Top 10 Communication Skills, Types and Ways to improve in your communication skills

 

Top 10 Communication Skills, Types and Ways to improve in your communication skills






Since communication happens around us all the time, the process is often taken for granted. A large amount of time is spent communicating hence there is need to make sure that ideas and information are put in a way that everyone involved can understand. Thinking about what to say, working out the best way of saying it, finding the right words, making sure the other person understands and understanding anything he\she says in reply are all vital stages in communication. Being able to communicate effectively is the most important of all life skills. Communication is simply the act of transferring information from one place to another. This may be vocally (using voice), written (using printed or digital media such as books, magazines, websites or emails), visually (using logos, maps, charts or graphs) or non-verbally (using body language, gestures and the tone and pitch of voice). How well this information is transmitted and received is a measure of whether your communication skills are good.

 

Definition of communication

Communication skills are abilities you use when giving and receiving different kinds of information. Though these skills   may be a regular part of your day to day work life, communicating in a clear, effective and efficient way is an extremely special and useful skill. Leaning from great communicators around you and actively practicing ways to improve your communications over time will certainly support your efforts to achieve various personal and professional goals.  Communication skills involve listening, speaking, observing and empathizing. It is helps to understand the differences in how to communicate through face-to-face interactions, phone conversations and digital communications, like email and social media. Communication skills allow you to give and receive information. Practicing active listening can build respect with your coworkers and increase understanding in the workplace. As you actively listen, focus on the speaker, avoiding distractions like cell phones, laptops or other projects, and by preparing questions, comments or ideas to thoughtfully respond.

 

Major Communication Skills

1. Active listening

2. Friendliness

3. Communication method

4. Confidence

5. Giving out feedback

6. Quantity and clearness

7. Respect

8. Understanding

9. Receptiveness

10. Non-verbal cues

 

1. Active listening: Active listening means paying close attention to who you’re communicating with by engaging with them, asking questions and rephrasing. Practicing active listening can build respect with your coworkers and increase understanding in the workplace. As you actively listen, focus on the speaker, avoiding distractions like cell phones, laptops or other projects, and by preparing questions, comments or ideas to thoughtfully respond. Improve your active listening abilities by paying attention to other people’s facial expressions, body language and tone. Instead of preparing what you will say, focus on what the other person is saying and how they are saying it. If you need to clarify something, ask follow-up questions or rephrase what they’ve said to confirm that you understood them correctly.

2. Friendliness: Friendly traits like honesty and kindness can help foster trust and understanding when communicating at work. Try to communicate with a positive attitude, keep an open mind and ask questions to help you understand where they’re coming from. Small gestures such as asking someone how they’re doing, smiling as they speak or offering praise for work well done can help you foster productive relationships with colleagues and managers. You can practice friendliness by remembering small, thoughtful details about your coworkers or past conversations. For example, if a coworker tells you their child’s birthday is soon and you connect with them again later, you might ask them how the birthday party went.

3. Communication method: Using the right way to communicate is an important skill. There are benefits and disadvantages to talking through emails, letters, phone calls, in-person meetings or instant messages. Communicating is better when you consider your audience, what information you want to share and the best way to share it. For example, if you are communicating with a potential employer, it may be better to call them on the phone. In the workplace, you may find it’s easier to communicate complex information in person or via a video conference than by email. Building remote workplace friendships is easier when you can speak through instant messages.

4. Confidence: In the workplace, people are more likely to respond to ideas that are presented with confidence. There are many ways to appear confident, including by making eye contact when you’re addressing someone, sitting up straight with your shoulders open and preparing ahead of time so your thoughts are polished and you’re able to answer any questions. Confident communication is very useful on workplace.

5. Giving out feedback: Strong communicators can accept critical feedback and provide constructive input to others. Feedback should answer questions, provide solutions or help strengthen the project or topic at hand. Providing and accepting feedback is an essential workplace skill, as it can help both you and the people around you make meaningful improvements to their work and their professional development. A great way to learn how to give feedback is to take notes from others on the feedback they offer you. When you come across a well-explained piece of feedback, take some time to observe and analyze why it was good, why it resonated with you and how you might apply those skills in the future.

