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Communication Skills

How good a communicator are you? Do you shy away from speaking? Do you speak up at work? Can you give an effective presentation? Do you have opinions you are willing to argue for if challenged? Are you articulate and confident in your speech? Are you a good listener? If you are a poor communicator you dramatically lessen your chances to succeed in life but like everything you can do something about improving your ability.

We live in a world of communication from the moment we get up and switch on the radio or TV to when we close our book at bedtime. We read newspapers, books, magazines; watch TV, DVDs; listen to the radio, music CDs; interact with others through email, texting, telephoning and then there is the internet where you can do it all in one place.

However there is one form of communication that is more important than all the rest put together and that is verbal, face to face, communication. It is a must have modern day skill. It is how we get on with people, how we get things done, how we get a job, impress a date, the very essence of success or failure. If you cannot communicate well with people, how do you get your ideas across? How do you ask for a pay rise? How do you tell someone you love them or maintain a relationship?

The days of working in isolation are long gone, we all have to interact with other people and the way we do that is primarily through talking. If you are articulate you can express your ideas confidently, you can take a lead because you will be listened to and taken notice of. If you cannot speak properly, are incoherent, cannot put forward a reasoned argument, you will be ignored even though you may have the best ideas. However someone else who is articulate may well pass your ideas off as their own and take all the credit as so often happens.

In your personal associations with partners, friends, children it is essential to keep communicating to keep the relationships alive. So many relationships fail because people stop talking to one another. You have to keep making the effort to communicate so you understand the other personís point of view; donít just assume you know them and what they think. We all change, on a daily basis in many cases. Talking is fun; it is the oil in a relationship that prevents too much friction.

Face to face communication is not all about the spoken words, it is about the other clues we give off through our body language and tone of voice but if you are not confident in your ability to express yourself, these non-verbal clues will give you away. That being said it is worth bearing in mind that when you do have something to say that approximately only 10% is conveyed by the words themselves to the listener, the other 90% is made up of body language (54%) e.g. eye contact, hand gestures, posture etc and the tone of voice (36%). Make sure you are aware and take control of these additional factors when speaking and make yourself come across as a confident speaker.

So what can you do to improve your ability to communicate verbally?
Most important is reading. Try and read at least an hour a day, switch the TV off and read. Try and read serious articles with reasoned arguments not just the Tabloid press, read books that stretch your vocabulary and your mind. Make sure you have a dictionary to hand. Reading will help to make you grammatically correct when speaking and will enhance your verbal flow. It will also give topics of interest to discuss authoritively with other people.

Engage people in conversation, watch how they communicate, listen to what they say and how they say it. Practice speaking with controlled voice tone and body language and gauge the feedback; you will learn quickly how to improve your ability.

Join clubs, societies where you can contribute, where you will meet and talk to different people e.g. a local theatre group, a debating society, reading club etc.

Finally, communication is a two way process; it is just as important to listen to what others are saying as speaking yourself. Remember you have 2 ears and only 1 mouth.