Communication Skills

A Ranting Hub for Improving Communication Skills

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The practice of saying “o’clock” is simply a remnant of simpler times when clocks weren’t very prevalent and people told time by a variety of means, depending on where they were and what references were available.

Generally, of course, the Sun was used as a reference point, with solar time being slightly different than clock time. Clocks divide the time evenly, whereas, by solar time, hour lengths vary somewhat based on a variety of factors, like what season it is.

Thus, to distinguish the fact that one was referencing a clock’s time, rather than something like a sundial, as early as the fourteenth century one would say something like, “It is six of the clock,” which later got slurred down to “six o’clock” sometime around the sixteenth or seventeenth centuries. In those centuries, it was also somewhat common to just drop the “o’” altogether and just say something like “six clock.”

Using the form of “o’clock” particularly increased in popularity around the eighteenth century when it became common to do a similar slurring in the names of many things such as “Will-o’-the wisp” from “Will of the wisp” (stemming from a legend of an evil blacksmith named Will Smith, with “wisp” meaning “torch”) and “Jack-o’-lantern” from “Jack of the lantern” (which originally just meant “man of the lantern” with “Jack,” at the time, being the generic “any man” name. Later, either this or the Irish legend of “Stingy Jack” got this name transferred to referring to carved pumpkins with lit candles inside).

While today with clocks being ubiquitous and few people, if anybody, telling direct time by the Sun, it isn’t necessary in most cases to specify we are referencing time from clocks, but the practice of saying “o’clock” has stuck around anyway.

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Bonus Fact:

  • The word “clock” is thought to have originally derived from the Medieval Latin “clocca,” meaning “bell,” referencing the ringing of the bells on early town clocks, which would let everyone in a community know what time it was.
  • Contrary to popular belief, the clock tower in London commonly called “Big Ben” is not named “Big Ben.”  Rather, it is named “Elizabeth Tower,” after Queen Elizabeth II; named such during her Diamond Jubilee (the 2012 60th anniversary of her accession to the throne).  Before that, it was just called “Clock Tower.” So why is it so often called “Big Ben”?  That is due to the great bell inside the tower that chimes the hour out and goes by that name.  Over time this has morphed into many calling the clock tower itself that even today, despite the recent, very public, name change.
  • The Tower of the Winds in Athens, which lies right under the Acropolis, is thought to be the first clock tower in history, constructed sometime between the 2nd century BC to 50 BC.  It contained eight sundials and a water clock, along with a wind vane.
  • If you’ve ever wondered what a.m. and p.m. stand for, wonder no more: a.m. stands for “ante meridiem,” which is Latin for “before midday”; p.m. stands for “post meridiem,” which is Latin for “after midday.”
  • The International Space Station orbits about 354 kilometers (220 miles) above the Earth and travels at approximately  27,700 km/hr (17,211 mph), so it takes about 92 minutes to circle the Earth once. For this reason, every 45 minutes the astronauts on-board see a sunrise or a sunset, with a total of 15 – 16 of each every 24 hours.

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Communication skills for managers: Become confident, comfortable and consistent with staff communications.

It is important that communication with staff does not only occur around negative instances and that positive achievements are well communicated as well.  All of this helps to engage staff and reduce turnover – highly engaged staff are more profitable staff.

Communication and feedback is the key to a successful working environment as it helps:

  • people learn
  • create opportunity for professional and personal development
  • boost morale and loyalty
  • provide insight into how your business is running

A great way to set the foundations for successful staff communication is to use our template to clearly outline your businesses policies and procedures.

HR manual template (DOCX 234.96 KB)

Common errors and simple solutions


Some things to avoid are:

  • only ever giving negative or redirecting feedback
  • sandwiching negative feedback in between two positive feedback messages – the person will only hear the good
  • storing up 12 months of feedback and dumping this on employees in one meeting
  • being insincere when giving positive feedback
  • not being direct enough or honest enough – fluffing around the issues
  • yelling, screaming or getting emotional
  • allowing the employee to steer the conversation
  • communicating in an inappropriate forum – e.g. email, publicly, hallway conversations
  • avoid making it personal and by the way it’s not about YOU, focus on the receiver
  • being unprepared and ‘winging it’.


Things to try instead are:

  • being balanced and giving positive and negative feedback when its due
  • be direct and honest and give the feedback truthfully
  • be timely in your feedback and communication as it happens – don’t put it off
  • practice and prepare what you are going to say – be specific, use examples
  • practice and prepare what you are going to say – be specific
  • be prepared you are the manager and you need display a calm approach – do not match behaviour
  • allowing the employee to steer the conversation
  • always communicate face to face – so much is lost in translation when you shoot off emails, also as a general rule praise in public criticise in private
  • focus on facts, have all the right information and evidence if possible and use examples
  • have a script and plan what you are going to say.

