Two Simple Things to Developing Better Communication Skills

John Tabita

In my last article, Two Simple Ways to Become More of a “People Person”, I talked about two techniques that will ease your discomfort of meeting new people and relieve you of the burden of thinking you have to be charming or conversational. But at some point, you will probably be expected to actually open your mouth and speak. Being a great listener is a wonderful thing, but if you never have something to contribute to the conversation, people will view you as secretive and not to be trusted.

There are those who are naturally gifted speakers and communicators. Then there are the rest of us. Here are two things that have helped me develop better communication skills.

Writing

From blogging, I’ve realized that people who disagree with you will sometimes resort to personally attacking your character. (Gee, sounds like real life, doesn’t it?) While it’s tempting to respond in kind, knowing when and when not to respond is an important communication skill, both online and off. When I do choose to respond, I try to overlook the unkind statement and provide some meaningful feedback—if not for the person I’m replying to, then at least something others will find helpful.

Writing clarifies my thoughts and helps me be a better communicator overall. I find the more I write, the better I’m able to express myself verbally. Because writing forces me to think about what I’m going to say, I find myself thinking about what I’m saying aloud before (and even as) I’m saying it.

Public Speaking

Who would have imagined that speaking could actually improve your communication skills? I’ve heard that the ability to speak in public is one of the key ingredients of success. Given that fear of public speaking is listed as the #1 fear, and fear of death is #6, it’s safe to say that most people would rather die then speak in front of a group. If you’re determined to overcome your fear and master this important skill, here are a couple of organizations that can help.

Toastmasters International is a non-profit organization that helps people develop public speaking and leadership skills through practice and feedback in local chapters. This type of training will help you with all your presentation skills, whether that’s a job interview, proposing a new idea to your boss, a sales presentation for a client, or selling your wife on the idea of buying that new motorcycle you’ve had your eye on … the list is endless.

One thing I liked about Toastmasters is that, at least once per meeting, they will throw out a topic at you, and then give you just a short time to think about it before you have to give a brief talk on it. This teaches you to “think on your feet”—an invaluable skill I sometimes lack.

A more expensive option is Dale Carnegie Training. While you can learn a lot from his books, the extended course provides valuable ways to help you apply what you learn.

Can introverts be successful in careers that require extrovert skills? I know of two such self-described introverts: Dr. Ivan Misner, founder of the worldwide, 120,000 member networking organization BNI; and Alan Weiss, business consultant and author of Money Talks: How to Make a Million as a Speaker. Neither of these men let their introversion get in the way of becoming successful communicators and businessmen. And neither should you.

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  • Wolf_22

    So many people have Cold War syndrome when it comes to pairing public speaking to the hapless clams that get painted with broad strokes. It’s always been my 1st and 3rd person experience(s) that utility precludes successful dialog. Everything serves a purpose and if someone’s conversation is boring, why would anyone want to partake? Stage left, exit right…

    Keep in mind, too, that many extroverts fall into the same wash job. I’ve met many people in my life who could bullshit the bull and yet they never had anything useful to offer in the end. These same people frequently gloss over their loud voices or compulsive behaviors.

    Long story short: introversion or extroversion, it’s all about utility really, but there’s always a screwball or two in every spectrum…

  • Emad Mokhtar

    Thanks for the great post, I’m afraid of public speaking specially that I’ll present in English and it’s not my first language it’s very good but I’m so freaking out when I know I’ll present in English and in front of group, so I’ll try to join one of Toastmasters International’s club and see what things will go.

    Thanks again for great post

  • Thomas Jane

    I think most of the developers are anti-social, they don’t get much interaction with public and hence face social problem like lack of confidence and hesitation of speaking with strangers. I also face problems like these and don’t like social activities. Is this something normal?

    • http://smallbusinessmarketingsucks.blogspot.com/ John Tabita

      Perhaps the better question to ask, rather than “Is this normal?” is “Is this effective?” If you are so uncomfortable socially that it hinders you from having friends or a relationship, doing well in a job interview, or speaking to the opposite sex, then you may want to consider what you need to do to overcome it. I was painfully awkward and introverted in high school. I took the Dale Carnegie course in my mid-20s, which helped. I’m definitely not like I was in high school, but I’m still less than comfortable talking to strangers and meeting new people. I’ve just learned not to let it hinder me.

  • Thomas Jane

    Well John!
    It really is a hard thing for me these day that I can’t look in the eyes of people I talk to, leave talking to the opposite gender aside. I don’t understand what to talk to my friends, they are interested in things I hate and don’t know a single thing about things I love. I am totally comfortable with it while I am alone but when I am not alone I have to listen to their jokes i can’t laugh at.