Communication Skills

A Ranting Hub for Improving Communication Skills


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How to Develop Good Communication Skills

The ability to communicate effectively is important in relationships, education and work. Here are some steps and tips to help you develop good communication skills.

Steps

Understanding the Basics of Communication Skills

  1. 1

Know what communication really isCommunication is the process of transferring signals/messages between a sender and a receiver through various methods (written words, nonverbal cues, spoken words). It is also the mechanism we use to establish and modify relationships.

  1. 2

Have courage to say what you thinkBe confident in knowing that you can make worthwhile contributions to conversation. Take time each day to be aware of your opinions and feelings so you can adequately convey them to others. Individuals who are hesitant to speak because they do not feel their input would be worthwhile need not fear. What is important or worthwhile to one person may not be to another and may be more so to someone else.

  1. 3

Practice. Developing advanced communication skills begins with simple interactions. Communication skills can be practiced every day in settings that range from the social to the professional. New skills take time to refine, but each time you use your communication skills, you open yourself to opportunities and future partnerships.

Engage Your Audience

  1. 1

Make eye contact. Whether you are speaking or listening, looking into the eyes of the person with whom you are conversing can make the interaction more successful. Eye contact conveys interest and encourages your partner to be interested in you in return.

  • One technique to help with this is to consciously look into one of the listener’s eyes and then move to the other eye. Going back and forth between the two makes your eyes appear to sparkle. Another trick is to imagine a letter “T” on the listener’s face ,with the cross bar being an imaginary line across the eye brows and the vertical line coming down the center of the nose. Keep your eyes scanning that “T” zone.
  1. 2

Use gestures. These include gestures with your hands and face. Make your whole body talk. Use smaller gestures for individuals and small groups. The gestures should get larger as the group that one is addressing increases in size.

  1. 3

Don’t send mixed messages. Make your words, gestures, facial expressions and tone match. Disciplining someone while smiling sends a mixed message and is therefore ineffective. If you have to deliver a negative message, make your words, facial expressions, and tone match the message.

  1. 4

Be aware of what your body is sayingBody language can say so much more than a mouthful of words. An open stance with arms relaxed at your sides tells anyone around you that you are approachable and open to hearing what they have to say.

  • Arms crossed and shoulders hunched, on the other hand, suggest disinterest in conversation or unwillingness to communicate. Often, communication can be stopped before it starts by body language that tells people you don’t want to talk.
  • Appropriate posture and an approachable stance can make even difficult conversations flow more smoothly.
  1. 5

Manifest constructive attitudes and beliefs. The attitudes you bring to communication will have a huge impact on the way you compose yourself and interact with others. Choose to be honestpatientoptimisticsincere, respectful, and accepting of others. Be sensitive to other people’s feelings, and believe in others’ competence.

  1. 6

Develop effective listening skills: Not only should one be able to speak effectively, one must listen to the other person’s words and engage in communication on what the other person is speaking about. Avoid the impulse to listen only for the end of their sentence so that you can blurt out the ideas or memories your mind while the other person is speaking.

Use Your Words

  1. 1

Enunciate your words. Speak clearly and don’t mumble. If people are always asking you to repeat yourself, try to do a better job of articulating yourself in a better manner.

  1. 2

Pronounce your words correctly. People will judge your competency through your vocabulary. If you aren’t sure of how to say a word, don’t use it.

  1. 3

Use the right words. If you’re not sure of the meaning of a word, don’t use it. Grab a dictionary and start a daily habit of learning one new word per day. Use it sometime in your conversations during the day.

  1. 4

Slow your speech down. People will perceive you as nervous and unsure of yourself if you talk fast. However, be careful not to slow down to the point where people begin to finish your sentences just to help you finish.

Use Your Voice

  1. 1

Develop your voice – A high or whiny voice is not perceived to be one of authority. In fact, a high and soft voice can make you sound like prey to an aggressive co-worker or make others not take you seriously. Begin doing exercises to lower the pitch of your voice. Try singing, but do it an octave lower on all your favorite songs. Practice this and, after a period of time, your voice will begin to lower.

