist for all of your communication as a result of which both written and verbal communication pass off in a clear, plain, target group-oriented and well-structured manner. By doing this, you’ll stay clear, concise, concrete, correct, coherent, complete, and courteous. Awareness of these 7 C’s makes you an effective communicator.
The 7 C’s as they are popularly called are as below:-
Let’s understand each one in detail:-
Clear message makes use of exact, suitable and definite words. Complete clarity of thoughts and ideas enhances the meaning of message. It makes understanding easier and less complicated. Hence it is important for the communicator to be clear about his purpose or goal of communicating with this person. If he is unsure then the audience would be uncertain as to what was conveyed.
To be clear, try to minimize the number of ideas and thoughts in each sentence. Make sure that it’s easy for your reader to understand your meaning and the essentials of the message. People shouldn’t have to “read between the lines” and make assumptions on their own to understand what you’re trying to say.
Let’s look at an email below to understand this concept on Clarity with utmost ease…
I wanted to talk you about an employee in your department. Her name is Neha. She’s a great asset to us and I’d like to talk to you at length about her when you are relatively free.
What does this email state and what does it signify?
It is very ambiguous. We are clueless as to whether there are multiple Neha in Rajesh’s department and in that case Rajesh will not know who Rajan is talking about. Secondly what is Neha doing that is so great? We don’t know that either. It’s so open ended that Rajesh will definitely have to write back for more insight into the whole thing. Most importantly what is the purpose of this email? Does Rajan simply want to have an idle chat about Neha, or is there some more specific goal here? There’s no sense of purpose to this message, so it’s a bit confusing and abrupt.
This email should be rewritten with a little more precision. It should read like this…
I wanted to talk you about Neha Shah, an employee in your department. In recent weeks she has helped the Finance department through several pressing deadlines . We’ve got a tough upgrade project due to run over the next three months, and her knowledge and skills would prove invaluable. Could we please have her help us with this project?
I would appreciate to discuss this at length with you at your convenient time.
This second email is much clearer, because the reader has the information he needs to take action and more ahead. No matter how correctly composed a message might be, unless its credibility is sound, it cannot be a correct message. Thus before a message is sent, its accuracy should be weighed.
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There is more which goes into a message. It includes proper grammar, punctuation, spelling and pronunciation. But it only doesn’t mean correct grammar. It also means the use of right level of language (formal, informal and substandard), accuracy of figures, facts and words, maintaining acceptable writing mechanics to ensure that the message is grammatically correct and with precision.
When your communication is correct, it fits your audience. And correct communication is also error-free communication. In general terms it helps in expressing oneself with ease without errors.
When too many emails and correspondence are being written in a day, people tend to type quickly and therefore might make spelling mistakes.
We should be able address people the right way and spell their names without any errors. Moreover the reader should have enough and adequate knowledge and education to understand the technical terms that you use in your communication.
Let’s make it sound simple and more understandable by taking this example.
Thank you so much for meeting me for brunch today! I enjoyed our conservation, and I’m so looking forward to moving ahead on our project. I’m sure that the two-weak deadline won’t be an issue.
See you soon!
If you read this example fast, then you might not have caught any errors. But on closer look, you will be able to spot two errors. Can you spot them now?
The first and the most obvious mistake is that the writer accidentally typed conservation instead of conversation. This basic error can happen when you’re typing quickly. The other error is using weak instead of week. Hence it is absolutely important on our part to recheck and proofread every piece of information.
The message should be complete. By this I mean it should include all the relevant information as required by the intended audience. The complete information answers all the e questions of the receivers and helps in better decision-making undertaken by him.
A complete communication goes a long way in building reputation of an organization. Moreover, this communication is cost saving as no crucial information is missing and no additional cost is incurred in conveying extra message if the communication is complete.
In simple terms a complete communication always gives detailed information wherever required. It leaves no doubts in the mind of receiver of the message. It aids in better decision-making by the receivers of the message as they get all the inputs and information they need.
