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Improve communication skills: 8 tips for more eloquence

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Communication skills are required in numerous job advertisements today. It is one of the key competencies for success at work. Those who cannot communicate are not (or incorrectly) understood and cannot convince. How do you show good communication skills? What do we understand by communication skills? And what can I do to improve my communication? Here are the answers and 8 practical tips ...

➠ Content: This is what awaits you

➠ Content: This is what awaits you

Communication skills definition: what is it?

The ability to communicate is initially nothing more than the inner willingness and ability to communicate with other people - by word or writing. In short: it is about the exchange of information and opinions. It is about conveying knowledge and connections as well as convincing others or asserting oneself verbally.

Lecturing, negotiating, selling, presenting, formulating messages, making yourself understood - all of this is indispensable in the job. Communication skills are therefore a core competency. It doesn't work without it. After all, silence is not the solution.

Communication skills synonyms

The term “communication skills” is a common term in job advertisements. But there are also synonyms that mean the same thing, even if the meaning is not one hundred percent the same. These include: ability to make contacts, willingness to enter into dialogue, conduct a conversation, assertiveness, exchange of information, confidence in conversation, openness.

However, communication skills do not only include speaking or writing. The competence also includes the selection of the right channel. Anyone who wants to communicate better knows when he or she is looking for a one-to-one conversation, picking up the phone or writing an email. A pronounced ability to communicate is shown not least in how a person adapts to different situations and slips into various roles: sometimes listener, sometimes advisor, sometimes critic, sometimes initiator.

How does communication work?

The communication scientist and psychologist Paul Watzlawick formulated five principles, so-called axioms, for communication. His model helps to understand the functions of communication:

  1. "You cannot not communicate, because all communication (not just words) is behavior and just as you cannot not behave, you cannot not communicate."

    It is the best known of the five principles. As soon as two people get in touch, they communicate. Even if neither of them say anything. Even those who refuse to speak are sending a message.
  2. "Every communication has a content and a relationship aspect, with the latter determining the first."

    Communication is not just about exchanging information. Communication connects regardless of the content. That is why the relationship aspect takes precedence over the exchange of information.
  3. "The nature of a relationship is determined by the punctuation of the communication processes on the part of the partner."

    Every person constructs a subjective reality from their experiences. This determines his actions. In communication, both realities and values ​​collide and lead to different reactions. Example: The teacher assigns detective papers because he thinks the class is not making an effort. The students make no effort because the teacher is handing out detective work. Who is right? Both in their own way.
  4. "Human communication uses analog and digital modalities."

    “Analog” means facial expressions and gestures, “digital” is language. Watzlawick says that communication contains both components and that they don't even have to go together. Then a feeling of disturbance arises.
  5. "Interpersonal communication processes are either symmetrical or complementary, depending on whether the relationship between the partners is based on equality or diversity."

    Communication is at the same time an expression of the relationship to one another. For example, if you talk to a “colleague”, communication takes place on the same level (symmetrical). If one speaks of an “employee”, the boss is in a higher position and communication is unequal (complementary).

Improve communication skills: 8 tips

One speaks, the other listens - that sounds so simple. In fact, communication is much more complex and poses many challenges for those involved. Whether in a conversation with colleagues, a business lunch or a salary negotiation: it is not always easy to find the right words. So here are eight tried and tested tips on how you can improve your communication skills:

  • What am I getting at?

    Before starting a conversation, it should be clear what your goal is. What would you like from your counterpart? What actions should result from the conversation? Basically it is about first thinking and then speaking. If you are aware of your own intentions, you can steer the conversation better and make it easier for the other person to understand what you are actually trying to say.

  • What is not said

    Here we are again at Watzlawick's first principle. You always communicate, even when you don't say anything. More than 65 percent of communication is non-verbal. But body language cannot be controlled as consciously as language. That is why facial expressions and gestures are much more likely to provide information about what a person feels than their words. Pay close attention to these signals in the conversation, both with your counterpart and with yourself. For strong communication skills, it is not enough to just hear and register what is also put into words.

  • Is my message clear?

    Most problems in interpersonal communication are that the other person understands what is said differently from what it was meant to be. A classic misunderstanding. If you want the other person to understand you, it is helpful to express yourself clearly. For example, if you are discussing vacation planning with a colleague, he or she will need precise information about what needs to be done in your absence. The more precisely you express yourself in this situation, the sooner your colleague will know - and the less stress there will be afterwards.

  • How do I say something?

    In a conversation it is not only important what is said, but also how. Because it is often the “how” that leads to conflict. It is well known that the sound makes the music. In this way, a harmless statement can quickly become a reproach if the choice of words is not well thought out. Before a thoughtless sentence slips over your lips, you should therefore brake yourself briefly to think again. Often a second is enough to decide whether the next few words might be wrongly received.

  • How does it work?

    Successful communication also includes a change of perspective. How does my counterpart feel when I say this or that? This is especially important in discussions that contain potential for conflict, for example when you express constructive criticism. Those who develop an understanding of the situation of their counterpart can also better assess which statements could be hurtful or possibly met with rejection.

  • How do I treat my interlocutor?

    Do you let the other person have their say and don't you interrupt them? Do you take what he says seriously? Watzlawick found that the relationship aspect in particular plays an important role. Always put yourself in the foreground, this will not escape the person you are talking to. Always remember that communication is intended as an exchange, a dialogue that always involves two sides. You don't always have to agree, but you should let the other person have their say and treat them with respect.

  • Did I choose the right time?

    When it comes to certain topics, the timing is crucial, for example when negotiating a salary or having a feedback session. Many factors can determine the right time. In a salary negotiation, for example, it matters how the general situation is, whether your boss currently has time for the interview, whether you have had an outstanding performance recently, and so on. In fact, this point can be important even in seemingly unimportant conversations. A little gossip in the coffee kitchen is usually not a problem, but when the colleague is trying to concentrate on his work, it may not be the best time to bother him with trivialities. Therefore, always ask yourself whether the time is right.

  • Am I listening to my counterpart?

    For communication to work, you also need to understand what the other wants from you. But that only works if you also listen. And do it really attentively and not just casually, while you wait to be able to speak again yourself. However, most people are far too busy with themselves and devote only part of their attention to the other person, if at all. Listening also means sending signals that express interest and curiosity, for example leaning forward and making eye contact during a conversation. By asking questions, you show your counterpart that you are dealing with what has been said.

Communication skills in the application

If you want to state your communication skills as a soft skill in the application, it can be useful to prove this with certificates. After all, that's easy to say. Strong communication skills that you can prove are more convincing.

Further training courses, such as rhetoric courses, debate workshops or body language seminars, all of which help improve communication skills, are considered relevant and meaningful. It is not by chance that it is called “SKILL OF COMMUNICATION”. Like any other skill, this can also be practiced, trained and increased.

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January 12, 2021Author: Jochen Mai

Jochen Mai is the founder and editor-in-chief of the career bible. The author of several books lectures at the TH Köln and is a sought-after keynote speaker, coach and consultant.

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