Published: 28th March 2017
Here's how you can hone your communication skills
Effective communication is one of the most important life skills we can learn—yet something we don't usually put a lot of effort into. Here are some tips to improve your English
About a fortnight ago, I received a phone call from a software engineer. He said that he got my phone number from a former student of mine, introduced himself and explained the purpose of the phone call. When he sought my help in improving his English communication skills, I asked him to send me an email describing his problems with English, his educational and social background and workplace environment. I did so with the intention of assessing his knowledge of written English.
In the email, he mentioned that he studied in a government-aided school and in a private engineering college in Tamil Nadu. Here is an extract from his email:
“During school days, I just mug up English without understanding. And I never tried to speak in English. When I entered into my college life, I’ve tried to manage with that poor English unfortunately that doesn’t helps me to increase my fluency. Moreover, I’ve faced a lot of hurdles because of the poor English in my college days itself. Fortunately, I got the job with my technical skills. Till that I never thought English is that much important for my life. When I enter into my company I started to face many problems because of the communication skill I have…”
He had narrated how he found it difficult to understand and respond when his colleagues and others spoke in English. He concluded his email with this request: “Because of the English knowledge, I lost an opportunity to travel abroad. I’m not rich in English. This poor knowledge in English blocks me to prove my functional knowledge as well as technical knowledge. You are the person who could help me to improve my communication skill.”
Not only him but many professionals – software engineers, scientists, doctors, bankers, teachers and those in other professions – have the problem of communicating in English for many reasons. His written English is not bad. As the email indicates, he can express himself in writing. Though there are some grammatical errors, the errors do not impede communication.
When I spoke to him in English, he was reluctant to respond in English. When asked why he was reluctant, he said it was due to his fear that he might make mistakes in grammar and pronunciation and others would laugh at him. He was experiencing communication apprehension which can be defined as “an individual level of fear or anxiety associated with either real or anticipated communication with another person or persons”.
How to overcome your communication apprehension? Here are some tips. The first tip is you have to think positively. Anyone can learn and master English. Anyone can become an effective speaker. Anyone can become a successful conversationalist and excellent communicator. These are possible when people engage in positive self-talk such as “I can do it.” “If it is possible for others, it is possible for me too.” Giving yourself positive strokes can boost your confidence.
The second tip is you have to create opportunities for you to have more exposure to the English language. Due to advancements in mobile technology you can easily download and listen to good podcasts, watch English language programmes, check your proficiency in English by taking interactive tests and communicate with others in English through social media.
The third tip is planning your speech and practising it in front of a mirror. You can record your speech and listen to it. You can learn a lot from this experience. The fourth tip is not to be preoccupied with what your audience might say. Always expect positive reactions from them. Even if they give negative reactions, take them positively. The fifth tip is to seek help from your friends and colleagues who can give constructive feedback on your speech.
“Proper planning and preparation prevents poor performance” – Stephen Keague