To understand this concept let us take a simple example.
This is a reminder for the meeting we have planned for tomorrow!!!!!!
This message is 100 percent incomplete. It does not address questions like What meeting? When is the meeting? Where is it going to be? All these details are absent in the email. Mathew has left his team with incomplete details.
This message if rewritten with the necessary inputs would add a lot of insight for the employees. This is how we must write it now….
I just wanted to remind you about tomorrow’s meeting on the new human resource policies. The meeting will be scheduled at 9:00 a.m. in our conference room. Please let me know if you can’t attend the same.
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This is an important aspect of communication. This means the message should be clear and particularly there must be no scope for misinterpretation. All the facts and figures should be clearly mentioned in a message so as to reason out whatever the sender is saying without any doubt.
Concrete communication should not be fuzzy and general. It should be clear and specific. Concreteness strengthens the confidence. It makes use of words that are significantly clear and that builds reputation. There is no chance of such messages being misinterpreted. When your message is concrete, then your audience has a clear picture of what you’re telling them. Your message is solid and holds value.
Let’s take an example to understand the concept of a concrete message:
Sterling Resort is the best resort. Do come to us on your next vacation
When we evaluate this statement we understand that it is an ambiguous advertisement message. It sounds like just another resort advertisement which we see in the world around us. The audience will never remember this ad message. It will be easily forgotten. There are no concrete details to take away from this message.
This statement can be made more captivating and concrete.
Sterling Resort is the jewel of the western hills. Take a break from your hectic work life. Escape from routine and stress. Go back fresh and rejuvenated!!
This message helps you visualize every bit of your fancy holiday that you wish to go for. The reader can actually imagine being in a beautiful resort breathing fresh air and swimming in a pool instead of slogging away at his or her office. That is a concrete message conveyed to the audience.
Too much information results in confusion. Conciseness means that a message is composed in fewest possible words without scarifying any other ‘c’ quality. It contributes to emphasis; by eliminating unnecessary words.
When you’re concise in your communication, you stick to the point and keep it brief. Your audience doesn’t want to read six sentences when you could communicate your message in three. The message should be precise and to the point. The sender should avoid the lengthy sentences and try to convey the subject matter in the least possible words. The short and brief message is more comprehensive and helps in retaining the receiver’s attention.
It is both time-saving as well as cost-saving. It underlines and highlights the main message as it avoids using excessive and needless words. Concise communication provides short and essential message in limited words to the audience. Concise message is more appealing and comprehensible to the audience. Concise message is non-repetitive in nature.
Let’s look at this example which is self explanatory.
I wanted to quickly discuss the email marketing campaign that we analyzed last Friday. Our target market will want to know about the company’s benevolent efforts, especially our goals to become sustainable and help local schools.
This would make a far greater impact, and it would stay in their minds longer than a traditional sales pitch.
What do you view on this?
This message is very concise and to the point.
Consideration implies being empathetic and stepping into the shoes of others” in simple words. Effective communication must take the audience into consideration, i.e, the audience’s view points, background, mind-set, education level etc. Ensure that the self-respect of the audience is maintained and their emotions are not at harm.
Emphasize on “you” approach. This will stimulate a positive reaction from the audience. Show optimism towards your audience. Lay stress on positive words such as jovial, committed, thanks, warm, healthy etc.
Looking at an example, instead of saying, “We are delighted to announce that we are increasing shopping hours” we should say, “Now you can enjoy shopping at evening with the extended hours.”
But a considerate sender makes sure that the receiver is not the focus of negative statements. In cases where negative statements are to be used, passive voice can be used to avoid stress on the word, ‘You ’or make it depersonalized. For Instance, instead of saying, “you failed to enclose a check in the envelop” say, “the check was not enclosed”.
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Courteous communication is friendly, open, and honest. There are no hidden insults or passive-aggressive tones. You keep your reader’s viewpoint in mind, and you’re empathetic to their needs.
