Communication Skills: Talk the Talk

By: Akhil Shahani

"Shout, shout, let it all out, these are the things I can do without
Come on, I'm talking to you, come on" - Shout, Tears for Fears

While that may sound a bit extreme, it sums up our circumstances so well. Practically every waking moment, we're sending out messages - through speech, in writing or by way of expressions and gestures. Whether at work or play, communication is an indispensable part of our life. Hence, figuring out that communication skills are important is a no-brainer. Good communication skills not only help you get your message across forcefully, they also minimize the chances of being misunderstood.

While the above argument may simply be a case of stating the obvious, did you know that a survey conducted by the University of Pittsburgh's Katz Business School found that communication skills as well as the ability to work with other people were found to be the main factors contributing to job success? And why not, we ask. Successful communication opens up roadblocks that might otherwise exist, clouding judgment and impeding progress.

Having stressed upon the importance of communication skills, let's now understand how communication barriers pop up and what tactics you can employ to get over them. To begin with, truly know what you want to convey; also consider what your audience is like and how your message might be perceived. The first commandment is to establish credibility; no audience is going to listen to someone who they feel knows nothing of what he is talking about. You must also know your target audience very well, else you risk being misunderstood. It's not much good delivering a highfalutin' speech to a bunch of foreigners!

To ensure successful communication within your business, get the basics of both verbal and non-verbal messaging right. At work, more than any place else, one needs to be conscious of the signals that are being sent out. Remember, it's not just what you say but also how you say it that does the trick. Take note of your body language while communicating in person.

Active dialogue happens through verbal communication. At the same time, non-verbal communication takes place through gestures, eye contact, facial expressions, and even by choice of clothing and respect of personal space. Keep in mind cultural differences when using non-verbal cues. For example, the handshake that is widely accepted in Western cultures as a greeting or confirmation of a business deal is not accepted in other conservative cultures, especially when it involves women.

Communication skills don't start and end with the gift of the gab. The message is equally, or even more important than the mode of delivery. Prepare for the meeting in advance and tailor your messages to be short and precise. For an unplanned meeting, remember to think before you speak, unless you want to be known for your seat-of-the-pants style of responding. Active listening is even more integral to good communication skills. Take care to let everyone have their say, maintain eye contact throughout the conversation and do adopt appropriate facial expression. Good posture and suitable attire are important as well. Attention to personal grooming speaks volumes about your respect for the values and conventions of your organization and the people you work with. Try not to invade others' personal space by getting too close or resorting to unnecessary physical contact.

Communication gaps can cause more damage than you can imagine. Since communication skills play an important role in inter-personal and inter-group decision making, honing them can improve efficiency to a considerable extent. That is the precise objective of workshops conducted by communications trainers and consultants. Log on to learn how professional guidance can help. Books such as "Effective Communication Skills: Essential Skills for Success in Work and Life" could also help you refine those all important communication skills.

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