This is a great time to take stock of your communications skills, and make a commitment to improving where needed. The following suggestions, offered in no particular order, can help you become a better communicator in the months and years ahead.
Join Toastmasters: This highly respected organization helps you improve your oral communication and presentation skills in a friendly, supportive environment. Dues are modest, especially when you consider the guidance and experience you receive.
You also gain experience in providing evaluations to other members. Knowing how best to offer criticism and advice is very important.
As you continue with Toastmasters, consider studying their leadership track. This offers additional valuable experience.
Watch for opportunities to speak: Anniversaries, birthday parties, and reunions provide additional opportunities to speak. Take advantage of these to get over your jitters and to polish the skills you learn in Toastmasters or other organizations.
In a similar fashion, write as often as you can. Whether in a blog, journal, or letters to people, writing constantly keeps that skill strong. Experts suggest writing 15 minutes every day. Commit to that schedule, and note how far along you are after just one month.
Practice your diction: If you tend to speak quickly and rush through longer words, spend a few moments practicing the proper pronunciation. Some words that cause problems include finally (“finely”) and probably (“probbly”). With proper enunciation you stand a better chance of being understood the first time, and you sound more professional. Buy a digital recorder, and use it whenever you’re speaking or rehearsing. Listen for your quirks – everyone has some – and commit to improving your delivery.
Expand your literary horizon: Go beyond the types of newspapers and magazines you normally read. Observe how writers from other business sectors and political viewpoints present their topics. You may learn a new style of writing and some useful words, as well.
Enhance your reference guides: In addition to a dictionary and thesaurus, consider purchasing Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style or the latest version of the journalism stylebook. Those who speak frequently should pick up a book of famous quotes and sayings. Add zip to your speech with powerful words from a famous person.
Develop patience: On first glance this doesn’t appear to be related to communicating. But part of being a good communicator is having patience. Ignore the temptation to finish the speaker’s comment or question. Pause and think before responding. In addition to being polite, you are more apt to answer appropriately.
Make a commitment to improving your communications skills, and you will be rewarded with an enriched personal and professional life.
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