Specific examples, guidelines and tools

The following provide some common sense scenarios that business owners may face.  All of the issues listed below should be a part of regular discussion when you review staff performance.

Constant lateness

An employee is constantly late to work, you have spoken to them informally but now you want to speak to them in a more formal setting.

To solve the problem you should:

  • organise a meeting with your employee
  • go through the actual dates and times they were late – be specific
  • ask them if there is a reason why they are continually late – listen and give them a chance to speak
  • document the conversation and place in their file
  • give them a copy and ask them to agree to try to be on time in future.

A job well done

An employee has completed a major project and you want to give them positive reinforcing feedback.

To give great feedback you should:

  • organise a meeting with your employee
  • gather all the information about the project
  • be generous and specific with feedback
  • explain how their contribution has benefited the business
  • be prepared and be sincere, practice if you need to.

Dealing with redundancy

You need to make an employee redundant as you have had a downturn in work.

To best support the employee you should:

  • organise a meeting with your employee
  • prepare a formal letter to help structure the conversation
  • be prepared for the employee’s adverse reaction
  • listen to the employee if they want to vent or voice how they are feeling
  • don’t avoid if they get emotional
  • be professional, don’t promise things you cannot commit to.

Find out more about how to deal with redundancy and retrenchment including creating a redundancy pack and final payments.

Staff not working well together

Your team are having issues communicating with each other and you need to get them together to outline your expectations for how you want them to work together.

To deal with this issue you should:

  • organise a meeting for the whole team
  • ask the team to voice their frustrations in a constructive manner
  • document team responses and try and come up with fixes or recommendations
  • get the team to agree on an action plan
  • act as a facilitator for the session, but do not take over or railroad outcomes
  • document your action plan and make it happen.

Inducting a new staff member

You have a new staff member that you need to induct into your business

For a great induction you should:

  • make time, be present – the new employee is probably nervous your job is to make them feel at ease and welcome them
  • be prepared, have a plan
  • be friendly don’t leave them by themselves
  • use our induction plan to help make it a smooth transition.

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Tips for Writing a Good research Report

Title Should be clear and descriptive, but not too long. Ideally should state main result. Introduction In about 3-5 paragraphs, an introduction: 1) introduces the problem and describes why it is interesting; 2) summarizes what’s known about the problem, citing prior work; and 3) summarizes your approach. • Ask yourself: Why is this problem important? Why is it timely? How does your approach to the problem differ from other approaches? • You may provide a brief preview of your results at the end of the introduction – but no more than a preview. • Do not use subheadings in the introduction. Methods • Explain your methods in enough detail for a researcher in the same field to replicate the experiments and for a researcher in a related field to understand the essence of the methods. • Do not include results (or discussion) in methods, only methods. However, you can briefly indicate the rationale for a procedure if it makes the methods more readable. • Use bold subheadings (on separate lines) to break up the methods. This organizes the methods section by topic and allows readers interested only in some aspects of the methods to quickly find what they are looking for. • Each subheading should be followed by one or a few paragraphs. Each paragraph should have a topic sentence and should be written clearly and concisely. • Avoid repetition. Use “see above” when appropriate and cite published methods when appropriate. Results • Organize your results in a logically coherent order. The order does NOT have to be the order in which the experiments were done, but rather the one which makes the most coherent “story”. It is not necessary to describe every experiment that was done during the summer. Focus on your best experiments. You can mention experiments that did not work briefly and comment on why they may not have worked. • Figures should be numbered in the order they are cited in the text. Insert figures into the document near where they are discussed. • Each figure or table MUST have a legend. Discussion • Discuss your results, putting them in the context of what was known before your study. • Highlight any agreements or disagreements between your data and those of other published studies. Comment on possible reasons for disagreements. • Discuss open questions raised by your findings and any general lessons or conclusions that can be drawn. References • Cite relevant references for statements of known results, hypotheses, methods, or background information. Cite them in the text like this: “In response to death stimuli, ubiquitination of DIAP1 is enhanced by interaction with Reaper (Martin, 2002; Palaga & Osborne, 2002).” • For references with one author, cite as (Smith, 20XX), where 20XX is the year of publication. For references with two authors, cite as (Smith & Jones, 20XX), and for references with three or more authors, cite as Smith et al., 20XX (Latin for “and others”). Include an alphabetical list at the end (ordered by last name of first author), in this format: Martin, S. J. (2002). Destabilizing influences in apoptosis: sowing the seeds of IAP destruction. Cell 109, 793-796. Palaga, T. and Osborne, B. (2002). The 3D’s of apoptosis: death, degradation and DIAPs. Nature Cell Biol. 4, E149-E151. • Note that the journal name is italicized and the volume number is in bold. In the reference list, include all authors, even if there are more than two. Make sure that all references cited in the text appear in the reference list at the end and vice versa. Final Comment Remember, this is a research report, not a grant proposal or grant progress report. Specific aims are not relevant and should not be mentioned, although of course you will discuss the overall goal of your study in the introduction.