  1. 2

Animate your voice. Avoid a monotone and use dynamics. Your pitch should raise and lower periodically. Radio DJ’s are usually a good example of this.

  1. 3

Use appropriate volume. Use a volume that is appropriate for the setting. Speak more softly when you are alone and close. Speak louder when you are speaking to larger groups or across larger spaces.

EditTips

  • Try to speak fluently and try to make sure people can hear you when you speak.
  • Have confidence when talking, it doesn’t matter what other people think.
  • Make sure you’re using proper grammar.
  • Do not interrupt or talk over the other person–it breaks the flow of conversation. Timing is important.
  • Get feedback from your receiver to ensure you were properly understood during your conversation.
  • Don’t over-praise yourself in front of your audience.

Edited by Brandywine, Ben Rubenstein, Katie R., Maluniu and 78 others


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Rules for Writing Formal Letters

I

Rules for Writing Formal Letters

In English there are a number of conventions that should be used when writing a formal or business letter. Furthermore, you try to write as simply and as clearly as possible, and not to make the letter longer than necessary. Remember not to use informal language like contractions.

Addresses:

1) Your Address
The return address should be written in the top right-hand corner of the letter.

2) The Address of the person you are writing to
The inside address should be written on the left, starting below your address.

Date:

Different people put the date on different sides of the page. You can write this on the right or the left on the line after the address you are writing to. Write the month as a word.

Salutation or greeting:

1) Dear Sir or Madam,
If you do not know the name of the person you are writing to, use this. It is always advisable to try to find out a name.

2) Dear Mr Jenkins,
If you know the name, use the title (Mr, Mrs, Miss or Ms, Dr, etc.) and the surname only. If you are writing to a woman and do not know if she uses Mrs or Miss, you can use Ms, which is for married and single women.

Ending a letter:

1) Yours Faithfully
If you do not know the name of the person, end the letter this way.

2) Yours Sincerely
If you know the name of the person, end the letter this way.

3) Your signature
Sign your name, then print it underneath the signature. If you think the person you are writing to might not know whether you are male or female, put you title in brackets after your name.

 

 

 


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Writing Skills: Getting Your Written Message Across Clearly

Improve your writing skills
with James Manktelow & Amy Carlson.

A colleague has just sent you an email relating to a meeting you’re having in one hour’s time. The email is supposed to contain key information that you need to present, as part of the business case for an important project.

But there’s a problem: The email is so badly written that you can’t find the data you need. There are misspellings and incomplete sentences, and the paragraphs are so long and confusing that it takes you three times more than it should to find the information you want.

As a result, you’re under-prepared for the meeting, and it doesn’t go as well as you want it to.

Have you ever faced a situation similar to this? In today’s information overload world, it’s vital to communicate clearly, concisely and effectively. People don’t have time to read book-length emails, and they don’t have the patience to scour badly-constructed emails for “buried” points.

The better your writing skills are, the better the impression you’ll make on the people around you – including your boss, your colleagues, and your clients. You never know how far these good impressions will take you!

In this article, we’ll look at how you can improve your writing skills and avoid common mistakes.
Audience and Format

The first step to writing clearly is choosing the appropriate format. Do you need to send an informal email? Write a detailed report? Create advertising copy? Or write a formal letter?

The format, as well as your audience, will define your “writing voice” – that is, how formal or relaxed the tone should be. For instance, if you write an email to a prospective client, should it have the same tone as an email to a friend?

Definitely not.

Start by identifying who will read your message. Is it targeted at senior managers, the entire human resources team, or a small group of engineers? With everything you write, your readers, or recipients, should define your tone as well as aspects of the content.
Composition and Style

Once you know what you’re writing, and for whom you’re writing, you actually have to start writing.

