Wondering how to improve communication skills? The objective here is to have a plan and stick with it. I don’t need to reiterate why having good communication skills is critical. But some of us realize the importance of it only when we are applying for a job or preparing for an interview.
To improve your communication skills, it becomes imperative to listen, read, speak and write effectively. Listening and reading are receptive skills, while speaking and writing are productive skills.
What do Receptive Skills & Productive Skills mean?
In a conversation, I need to listen first in order to respond appropriately. Or if I have to reply to an e-mail or if I have to write an assignment, I read the email or some material about the topic and then write.
Hence, a productive skill is a result of a receptive skill. So, it’s important that we integrate both to ensure our language is effective.
The first receptive skill we will look at is Listening. Let us try to understand how to improve our listening skills through some strategies.
Strategy 1: Listen To Podcasts/Songs
Podcasts are short conversations or monologs of 2 to 3 minutes on a particular theme or a subject. Listen to podcasts of your choosing and identify new words and phrases. Keep a record of them for future reference. So that, when you come across them in the future, you can recollect them and understand the meaning as you have jotted it down.
Strategy 2: Record Your Own Voice
Listen and evaluate your rate of speech, your voice modulation (intonation), your pronunciation, and the choice of words that you use (vocabulary). This will help you when you prepare for job interviews. You can record your responses to the common questions in an interview. By recording your answers and listening to them, you can improve the way you respond to each of these questions. Check if you are stammering or if you are using the right words to express yourself effectively.
Strategy 3: Shadowing
Pick your favorite sitcom or a movie dialogue. While you are watching it, repeat what the artist or the actor is saying. You listen and shadow every word. This helps with your overall fluency. Don’t worry about the accent, just focus on the pace and intonation. This helps with active listening, appropriate reaction and thereby improves your communication skills.
We’ve heard people say time and again to read English newspapers every day, and watch the news in English only. That is something I will not discount. However, you can also use a few strategies to improve your reading:
Strategy 1: Watch English Programs With Subtitles, Read English Articles
Read blogs, read good books, learn new words every day. This helps your reading fluency and expands your general knowledge.
Strategy 2: Do Theme-Based Reading
Make reading interesting for you. Choose topics that interest you the most. If you are interested in sports, then pick up a sports magazine or choose sports articles to read. This will help you get familiar with words associated with sports. If your interest lies in politics, reading news can help you pick up words such as ‘High Treason’, ‘Ballot’, ‘Imperialism’, etc. If you are interested in fashion, then you would get comfortable with words like ‘Flamboyant’, ‘Corset’ and ‘Paparazzi’.
Reading about topics that interest you can make you enjoy reading and can also help you expand your vocabulary. You learn new words and it aids in better retention as you recollect associated words to that particular theme.
Stand in front of a mirror and speak. Self-evaluate your body language and identify the way you carry yourself while speaking. Few strategies that you should practice are:
Strategy 1: Pick Up A Topic And Prepare To Talk On It For 2 To 3 Minutes
Frame questions on the given topic and try to answer them all. This can be especially useful when preparing for job interviews. If you have mentioned that you are a good team player, ask questions like; What did you do differently that made you feel you were a good team player? Is there an instance that you can recollect which displayed good team player skills?
Framing questions is beneficial. Any uncertainty or lack of confidence gets fixed in this process.
Strategy 2: Practice Speaking Irrespective Of Accuracy Being Affected
Focus on your speaking fluency. The objective needs to be communicated well. People are less tolerant of errors when you stutter and have long pauses or struggle for words to complete a single sentence.
Strategy 3: Practice Speaking In English With A Friend Or A Colleague
Make sure they hold you accountable and are able to correct you when you commit grammatical mistakes. This helps in the long run.
Strategy 4: Practice Thinking In English Rather Than Your First Language
Process your thoughts in English. Say you are planning something for yourself or you have to solve a problem, start thinking in English. Frame sentences in your head in English and be watchful of what you think. Ensure you are speaking in correct English.
Writing in English is what would finally clinch you that interview you had been waiting for. All bank exams and SSC exams have a descriptive paper that you are finally supposed to pass before you get called for the job interview. Use the strategies below to practice your writing skills and to ensure you score more than 30 in your SBI PO Mains:
Strategy 1: Maintain A Journal
Put down instances that you encounter during the day. Maybe you met someone interesting, describe their personality. Write down what you observed during the day while you were waiting for a bus or an auto. What were your learnings for the day or what did you accomplish that day? This simple strategy could be the needed fodder for practicing your writing skills.
Strategy 2: Dictate What You Hear
Listen to your favorite sitcom, movie or a song and in doing so, dictate what you hear. Check to see if you are close enough to the original version. The advantage of dictating is that it helps improve active listening skills, helps you learn new words, phrases, and to be more receptive and react appropriately.
With these strategies to apply while listening, reading, speaking and writing, I am sure learning the English language will be less cumbersome and getting a job will no longer pose a challenge.