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Entrepreneurs Face Serious Communication Barriers

University of Manchester, home of Emeritus Professor of Management, Derek Torrington (photo: Wikipedia)

Most startup mentors tell me that the single biggest problem they have to deal with in small companies is the lack of open, honest, and effective communication, both from the top down and from the bottom up. Some entrepreneurs forget that talking is not communicating. Fortunately these skills can be learned, and the barriers to communication can be overcome one by one.

Founders have to communicate their ideas and products to investors, business partners, and the rest of the team. Then, hopefully, come customers, distribution channels, and going public or merging with an attractive buy-out candidate. Communication is not just talking, but also listening, writing, body language, and “actions speak louder than words.”

According to a new management guide by Professor Derek Torrington, “Managing to Manage: The Essential Guide to People Management,” it is the listener who determines the extent to which a message is understood, and that is shaped largely by their own experience and background. From an entrepreneur perspective, here are the understanding barrier categories:

Unclear frame of reference. Whenever you discuss any startup matter, the receivers will view it from their particular frame of reference, including their values, their priorities, and their background. The responsibility is on you the entrepreneur to decipher the receiver reference, and do the “translation” of your message to them.
Stereotyping and biases. This is the other end of the spectrum, where the entrepreneur defaults to an extreme extrapolation of the listener reference base. Common problem stereotypes relate to age constraints, gender roles, and cultural performance implications. Effective communication requires compensating for language barriers, no stereotyping, and first focus on performance here and now.
Cognitive dissonance. Psychologists use this term to describe the genuine difficulty the people have in understanding, remembering, and taking action on inputs that they find irreconcilable with the current reality, or with strong existing beliefs. The message heard may be unintentionally distorted, and you must repeat and rephrase often to be effective.
Failure to build relationships. When people are listening to someone with confidence and trust, there is a predisposition to hear the message and agree. On the other hand, if the source is unknown or un-trusted, the message may be ignored or minimized. The solution is to work on relationships first, before attempting persuasive communication.
Technical semantics and jargon. Jargon only has meaning if the symbols are already understood. If an abbreviation or phrase is not commonly used outside a specific group, or experts, it becomes negative communication, with people reading it as presumptive, insulting, or an attempt to deceive. The remedy is to use clear and concise language.
Not paying attention and forgetting. We all have the human predilection to be selective in attention. Attention spans seem to be getting steadily shorter. Add the problem of noise, external and internal, which can blank out whole messages. Pick the right time and place for each message type, to maximize attention and retention.
Information withheld. Sometimes an entrepreneur or executive tries to communicate without full disclosure, perhaps to minimize impact, or due to company policy. This is readily recognized by most constituents, negates the message, and erodes trust. In startups, the best policy is transparent honest disclosure across all levels of the team.
It’s important to remember that communication only happens when the other person really hears what you mean to say. It’s not a one-way street, and there are often barriers on both sides. To be successful, the entrepreneur has the responsibility of overcoming all of these barriers to make the interaction effective. The alternative is a lose-lose situation for both sides.

A climate of open, two-way communication is also the only way to ensure that those who do not understand feel free to ask for clarification. No questions does not always mean that everyone heard the message. How often do you ask for feedback to make sure your communication has been effective?

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Communication: the skill that sustains information flow

Communication: the skill that sustains information flow

The effective exchange of information is essential for a well-run business. Communication is more than what you say, though. For a graduate it’s about about learning to listen, understand and deliver words and information that keep things moving.
Communication skills

Communication is really more of a package than an individual skill.

If you think that all graduates have good communication skills, think again. A recent survey by the NUS and the CBI, a leading employers’ organisation, suggested that nearly a fifth of graduate recruiters were not satisfied with graduates’ basic use of English.