A blank, white computer screen is often intimidating. And it’s easy to get stuck because you don’t know how to start. Try these tips for composing and styling your document:

Start with your audience – Remember, your readers may know nothing about what you’re telling them. What do they need to know first?
Create an outline – This is especially helpful if you’re writing a longer document such as a report, presentation, or speech. Outlines help you identify which steps to take in which order, and they help you break the task up into manageable pieces of information.
Use AIDA – If you’re writing something that must inspire action in the reader, follow the Attention-Interest-Desire-Action (AIDA) formula. These four steps can help guide you through the writing process.
Try some empathy – For instance, if you’re writing a sales letter for prospective clients, why should they care about your product or sales pitch? What’s the benefit for them? Remember your audience’s needs at all times.
Use the Rhetorical Triangle – If you’re trying to persuade someone to do something, make sure that you communicate why people should listen to you, pitch your message in a way that engages your audience, and present information rationally and coherently. Our article on the Rhetorical Triangle can help you make your case in the most effective way.
Identify your main theme – If you’re having trouble defining the main theme of your message, pretend that you have 15 seconds to explain your position. What do you say? This is likely to be your main theme.
Use simple language – Unless you’re writing a scholarly article, it’s usually best to use simple, direct language. Don’t use long words just to impress people.

Structure

Your document should be as “reader friendly” as possible. Use headings, subheadings, bullet points, and numbering whenever possible to break up the text.

After all, what’s easier to read – a page full of long paragraphs, or a page that’s broken up into short paragraphs, with section headings and bullet points? A document that’s easy to scan will get read more often than a document with long, dense paragraphs of text.

Headers should grab the reader’s attention. Using questions is often a good idea, especially in advertising copy or reports, because questions help keep the reader engaged and curious.

In emails and proposals, use short, factual headings and subheadings, like the ones in this article.

Adding graphs and charts is also a smart way to break up your text. These visual aids not only keep the reader’s eye engaged, but they can communicate important information much more quickly than text.
Grammatical Errors

You probably don’t need us to tell you that errors in your document will make you look unprofessional. It’s essential to learn grammar properly, and to avoid common mistakes that your spell checker won’t find.

Here are some examples of commonly misused words:

Affect/effect
“Affect” is a verb meaning to influence. (Example: The economic forecast will affect our projected income.)
“Effect” is a noun meaning the result or outcome. (Example: What is the effect of the proposal?)
Then/than
“Then” is typically an adverb indicating a sequence in time. (Example: We went to dinner, then we saw a movie.)
“Than” is a conjunction used for comparison. (Example: The dinner was more expensive than the movie.)
Your/you’re
“Your” is a possessive. (Example: Is that your file?)
“You’re” is a contraction of “you are.” (Example: You’re the new manager.)
Note: Also watch out for other common homophones (words that sound alike but have different spellings and meanings) – such as their/they’re/there, to/too/two, and so on.
Its/it’s
“Its” is a possessive. (Example: Is that its motor?)
“It’s” is a contraction of “It is.” (Example: It’s often that heavy.) (Yes, it is this way around!)
Company’s/companies (and other possessives versus plurals)
“Company’s” indicates possession. (Example: The company’s trucks hadn’t been maintained properly.)
“Companies” is plural. (Example: The companies in this industry are suffering.)

To learn more about commonly misused words, misused apostrophes, and other grammatical errors, take our Bite-Sized Training session on Written Communication.

Tip:
Some of your readers – arguably an increasing number – won’t be perfect at spelling and grammar. They may not notice if you make these errors. But don’t use this as an excuse: there will usually be people, senior managers in particular, who WILL notice!

Because of this, everything you write should be of a quality that every reader will find acceptable.
Proofing

The enemy of good proofreading is speed. Many people rush through their documents, but this is how you miss mistakes. Follow these guidelines to check what you’ve written:

Proof your headers and subheaders – People often skip these and focus on the text alone. Just because headers are big and bold doesn’t mean they’re error free!
Read the document out loud – This forces you to go more slowly, so that you’re more likely to catch mistakes.
Use your finger to follow text as you read – This is another trick that helps you slow down.
Start at the end of your document – Proofread one sentence at a time, working your way from the end to the beginning. This helps you focus on errors, not on content.