6. Quantity and clearness: When you are speaking, it’s important to be clear and audible. Adjusting your speaking voice so you can be heard in a variety of settings is a skill, and it’s critical to communicating effectively. Speaking too loudly may be disrespectful or awkward in certain settings. If you’re unsure, read the room to see how others are communicating. Another aspect of verbal communication is vocalic and tonality. This involves how your tone moves up and down, your pitch, your accent pattern and the spaces you place between phrases. Such details can be effective in communicating emotions and offer your audience insights into how your message should be interpreted.

7. Respect: A key aspect of respect is known when to initiate communication and respond. In a team or group setting, allowing others to speak without interruption is seen as a necessary communication skill tied to respectfulness. Respectfully communicating also means using your time with someone else wisely—staying on topic, asking clear questions and responding fully to any questions you’ve been asked.

8. Understanding: Having understanding means that you can not only know, but also share in the emotions of others. This communication skill is important in both team and one-on-one settings. In both cases, you will need to understand other people’s emotions and select an appropriate response. Understanding can help you acknowledge and diffuse their emotion. At the same time, being able to understand when someone is feeling positive and enthusiastic can help you get support for your ideas and projects.

Whether you’re returning a phone call or sending a reply to an email, fast communicators are viewed as more effective than those who are slow to respond.

9. Receptiveness: One method is to consider how long your reply will take. It may be a good idea to address it as soon as you see it. If it’s a more complex request or question, you can still acknowledge that you’ve received the message and let the other person know you will respond in full later.

10. Non-verbal cues: A great deal of communication happens through nonverbal cues such as body language, facial expressions and eye contact. When you’re listening to someone, you should be paying attention to what they’re saying as well as their nonverbal language. By the same measure, you should be conscious of your own body language when you’re communicating to ensure you’re sending appropriate cues to others.


Types of Communication Skills 

As aforementioned, communication is a process of exchanging information, ideas, thoughts, feelings and emotions through speech, signals, writing, or behavior. In communication process, a sender (encoder) encodes a message and then using a medium/channel sends it to the receiver (decoder) who decodes the message and after processing information, sends back appropriate feedback/reply using a medium/channel. People communicate with each other in a number of ways that depend upon the message and its context in which it is being sent. Choice of communication channel and your style of communicating also affect communication.

Types of communication based on the communication channels used are:

There are two types of communication based on channel:

1. Verbal communication

2. Nonverbal communication.

 

1 Verbal Communication: Verbal communication refers to the form of communication in which message is transmitted verbally; communication is done by word of mouth and writing. Objective of every communication is to have people understand what we are trying to convey.

In verbal communication always remember the acronym KISS - keep it short and simple. When we talk to others, we assume that others understand what we are saying because we know what we are saying. But this is not the case. Usually people bring their own attitude, perception, emotions and thoughts about the topic and hence creates barrier in delivering the right meaning. Verbal Communication is further divided into, two oral /spoken and written communication.

a. Oral/Spoken Communication

In oral communication, Spoken words are used. It includes face-to-face conversations, speech, telephonic conversation, video, radio, television, voice over internet. Examples of spoken communication that is used in the workplace include conversations, interviews, counseling/helping colleagues, meetings, conferences and so on. In oral communication, communication is influenced by pitch, volume, speed and clarity of speaking.

 

Advantages of Oral/spoken communication

1.   Oral communication allows for immediate feedback such as the opportunity to ask questions when the meaning is not entirely clear.

2.   The sender is able to check and see whether if the instruction is clear or has created confusion.

3.   There is high level of understanding and transparency in oral communication as it is interpersonal.

4.   There is no element of rigidity in oral communication. There is flexibility for allowing changes in the decisions previously taken.

