Written by: Molly Ahrens, Sally Kishi & Eric Frasco
Developing soft skills is often overlooked in favor of developing more technical or “hard” skills, but both are essential for our professional and personal life. While “soft skills” may seem vague or difficult to improve on, developing them is easier than you might think! In our Soft Skill Development series, we discuss simple and effective ways to improve your soft skills at home. Today, we are discussing communication - an invaluable skill for cooperation, teamwork and leadership.
What is Communication?
Communication, simply put, is your ability to share and express ideas with others. It is an essential skill for any field of work, but is much more complex than most people give it credit for. Communication skills include not only the ability to express your own ideas articulately and effectively, but also skills like active listening, public speaking, writing, storytelling, non-verbal communication, and reading body language.
Why is Communication Important?
Communication is an incredibly important skill not only for professional life, but for your personal life. Remember, communication is also about listening to and understanding others. Good communication skills on your part also enable others to improve, which builds teamwork and feelings of cooperation. Confidence in your communication skills will also improve your presentations, public speaking, job interviews, and more. Here are some ways to improve your communication skills at home:
Ways To Improve Your Communication Skills At Home
1. Have video chats with friends or family,
and be mindful of your communication style while you chat. Are you fully listening to them, or are you simply waiting for your turn to speak? Do you tell a story effectively and engagingly, or do you go off on a bunch of tangents and leave the listener confused? Mindfulness during conversations with people who you already have rapport with can give you a great idea for what communication skills you should put your effort into practicing.
2. Host a “PowerPoint Party” with your friends on Zoom or Skype.
Have everyone prepare a digital slideshow about a topic they’re passionate about, and take turns giving a presentation on your topic to the whole group. This is a great way to practice your public speaking, presentation, and active listening skills while also having fun with your friends and learning something new in the process!
3. Practice your writing by writing for fun!
Writing doesn’t have to be a purely professional skill, and any sort of writing will improve your ability to clearly communicate your ideas. Write a fictional short story, or start writing in a journal. Write a letter or email to someone you haven’t seen in a while, and fill them in on everything that’s new in your life. Remember, writing is a skill that takes practice and upkeep. Even if you got used to writing papers while you were in school and did well at it, don’t let your writing ability degrade from disuse.
4. Make a habit of outlining before you write and revising after you finish. Even if you’re just writing an email, make a few bullet points of things you want to cover, organize them in a way that makes sense, and use that outline to write out what you want to say. Afterwards, read it out loud and change any phrasing that feels awkward. Take out unnecessary words. If you get in the habit of doing this every time you write, it will serve your communication skills well.
5. Read more. Good readers tend to be good writers, and good writers are usually also good communicators. When you read, think about what you like or don’t like about the way the author is communicating their ideas. Is it clear? Is it concise? If it’s not concise, do the extra words serve your immersion into the story, or are they a confusing road block between you and understanding the point of the text? Take notes while you read to help you keep track of and remember these thoughts. Make an effort to apply what you’ve learned to your own communication style. Read studies, read nonfiction that relates to your interests, read novels, read short stories - just read!
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