Key Points

More than ever, it’s important to know how to communicate your point quickly and professionally. Many people spend a lot of time writing and reading, so the better you are at this form of communication, the more successful you’re likely to be.

Identify your audience before you start creating your document. And if you feel that there’s too much information to include, create an outline to help organize your thoughts. Learning grammatical and stylistic techniques will also help you write more clearly; and be sure to proof the final document. Like most things, the more you write, the better you’re going to be!


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An Informative Article on How Typeface Affects Communication

How typeface influences the way we read and think
And why everyone hates Comic Sans MS
By Chris Gayomali | June 14, 2013
 
Sometimes fonts speak louder than words.
Sometimes fonts speak louder than words.
Thinkstock/iStockphoto
 
L

ast summer, CERN was on the verge of announcing a discovery so critical to understanding the basic building blocks of the universe that it had been given a divine name: The God particle.

The hunt for the Higgs boson was one of the most expensive and labor-intensive particle physics projects ever undertaken, and promised to answer the fundamental but elusive question of why our atoms stick together in the first place. And yet, when CERN researchers finally announced that they’d glimpsed the Higgs, the world’s first reaction wasn’t to cheer; it was to stifle collective laughter. The institution’s scientists, cradling the most important scientific discovery of the decade, had chosen to present their findings to a breathless public using a peculiar font face: Comic Sans MS.

Possibly the biggest scientific discovery of our time, the #Higgs Boson, announced in glorious MS Comic Sans Font twitpic.com/a3pl0s

— Colin Eberhardt (@ColinEberhardt) July 4, 2012

The whole kerfuffle underscored just how important typefaces are to the way we process information. Words hold power. But the aesthetic manner in which those words are presented can affect the way we read, and the way we think about the information presented.

“Typography is one ingredient in a pretty complicated presentation,” Cyrus Highsmith, a typeface designer and author of the book Inside Paragraphs, told me over the phone. “Typography is the detail and the presentation of a story. It represents the voice of an atmosphere, or historical setting of some kind. It can do a lot of things.”

***

In December, Errol Morris of The New York Times conducted an experiment on the publication’s unsuspecting online readers. It came in two basic parts.

Part one was an ordinary article about a scientific study concerning optimism versus pessimism. In part two, with the help of Cornell psychologist David Dunning, Morris designed a quiz to evaluate whether the Times‘ readers found the study’s conclusions believable.

Here’s the catch. When readers came to the site, the story was presented in different typefaces: Baskerville, Computer Modern, Georgia, Helvetica, Comic Sans, and Trebuchet. Roughly 40,000 people responded to the quiz, and the results were weighted to evaluate which fonts inspired more confidence in the research, and which fonts made the information appear less believable. Here’s what Morris found:

The conscious awareness of Comic Sans promotes — at least among some people — contempt and summary dismissal. But is there a typeface that promotes, engenders a belief that a sentence is true? Or at least nudges us in that direction? And indeed there is.

It is Baskerville.

Believe it or not, the results of this test even show a disparity between Baskerville and Georgia — two apparently similar serif typefaces. [New York Times]

Baskerville’s weighted advantage wasn’t huge — just 1.5 percent. “That advantage may seem small,” Dunning told the Times, “but if that was a bump up in sales figures, many online companies would kill for it. The fact that font matters at all is a wonderment.”