5.   Spoken instructions are flexible and easily adaptable to many diverse situations.

6.   The feedback is spontaneous in oral communication. Thus, decisions can be made quickly without any delay.

7.   Oral communication is not only time saving, but it also saves upon money and efforts.

8.   Oral communication is best in case of problem resolution. The conflicts, disputes and many issues/differences can be put to an end by talking them over.

9.   Oral communication is an essential for teamwork and group energy.

10. Oral communication promotes a receptive and encouraging morale among organizational employees.

11. Oral communication can be best used to transfer private and confidential information/matter.

 

Disadvantages of Oral/spoken communication

i. Poor presentation of the message or the instruction can result in misunderstanding and wrong responses.

ii. Relying only on oral communication may not be sufficient as business communication is formal and very organized.

iii. Oral communication is less authentic than written communication as they are informal and not as organized as written communication.

iv. Oral communication is time-saving as far as daily interactions are concerned, but in case of meetings, long speeches consume lot of time and are unproductive at times.

v. Oral communications are not easy to maintain and thus they are unsteady.

vi. There may be misunderstandings as the information is not complete and may lack essentials.

vii. It requires attentiveness and great receptivity on part of the receivers/audience.

viii. Oral communication (such as speeches) is not frequently used as legal records except in investigation work.

ix. Spoken communication is influenced by both verbal and non-verbal communication such as tone or body language which may twist the meaning of your message in the mind of the receiver.


b. Written Communication

In written communication, written signs or symbols are used to communicate. A written message may be printed or hand written. In written communication message can be transmitted via, letter, report, memo, reports, bulletins, job descriptions, employee manuals, and electronic mail are the types of written communication used for internal communication. For communicating with external environment in writing, electronic mail, Internet Web sites, letters, proposals, telegrams, faxes, postcards, contracts, advertisements, brochures, and news releases are used. Message, in written communication, is influenced by the vocabulary and grammar used, writing style, precision and clarity of the language used. Written Communication is most common form of communication being used in business.

 
Advantages of written communication

1. Written communication is good for complicated and vital instructions, which can be given in a precise and uniform manner.

2. Written communication helps in laying down apparent principles, policies and rules for running of an organization.

3. It is a permanent means of communication: written instructions can be used for future references. Therefore important where record maintenance is required

4. It assists in proper delegation of responsibilities.

5. Written communication is more precise and explicit

6. It provides ready records and references.

7. Legal defenses depend upon written communication as it provides valid records

8. There is a lesser chance for the message to be misunderstood.

9. Authority is transmitted more effectively with a written order than with an oral one

10.      Messages can be edited and revised many time before it is actually sent.

11.      Written communication provides record for every message sent and can be saved for later study.

12.      Reader can read the information at a pace that suits them.

13. A written message enables receiver to fully understand it and send appropriate feedback.

 

Disadvantages of written communication

1.   People may not always read them.

2.   Written communication takes time.

3.   It is impersonal or unfriendly.

4.   Written communication is expensive. It costs huge in terms of stationery and the manpower employed in writing/typing and delivering letters.

5.   Written communication is time-consuming as the feedback is not immediate. The encoding and sending of message takes time

6.   Effective written communication requires great skills and competencies in language and reputation.

7.   Too much paper work viii. It does not answer questions and there is no immediate feedback.

 

2. Non-verbal Communication

Nonverbal communication is behavior, other than spoken or written communication, that creates or represents meaning. In other words, it includes facial expressions, body movements, and gestures. Nonverbal communication is talking without speaking a word. It is very effective, maybe even more so than speech.

Speech contains nonverbal elements known as paralanguage, including voice quality, rate, pitch, volume, and speaking style, as well prosodic features such as rhythm, intonation, and stress.

On the other hand, written texts have nonverbal elements such as handwriting style, spatial arrangement of words, or the physical layout of a page. However, much of the study of nonverbal communication has focused on face-to-face interaction, where it can be classified into three principal areas: environmental conditions where communication takes place, physical characteristics of the communicators, and behaviors of communicators during interaction. Nonverbal communication is all about the body language of speaker.

