I cannot teach you to write well in one short-ish article. What I can do, I believe, is help you to understand why you should care about communication in written and spoken forms and why doing so will help you succeed. I also can give you a few pointers that have helped me over the years as a document writer, business analyst, and speaker. Here we go.
5 Reasons You Want to Communicate Well (Not an exhaustive list)
No matter what you seek to do in this life, you will want to be heard. Whether you are a team player or a lone-wolf, you will need to communicate with other people. You will need to be able to tell them your intentions, your goals, your needs, and probably some complicated concepts. If you cannot do so quickly and efficiently, you are likely to experience a great deal of frustration on your part and maybe even some negativity on the part of others, as they become frustrated. Being able to express yourself well can give everyone a favorable opinion of you and help others know who you are and what you are trying to accomplish.
Expert communicators are valuable at work and in other organizations. Do you want to be more in demand at your workplace? Do you want to be a go-to person in your organization? Being able to speak and write well will take you a long way towards being the “it” person. Why? Because you can articulate your own thoughts and help clarify those of others. Because you can get a point across. Because you can help people understand where the organization is going and why.
Being able to write and speak well can help you unleash your creativity. As you are able to put your thoughts, dreams, and even wacky ideas out into the world, you will be able to unlock the part of your brain that can break through barriers and find new and exciting ideas and approaches to every day challenges. Creativity is a highly sought skill and one that needs exercising. Speaking and writing creatively will help.
Writing and speaking well exercises your brain and helps with developing critical thinking skills. As you practice your writing and speaking, you will be examining what you are doing, honing your skills, learning to be more efficient and effective. You will begin to consider and dissect the information in front of you, how it’s organized, and use it to formulate effective communication about the topic at hand and your thoughts that follow. This process will become second nature, over time, and begin to extend to other people’s communications with you so that you be able to more fully understand what is being communicated to you.
Being able to speak and write effectively requires mental organization. As you practice these skills, you will establish organizational patterns that will extend to your everyday life. Deliberate and conscious efforts in the early days of your efforts will become well-traveled courses of thought in the future. You will be better able to collect your thoughts, arrange them, and then communicate them effectively and efficiently.
5 Tips for Improving Your Writing Skills (Nope, not exhaustive)The single most valuable thing you can do in order to learn to write well is to read. If you become familiar with the sound and flow of well written communications, you will start to internalize them. Once you know how well written information “sounds”, you can begin to examine your own writing and critique it against what you know to be good. Your reading should include fiction, non-fiction, scholarly, journalistic, and narrative styles. Read everything. Not every writing type requires the same rigor for syntax, structure, and style. Become familiar with all of these so that you may easily switch from one form to another as your audience and context change. A social media post detailing your vacation should not be written in the style of a scholarly article nor should your business document necessarily mirror a style appropriate for fictional literature. When you know the different tone and the styles of writing, you can start to fit your communications appropriately.
Be succinct. Long, rambling sentences and paragraphs are generally confusing and inefficient ways to get your point across. Learn when it’s a good time to use a list instead of the standard paragraph. People can more easily consume small bites of information. It is much more difficult to parse and understand a multi-line, multi-segmented sentence. When writing, you may need to ramble to get your thoughts onto paper, but never fail to come back and edit for conciseness.
Speaking of which, learn to edit yourself. Learn to cut out the superfluous and focus upon what is critical in order to get the reader to understand your message.
Decide why you’re choosing to write and keep laser focus on that purpose. Are you communicating an experience? Are you trying to persuade someone? Are you giving directions? Keeping singular focus upon what you are doing keeps your writing in line.
Ask for criticism from good writers. No matter how well we edit ourselves, we will miss things. Our own writing lives in our minds and we know what we are trying to say. Other people don’t have that luxury and can help you see things that your brain just glosses over. Be sure to establish a safe and respectful relationship with your editor. It is of no use to either of you if feelings are hurt. Tell your editor what you are looking for and be ready to hear that you made some mistakes.
5 Tips to Improve Your Speaking Skills (Again, not exhaustive)
Slow down. Allow yourself time to organize your thoughts. Ask yourself if it is necessary to say what you are about to say. Take time to consider the right words to use. Constructing your message well will help you get your meaning communicated. Remember to focus on your point. Slowing down will help you keep that focus in mind. When you speed through your communication, you risk losing focus and obscuring the intent. You risk being a blatherer.
Be self-aware and watch your facial expressions and body language. If your mouth is saying one thing but your body and face are saying something else, you are diluting or confusing your message. Keep in mind that a large part of communication is expression and posture. Study body language to help you be aware of what you are portraying while speaking. Remember that facial expression affects the sound of your voice. Even if someone can’t see you, they can tell if you’re smiling. The same principle applies to other expressions.
Read and write. For much the same reasons as listed above, reading will improve your speaking skills. Reading about great orators and examining their speeches will help you to understand what makes great communication and how you can use the same tools and techniques to communicate well yourself.
Listen to people. By listening to others, you will begin to understand what makes effective communication and what doesn’t. As you listen, ask yourself whether this is good communication or not. Ask yourself why it is or is not. Think about your own speech and compare and contrast with the subject to which you are listening. If you tend not to be a listener, challenge yourself to become one so that you can be more aware of other people’s speech patterns and capabilities. Doing so will also help you become more introspective with regard to your own speaking. Additionally, don’t avoid listening to yourself. Record yourself and listen with a critical ear. No one likes to hear themselves, but put aside the angst over your nasal voice and accent. Focus upon what you are saying, are you organizing your thoughts well? Are you focusing on the point of your communication?
Speak. If you don’t practice a skill, like speaking, you will not improve. Challenge yourself to speak up, especially if you don’t usually do so. Look for simple ways to improve casual conversation as well as opportunities to speak in front of other people. You need not be in front of a crowd to speak well. You can practice speaking well every time you verbally communicate with one or more people.
There are many similarities between speaking and writing. Improving one will positively affect the other. It’s really nice when you can use synergy to make changes. Speaking of synergy, as you improve your spoken and written communication skills, something else will happen. You will gain confidence. When you KNOW you can make yourself heard and understood, you can feel more confident when presenting yourself anywhere. Whether a job interview, a lesson in your local church, mosque, or temple, or a presentation at work, when you know in your bones you can get your point across, you can easily nail your purpose.
There are of course more ways to improve your communication skills. If you really want to improve, use Google and look for resources and information on how to practice and proceed. The world is at your fingertips and you can access that information for free.
Who am I to tell you how to improve your communication skills? I am a technology professional who has been writing and speaking as a part of that job for over 30 years. I have been a technical support specialist helping people troubleshoot issues with large multi-media systems. I have been a department manager with up to 14 people reporting to me. I have been a business analyst working with teams both co-located and globally dispersed. I am a seasoned documentation writer, working with teams producing several different products for external sales and many, many applications internal to my various employers. I am a public speaker with engagements at BA World and local organizations under my belt. I am a member of the Yelp Elite Squad with over 800 reviews. Finally, I am a confident writer and speaker who wants to share with the world.
Thanks for your time. I would love to hear what you think of this and my other articles. Cheers.