Why was Baskerville more believable? Dunning had a theory:

The word that comes to my mind is gravitas. There are some fonts that are informal — Comic Sans, obviously — and other fonts that are a little bit more tuxedo. It seems to me that Georgia is slightly tuxedo. Computer Modern is a little bit more tuxedo and Baskerville has just a tad more starchiness. I would have expected that if you are going to have a winner in Baskerville, you are also going to have a winner in Computer Modern. But we did not. And there can be a number of explanations for that. Maybe there is a slight difference in how they are rendered in PCs or laptops that causes the starch in Computer Modern to be a little softer than the starch in Baskerville. [New York Times]

***

A lot goes into typeface design that we tend not to think about. Online, it’s commonly understood that serifs, or fonts with a tiny line tailing the edges of the lettering, like Times New Roman, help influence the horizontal flow of reading. In reality, it’s not that simple. (User-interface designer Alex Poole pored over 50 empirical studies for his master’s thesis if you’re interested in learning more.)

“There are many very readable sans serif typefaces out there. Plus some shapes of serifs might actually hinder readability if they are too prominent or draw too much attention to themselves,” Alexander Tochilovsky, a design instructor at the Cooper Union School of Art, told me in an email. “Besides the formal qualities of the typeface, [or] the structure of the letters, a lot also depends on how the fonts are employed, and for what purpose.” He continued:

Size of type, letter-spacing, word-spacing, leading (interline spacing), column width, justification, etc., all play a key role in how readable a passage of text is (or isn’t). Text meant for a book requires a different approach of typesetting from one that is meant to be seen on a poster.

Type design is something we tend not to think about when we’re reading. But font can have real-world implications that affect our lives in tangible ways.

Take this somewhat famous quasi-experiment by university student Phil Renaud back in 2006 (preserved for posterity in Pastebin form). Over the course of six semesters, Renaud wrote 52 essays for his classes, earning himself a commendable A- overall.

Here’s the thing: Toward the end of his last semester, Renaud’s average essay score began climbing. “I haven’t drastically changed the amount of effort I’m putting into my writing,” he wrote. “I’m probably even spending less time with them now than I did earlier in my studies.”

What he did change, however, was his essay font — three times, in fact. Renaud went back and looked at his essay scores and the different typefaces he’d used when he submitted his work. His papers were handed to his professors in three different fonts: Times New Roman, Trebuchet MS, and Georgia. Here’s what he tallied:

Why did Georgia — which he switched to later on in his college career — perform better than the others? Here’s what Renaud wrote:

Maybe fonts speak a lot louder than we think they do. Especially to a professor who has to wade through a collection of them; Times seems to be the norm, so it really doesn’t set off any subconscious triggers. Georgia is enough like Times to retain its academic feel, and is different enough to be something of a relief for the grader. Trebuchet seems to set off a negative trigger, maybe just based on the fact that it’s not as easy to read in print, maybe on the fact that it looks like something off a blog rather than an academic journal. Who knows. [Source]

Indeed, Renaud’s observations were consistent with a 1998 study from Carnegie Mellon, which pitted Times New Roman against Georgia. Participants overwhelmingly preferred Georgia over its stodgier doppelgänger, judging Georgia to be “sharper, more pleasing, and easier to read.”

Why, then, does everyone hate Comic Sans MS? Author and designer David Kadavy had the same question, and compared the child-like scribble to another face that’s inversely beloved on the other end of the spectrum: Helvetica.

Kadavy argues that a “mismanagement of visual weight is the main issue that makes reading Comic Sans an unpleasant experience. Evenness of weight, or ‘texture’ is important to the legibility and readability of typography.” It’s partly why Helvetica’s aesthetic appeal is so universal.

Which isn’t to say there’s a one-size-fits all prescription for what kind of font is best for reading, or writing. As with all things, there are all kinds of factors you have to consider: Your audience (what typeface are they comfortable reading?), and the medium you’re delivering your words on (a computer screen is different from the squinty lines in a novel, for example).

In the end, it all “comes back to the context or purpose that fonts are being used for,” Tochilovsky told me. “There is a lot that is going on within any given font, often imperceptible to the eye.”

 

http://theweek.com/article/index/245632/how-typeface-influences-the-way-we-read-and-think