Courtesy in message implies the message should show the sender’s expression as well as should respect the receiver. The sender of the message should be sincerely polite, judicious, reflective and enthusiastic. Courteous message is positive and focused at the audience. It makes use of terms showing respect for the receiver of message. It is not at all biased.
I wanted to let you know that I don’t appreciate how your team always monopolizes the discussion at our weekly meetings. I have a lot of projects, and I really need time to get my team’s progress discussed as well. So far, thanks to your department, I haven’t been able to do that. Can you make sure they make time for me and my team next week?
Well, that’s hardly courteous! Messages like this can potentially start office-wide fights. And this email does nothing but create bad feelings, and lower productivity and morale. A little bit of courtesy, even in difficult situations, can go a long way.
Barriers to Communication
Barriers to effective communication can retard or distort the message or intention of the message being conveyed. This may result in failure of the communication process or cause an effect that is undesirable. It’s important to remember that there are differences between talking and communicating. When we talk, we tend to erect barriers that hinder our ability to communicate. Some of the communication barriers during conversation include:
- Differences in perception and viewpoint
- Language differences and the difficulty in understanding unfamiliar accents
- Physical disabilities such as hearing problems or speech difficulties
- The use of jargon. Over-complicated, unfamiliar and/or technical terms
- Lack of attention, interest, distractions, or irrelevance to the receiver
- People often hear what they expect to hear rather than what is actually said and jump to incorrect conclusions
Barriers of effective communication skills can be broadly categorised as :-
Physical – The most important physical barriers are time, place, space, climate and noise. Few of them are easy to change whereas, few may prove to be difficult obstructions in the process of effective communication. These factors may cause distraction leading to inattentiveness or totally alter the message, causing miscommunication.
Cultural – Cultural barriers are a result of living in an ever shrinking world. Cultural barriers is when people of different cultures are unable to understand each other’s customs, resulting in inconveniences and difficulties. Different cultures or simply the work culture of a organisation, can hinder developed communication if two different cultures clash. In these cases, it is important to find a common ground to work from.
Language – A language barrier is a figurative phrase used primarily to refer to linguistic barriers to communication, i.e. the difficulties in communication experienced by people or groups speaking different languages, or even dialects in some cases.
Interpersonal – Interpersonal barriers occur due to the inappropriate transaction of words between two or more people. If there are two people involved in communication, the characteristics that distinguish them as individuals can be the root cause of a communication problem. The most common reasons for interpersonal barriers are as follows limited vocabulary, emotional outbursts, communication selectivity, poor listening skills, noise in the channel and cultural variations.
Perceptual – Perceptual barriers of communication are internal barriers that occur within a person’s mind when the person believes or perceives that the other person that they are going to speak with will not understand or be interested in what they have to say. It is a mind game.
Gender- Relationships, respect, workplace authority and education are common ways men and women are pitted against each other. Communication, however, is the common denominator in all of those situations, as it’s the way both sexes are able to get their point across in any platform. Overcoming barriers in gender communication isn’t simple but can be made clear with a little patience and understanding.
Emotional – Effective communications involves more than just speaking, it involves active listening as well. However, strong negative emotions can interfere with one or both of these aspects of communication. This can lead to miscommunication, hurt feelings and even severed ties.
Quick Tips to Improve English Communication Skills
For a person to progress well in society, only merits are not enough, only qualifications don’t work, the person needs to have powerful communication skills so that he can put across his point of view. It’s all fine about communications skills but the question is how to improve these skills. One has to learn how to understand ones audience, know ones body language, learn to ask questions, throw away the unwanted conversation fillers, be a good listener, be brief and specific along with being empathetic.
There are three main methods that we should adopt to improve our communication skills instantly and with immediate effect.
- Improving Speaking- English Speaking Courses
- Improving Listening – English Speaking Classes
- Improving Writing- English Writing Courses
Each one has been explained below in greater details to ensure better understanding.
