11 Ways To Improve Your Communication Skills

by Carina Wolff

When we are young, we learn how to speak for the first time, listen to grammar rules, and maybe take a public speaking class in high school. After that, we usually don't think much about ways to improve your communication skills, but knowing how to talk to people effectively can make a huge difference in your interpersonal relationships, in all areas of life. Knowing how to express how you feel or what you desire without making someone feel attacked or upset is crucial to navigating life, so if you feel that you're having issues with others or can't delineate your emotions, it might be time to learn some better ways to communicate.

"Improving communication skills provides a big payoff over time," says writing coach Robin Smith over email. "The person who communicates well has many more opportunities than someone who don't communicate well. However, it takes time and effort with steady practice to improve. The good news is everyone can improve and it doesn't cost anything except your time."

Whether you want to improve how you come off on emails, learn how to effectively express yourself to your partner better, or just want to capture people's attention, consider these 11 tips from communication experts on how to become a better listener and speaker.

1. Put Your Devices Away

"It may be obvious, but put down your devices and look at the person who is speaking to you," says Rhonda Milrad is the founder and CEO of Relationup, over email. "Don’t answer calls, check pings or notice vibrations. Let it all pass. Stay focused on what your the other person is telling you. As you resonate, your body language, words and emotional tone will let them know that you really taking in what they are sharing."

2. Study Those You Admire

"Study speakers or communicators whose communication skills you admire," says motivational speaker and coach Jill Haseltine over email. Listen to the types of language they use, the way they move their body, and the tone in which they speak. "Apply those skills to your communication," says Haseltine.

3. Listen

Speaking is only half of your communication skills — listening is the other half," says Hasletine. "Be quiet sometimes and listen to others so your response can be most appropriate for the situation."

4. Read

"Reading helps you to see how others write, how they speak, how information is presented," says Smith. "Read all kinds of material, (newspapers, magazines, blogs, novels, biographies,sales brochures, etc.) and learn how others present the material. The more you read the better, you will understand communication."

5. Make Eye Contact

We all know how difficult it is to truly look someone in the eye, but it's essential when having a meaningful conversation. "It is important that you connect with the person you are talking to," says Smith. "Looking at the floor or out the window signifies you don't care, are bored, or aren't really listening to them."

6. Record Yourself

"Use your phone to record an everyday conversation and then listen to it," says Smith. Do you talk too fast? Do you use the same words over and over? Do you say "um" too many times? "Once you find things you want to improve upon, work on each one and then record yourself again," she says. "Once you have mastered an issue, move to the next."

7. Ask Questions

Asking questions will not only help you understand what the other person is saying, but it also indicates that you're actually interested in the conversation. "This opens up conversations rather than shutting them down," says Kirsten Taberner Siggins, co-author of "The Power of Curiosity: How to Have Real Conversations that create Collaboration, Innovation and Understanding," over email. "It also messages respect: you want to see them, hear them and understand them. Open questions are also a great way to test assumption."

8. Validate The Other Person's Thoughts And Feelings

Someone feels the way they feel for a reason, and even if you wouldn't react the same way, it's important to acknowledge the emotions they're experiencing. "You don’t have to agree with the other person to validate them," says Melody Li, licensed couples therapist (LMFTA), over email. "You’re simply letting them know that you hear and accept their perspective because they are important to you."

9. Look For Clues In Body Language

Someone's body language will reveal what they are feeling just as much as their words. "Look for clues in your facial expression, such as a smile, a frown, a glassy eyed stare, body position, such as upright and alert, slumped and sullen, turned away from you and inattentive, and movements , leaning toward you, pulling away from you, fidgeting, restlessness," says psychotherapist Tina B. Tessina, PhD over email.

10. Speak Loudly And Slowly

How will you ever communicate your point across if no one can hear what you're saying? Speak loudly, don't mumble, and talk a bit slower than what feels natural to you — most people talk too quickly, anyway.

11. Role Play

Practice makes perfect, but you don't want to be making some major mistakes during a serious conversation. "Find someone you trust and practice a difficult conversation with them," says Alexis Davis, Founder and CEO of H.K. Productions Inc., over email. "Ask for feedback and try again at least 4-5 times. Role-playing prepares you for a difficult, challenging, or highly emotional conversation and builds your confidence so that your better able to handle the real one."

The more you pay attention to how you express yourselves to others, the better you'll get at communicating effectively.

Images: Pixabay (12)