Nonverbal communication helps receiver in interpreting the message received. Often, nonverbal signals reflect the situation more accurately than verbal messages. Sometimes nonverbal response contradicts verbal communication and hence affects the effectiveness of message.

Nonverbal communication has the following three elements:-

Appearance

Speaker: clothing, hairstyle, neatness, use of cosmetics

Surrounding: room size, lighting, decorations, furnishings

Body Language:

Facial expressions, gestures, postures and how one stands is an important element of non-verbal communication. For example, leaning towards a speaker indicates intense interest. Frequently looking away from the speaker indicates disinterest or impatience.

Sounds: Voice Tone, Volume, Speech rate

 

Functions of nonverbal communication

According to Argyle et al (1970) spoken language is normally used for communicating information about events external to the speakers, non-verbal codes are used to establish and maintain interpersonal relationships. It is considered more polite or nicer to communicate attitudes towards others non-verbally rather than verbally in order to avoid embarrassing situations.

These are primary functions of nonverbal bodily behavior in human communication namely:-

1)   Express emotions

2)   Express interpersonal attitudes

3)   To accompany speech in managing the cues of interaction between speakers and listeners

4)   Self-presentation of one’s personality 

5)   Rituals (greetings)

In regards to expressing interpersonal attitudes, humans communicate interpersonal closeness through a series of nonverbal actions known as immediacy behaviors. Examples of immediacy behaviors are smiling, touching, open body positions, and eye contact. Cultures that display these immediacy behaviors are considered high-contact cultures

 

Advantages of non-verbal communication

1)   You can communicate with someone who cannot hear.

2)   You can communicate in places where you have to avoid talking audibly.

3)   You can communicate without others around you hearing what is being communicated.

4)   You can communicate when a person is too far away from you to hear you (for example, by gesturing)

5)   Non-verbal communication makes conversation short and brief.

6)   Non-verbal communication saves on time and can be used as a tool to communicate with people who don't understand your language.

 

Disadvantages of non-verbal communication

1)     Long conversations using non-verbal communication are usually not possible.

2)     Non-verbal communication varies from culture to culture.

3)    Particulars of messages using non-verbal communication cannot be discussed in detail.

4)     It is not useful as a public tool for communication

5) It cannot be used everywhere and is less influential than verbal communication.

 
Types of Communication Based on Purpose and Style

Based on style and purpose, there are two main categories of communication and they both bears their own characteristics.

Communication types based on style and purpose are:

1.   Formal Communication

2.   Informal Communication

1. Formal Communication In formal communication, certain rules, conventions and principles are followed while communicating message. Formal communication occurs in formal and official style. Usually professional settings, corporate meetings, conferences undergoes in formal pattern. Informal communication, use of slang and foul language is avoided and correct pronunciation is required. Authority lines are needed to be followed in formal communication.

2. Informal communication is done using channels that are in contrast with formal communication channel. It is just a casual talk.  It is established for societal affiliation members of an organization and face-to-face discussions. It happens among friends and family. In informal communication use of slang words, foul language is not restricted. Usually informal communication is done orally and using gestures. Informal communication, unlike formal communication does not follow authority links. In an organization, it helps in finding out staff grievances as people express more when talking informally. Informal communication helps in building relationships.

 

Factors to consider when choosing a communication media

There are many factors that the speaker has to consider before he/she chooses the media for communication. Here are some of the factors to consider:-

1. Reliability: Reliability is of fundamental importance, it considers whether the message will get to the intended destination. It is also important to consider how reliable it is in getting across the ideas /message contained.

2. The receiver: The medium selected should be one that can serve the communication needs of the audience in terms of age, education background, cultural orientation etc.

3. Relationship with the receiver:  The exact nature of relationship the sender has with the receiver influences the kind of communication media to use.

4. Confidentiality: Some messages are confidential and should be read or heard by the intended recipient while others are less private. A letter for instance would be used for confidential messages while memos, notices and oral messages can be used for less confidential messages.