Watch and Observe people – Watch how their mouths form the words. Watch how emotion is communicated. Watch where the emphasis goes on certain sentences and how that provides context. Apart from just deciphering their words, take notice of the humor, the feeling, and the formality they employ.
Slow down – The more clearly you speak, the better chance your listener has of understanding you. It’s tempting to get nervous and want to speed up to get it all over with, but you can’t do that! Clarity is key to effective communication.
Speak English at home – Have only English at the dinner table. Stick to English TV at home. Make it as 24/7 as possible.
Record yourself – Though we hear ourselves all the time, we really don’t know quite what we sound like. So record yourself! What are the weak and strong points you hear in your speech? And then you can concentrate on what you need to work on.
Take different style classes – There are specialized classes that are available for accent reduction classes, business English classes etc. If you see something that interests you go for it! You may learn more than you think.
Create opportunities – English speakers are everywhere; sometimes they just have to be found and coaxed out of hiding. You have to come to them. Call a phone company and make small talk about phone plans. Get into English chat rooms. There are multiple ways to make a start.
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Not everyone intuitively knows how to listen well. To be a good communicator one has to be a good listener. One should maintain eye contact with the speaker. This will demonstrate to the speaker that the listener is paying attention. Do not interrupt the speaker. Wait until he or she is completely finished, then ask questions. Listening long enough may answer several of the questions without the need to ask. When the time is right to ask, repeat instructions first and then ask appropriate questions. One should control body language. This implies that the listener is paying full attention to the speaker. A nod of the head can be good, as it implies agreement. Do not let worry, fear, or anger get in the way. Some people are resistant to change, and that can interfere with listening. Two-way communication is critical in the way it can impact efficiency and effectiveness.
Watch television, movies, everything in between – So while talking and listening proactively is best, passive learning is good, too. So throw on the telly and sit down for a spell. Try to keep the captions off! And if you can record it and watch it more than once, even better. That way you can see your progress. The best case scenario is getting a movie and watching it over and over until your mind stops having to worry about understanding and instead can concentrate on the little things, like intonation and slang. And watching TV shows where you have the same characters over and over so you get used to their speech. In other words: repetition.
Listen to English music – Even just learning a song a day can widen your vocabulary extensively. And it’s fun and energizing, too. You can grow your musical repertoire, learn new words, and expand your knowledge without even realizing it. Stick to songs that are slow and clear.
Talk – If you want to be good at listening, you have to ask questions. And this way you have control of the conversation! English has so many accents you may find yourself not understanding someone and wondering why. Be patient! Your mind will get used to their accent in time. English-speaking people have to adjust for each other all the time.
Have an English exchange – Find some friends who all want to practice their English. You’ll be less nervous speaking it in front of them and you can learn from each others’ strengths.
Write- To get good at something, you have to do it over and over again each single day. It can be a diary entry, it could be your next bestseller. Just put that pen to paper and get going. Having a notebook dedicated to your English work will keep you organized and motivated.
Add phrases to your vocabulary. The only difference between a eight-year-old with good grammar and a 20-year-old with good grammar is their vocabulary. So whenever you run into a phrase you want to start incorporating into your writing (or speech), write it down. And then make a point to use it.
Get it checked – However, it’s kind of pointless if you don’t ever get it checked or corrected. You want to get better at the entire language, not just the language you’re capable of right now.
Don’t forget the small stuff – Make sure you have your spaces right, your punctuation right, and use capital letters when appropriate. That stuff matters too.
Utilize the Internet. There are websites that have English games, easy-to-read English articles, and exercises to improve your skills in every domain. Here’s just a few neat ones to whet your appetite
The importance of Communication in today’s world cannot be understated. It affects everything we do. It’s not the only language that affects understanding but also emotional states, concentration and our determination to understand others and express ourselves clearly. Effective communication affects every conversation in the workplace, at home and in social one-on-one and group situations. Hence it is important to overcome all the barriers and communicate effectively.