You need to be able to express yourself concisely, but you also need to be a good listener and good at asking questions. Communication is really more of a package than an individual skill:

  • Presentation skills are important
  • As is being able to phrase important questions
  • Not saying too much is more important than you might think
  • Understanding your audience and tailoring what you say is particularly important for graduate job hunters

Communication skills examples

Your ability to communicate well will be one of the most noticeable things about you during the application process. This is why getting it right is so important. For example:

  • Your application needs to be well written, easy to understand and tailored to the recruiter in question. Make sure you proofread properly too; ‘Muphry’s law’ states that spelling or grammar mistakes will happen just when you are explaining how great you are at spelling and grammar.
  • At interviews you should be confident, smile and make eye contact. Shake hands and remember names (there are techniques for this). Remember that a lot of communication is non-verbal – this is one of the reasons why most application process involve face-to-face interviews at some point or other.
  • If other tasks are involved, like presentations, or group activities, be aware that your communication skills may still be under assessment. Think about who your audience is and how you will be interacting with them. Ask relevant questions and give honest responses.

If you’re looking to show employers that you have communication skills then the first thing to do is to figure out just which kind they want. Different employers will emphasise different aspects, and some might surprise you.

If you have ever received marks for a presentation then this could be a useful piece of evidence. Another way to show you can communicate is to explain the times when it has been useful to you.

How do I phrase it on a job application?

Do say: ‘This particular situation had arisen and by using these particular communication skills in this way I was able to resolve it.’ – Good communication is often involved in teamwork and problem solving. Demonstrating that you have successfully used communication skills in the real world will be a big boost to this particular part of your application. Having multiple different examples for each skill is a bonus.

Don’t say: ‘I’m a good communicator.’ – Job applications are less about claiming to have a skill and more about proving that you have it. Not giving full answers, or avoiding the point, is going to count against you here even more than it could elsewhere.

How to develop communication skills

Man the phones! There will normally be a few telephone jobs available around campus. This could be anything from cold-calling alumni for donations, to taking phone calls from vulnerable students. Whatever the case, these skills will definitely stand you in good stead. Volunteering is often a good way to develop your communication skills. For example, if you’re befriending elderly people or helping children learn, this will really help your communication skills.

Join a society. Plenty of societies actively encourage communication skills. For example; debating societies, comedy clubs, acting groups or student radio. They might not teach you communication skills, but they are an ideal place to generate examples of your skills. If you sit on society committees or residents’ association councils, and are involved in regular meetings, so much the better.

If you’re trying to develop communication skills there will be plenty of ways to do so as part of work experience, or part-time jobs. Any situation which involves dealing with a tricky customer or actively selling things to potential buyers will help you gain communication skills. Alternative situations include interviewing people, or even convincing employers to take you on for work experience.

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16 Best Ways to Improve Your Body Language

There’s no certain way to use your body language. Depending on who you’re talking to and the setting, what you do and say might be interpreted in different ways. When talking to your boss, you will want to use your body language differently than when talking to your coworkers or friends. A slight changes in your body language can have a great impact on the people around you. But before starting changing your body language, you have to know your body language. Pay close attention to how you stand, how you sit, and how you use you hands and legs when talking to someone. One of the best ways to know your body language is to practice in front of a mirror. While it seems a bit ridiculous, it really helps. After all, no one is watching you. You will see how you look to others and how you use your body language.

You can also visualize how you’d sit and stand to feel relaxed and confident, or visualize how you’d communicate with someone. Watch your coworkers, friends, celebs, role models and other people you think have great body language and communicating skills. Watch what they do and what you don’t. However, don’t compare yourself to others. Just because they have a better body language doesn’t mean they are better than you. You just need some time to develop your own body language.

At first, you might feel like you’re faking someone and something, but ‘fake it til you make it’ can actually help you to improve your body language and communication skills. Don’t be afraid to play around a little, practice a lot and monitor yourself to find your comfortable balance. This is the key to success!

Here are a few recommendations for improving your body language. Read on.

1. Eye contact

Make eye contact, but make sure you don’t stare. If you’re talking to a few people, give everyone some eye contact to make a better connection and ensure everyone is listening to you. If you don’t make eye contact, you might seem insecure, inattentive and confused. But, don’t give too much eye contact since people might think you are creepy. If you are shy, making eye contact will be a little tricky in the beginning, but when you will get used to it, it will feel much easier.

2. Arms, shoulders and legs

Never cross your arms and legs as it indicates that you are feeling defensive or guarded. You should also pay attention to your shoulders. When you feel nervous, you may notice that your shoulders are tight and tense. Try to relax your shoulders by shaking them a bit and moving them back and down slightly.