5. Cost: The channel selected should be cost effective in terms of time and money.

6. Speed: The urgency of the message is important. The channel selected should be appropriate to deliver the message within the expected time span. Speed is usually linked with cost too.

7. Availability: The channel selected should be available both to the sender and the receiver.

  

Stages in the communication process

Communication Process can be defined as a procedure that is used to impart a message or information from a sender to a receiver by using a medium of communication. The message goes through five stages when it is sent by the sender to the receiver.

These stages are as follows:-

Sender: The sender is the entity that conveys or sends the message. At this stage, an idea, thought or feeling is formulated in the mind of the sender as a result of an external of internal stimulus or motivation.

Message: Is what is being transmitted from sender to receiver.

Encoding: Encoding is a process through which the message is symbolized. It involves giving the message a communication form.

Channel: Channel is the medium through which message is being sent. The sender selects the most appropriate and effective vehicle that will deliver the message to the receiver. Communication channels may include websites, letters, email, phone conversations, video conferences and face-to-face meetings.

Effective communication relies on selecting an appropriate communication channel for your message. Selecting the wrong communication channel can cause communication obstacles including information overload and inadequate feedback. The effectiveness of communication channels can be evaluated based on richness and opportunity for feedback. Richness refers to the depth of your message. For instance, the Encyclopedia of Business names face-to-face communication as the richest communication medium. Face-to-face encounters allow the listener to hear your message, as well as sense your tone of voice and watch your facial expressions to determine the meaning of your message.

Face-to-face communication also allows for instant feedback, unlike communication mediums like letters and emails.

Receiver: Is the entity that receives the message.

Decoding: Decoding is the process in which the message is translated and meaning is generated out of it. Feedback: Is the process through which receiver sends his response.

 

Ways to improve in your communication skills

In the company of experience and carry out, you can learn and improve your communication skills. Start by identifying your strengths and then practice and develop those areas.

1. Use and read body language

2. Becalm and consistent

3. Observed a good speaker around

4. Ask professional constructive criticism 

5. Put into practice good communication habits

6. Use to communication skills workshops and classes

7. Seek mediums to communicate frequently

8. Communicating effectively in your environment and place of work      

1. Use and read body language: Body language is a key part of communication in the workplace. Pay close attention to the messages people are sending with their facial expressions and movements. You should also pay close attention to the way you might be communicating (intentionally or not) with your own body language.

2. Becalm and consistent: When there is a disagreement or conflict, it can be easy to bring emotion into your communications. It is important to remain calm when communicating with others in the workplace. Be aware of your body language by not crossing your arms or rolling your eyes. Maintaining consistent body language and keeping an even tone of voice can help you reach a conclusion peacefully and productively.

3. Observed a good speaker around: Identify professionals, family and friends who consistently communicate ideas and information clearly with respect, empathy and confidence. Observe and take notes on the specific ways they communicate with others. 

4. Ask professional constructive criticism: It can be hard to know how you are perceived as a communicator. To get an objective opinion, ask a trusted friend for their honest feedback. Understanding your areas of improvement for communication can help you identify what to focus on.

5. Put into practice good communication habits: Many communication skills are habits you have developed over time. You can improve those skills by practicing new habits that make you a better communicator. That might include being more responsive to communications when they are sent, reminding yourself to give eye contact, practicing giving positive feedback and asking questions in conversations.

6. Use to communication skills workshops and classes: There are several online and offline seminars, workshops and classes that can help you be a better communicator. These classes may include instruction, role-play, written assignments and open discussions.

7. Seek mediums to communicate frequently: Seek out opportunities both on and off the job that require you to use communication skills. This will help you keep good skills fresh while also allowing you the opportunity to practice new skills.  

8. Communicating effectively in your environment and place of work: While there are several communication skills you will use in different scenarios, there are a few ways you can be an effective communicator at work and every place you find yourself.      

 

 

 

 

 

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