Read also – 8 Incredible Ways to Develop Your Communication Skills

3. Head

When you want to feel confident or when you want to be taken seriously, keep your head level both vertically and horizontally. When you want to be friendly, nod once in a while to show that you are listening. Just don’t overdo it. You don’t want to nod every minute.

4. Mouth

Your mouth movements give away clues about you, too, and not only when you’re speaking. We purse the lips and twist them to one side when we are thinking or when we hold back some angry comments we don’t want to reveal. People might notice it and even though they won’t say anything, they’ll get a feeling that you don’t want to communicate with them.

5. Sit up straight

Learn to sit up straight but in a more comfortable and relaxed way. If you want to show that you are sincerely interested in what the person is talking about, lean toward them, but not too much. Lean back a bit to show that you are relaxed and confident in yourself. But don’t lean back too much because it can make you look distant and arrogant.

6. Take up some space

Feel free to take up some space when talking to someone. When you sit or stand with your legs slightly apart, it shows that you are self-confident and you feel comfortable around other people.

Read also – 7 Clever Ways to Become a Better Conversationalist

7. Smile and laugh

Stop taking yourself so seriously. Just relax. When someone says something funny, smile or even laugh. If you are a positive person, people will be more inclined to listen to you and be around you. However, don’t be the only person who laugh at your jokes, or it will make you appear nervous. When you’re introduced to someone, smile but don’t fake your smile. People may notice that your smile is fake.

8. Don’t fidget

Make sure you avoid doing fidgety movements and nervous ticks like tapping your fingers against the table or shaking your leg. When you try to get something across, fidgeting can distract others. Slow down, take a few deep breaths and relax. This is one of the most important steps to improving your body language.

Read also – 7 Ways to Be Yourself No Matter the Situation

9. Don’t touch your face

To tell the truth, touching the face (especially nose) when speaking with someone is one of my worst habits that I’m trying to break. It’s hard to break but I know I have to do it in order to improve my body language. Touching your face makes you seem nervous and it’s distracting to the people in the conversation.

10. Use your hands

Instead of scratching your face and fidgeting with your hands, learn to use them more confidently during a conversation. You can use your hands to describe something or explain your ideas. However, make sure you don’t use your hands too much, or it will be annoying and distracting.

11. Slow down

This actually goes for a lot of things. If you’ve got used to walking fast, try walking a bit slower. This will make you appear more relaxed and confident. If someone addresses you, turn your neck a little more slowly. When speaking to someone, don’t speak too fast. The thing is, speaking too fast indicates a lack of confidence and can increase the chances you will be misunderstood.

12. Keep your whole spine straight

Many of us stand and sit with a straight back in a great posture. But, many of us don’t understand that the spine ends in the back of the head, so we often crane the neck forward. Keep your entire spine straight to have a better posture and look more beautiful and confident.

13. Lower your drink

Keeping a drink close to your chest is a sure sign of insecurity. Don’t hold anything in front of your chest as it will make you seem distant and guarded. So lower your drink and hold it about belly button level a slightly out. This will make you look more confident.

14. Don’t stand too close or too far away

If you want to give off the right signals, pay close attention to the distance from others. If you stand or sit too close to the person when speaking, you might be marked as ‘in your face’ or ‘pushy.’ If you stand too far away, you might be marked as ‘offish.’ Observe how close all the other people are to one another and if you notice that someone back away when you move closer to them, pull back a little. Every person has their own personal space, which we should never invade.

15. Mirror

If you are trying to improve your body language, mirroring can help you. Sometimes when we get along with someone, we begin to mirror one another unconsciously. If your interlocutor leans forward, you might also lean forward. Or, if they hold their hands on their thighs, do the same. Just don’t overdo it. You don’t want to mirror each change in body language.

Read also – Top 15 Male Body Language Flirting Signs to Watch Out For

16. Keep a positive attitude

When you feel positive and confident, it comes through in your body language. That’s why it’s so important to keep a positive and relaxed attitude when speaking to someone. In fact, when it comes to body language and communication skills, your attitude can make a huge difference.

It may take a lot of time and patience to change your body language but it’s well worth it in the end. One of the most difficult things to change is to keep you head up if you’ve got used to looking at your feet. Eye contact is highly important in any situation. Work on these body language bits daily and you will definitely better your body language. If you don’t manage to change something, don’t just give up. You will reach your goal and improve your body language no matter how hard it will be and no matter what others will say. Remember, I believe in you. Are you going to use these ways to change your body language?