I answered this question on Quora – How can I develop communication and soft skills as early as possible – and I thought, Hey! That’s a great blog post with tips! So here I am outlining 7 practical tips to build your soft skills and communication.
What is communication and soft skills? A set of skills that helps you do well in inter-personal communication. The main components of communication would be speaking, writing, reading and listening. Soft skills include qualities like being able to customise your communication and body language, assertive skills, negotiations, stress management, time management etc. If you ask me, working on your communication skills alone can make your soft skills better. A few ways to do that would be:
1. Reading: Read something every single day. And I don’t mean just newspapers. Read books – from fiction to non-fiction. (Skip Chetan Bhagat and his recent followers please) There is so much in the writing of great authors that can boost ones knowledge and thinking. Online articles on different topics can also aid the process. Reading not just imparts knowledge but is great for improving language and vocabulary skills. And this will further enhance your ability to communicate your ideas clearly when you speak or write. (your admission essays or reports at work)
2. Watch videos: There is no dearth of great speakers online who are recorded and posted for our benefit. Pay attention to their speaking styles and body language. Look at how they bring out humour in their talks. TED is a great platform. But I wouldn’t limit myself to it. Apart from Youtube, every major talk event is recorded and posted online. And that makes for interesting learning material.
3. Read relevant books: Great books like Talk Like TED by Carmine Gallo and On Writing Well by William Zinsser have been milestones in working on my speaking and writing skills. Read books on speaking and writing well. Presence by Amy Cuddy is a milestone book on body language. Apart from videos, reading books by people who’ve been there and done that are a great help in our own journey of self development. There are many blogs that are dedicated to skills and self development. Subscribe to them so that you can learn from them.
4. Listen: Agreed that reading and watching videos will give you enough talking points when the need arises. But listening is as important as speaking. And ignoring this is one of the most common mistakes that people commit. It is important for you to listen patiently and attentively when it is your turn to do so. It is the least form of respect you can offer fellow speakers who listened to you patiently.
5. Practice often: Jump at every opportunity of testing your communications and soft skills. Be it a class in school or college or an informal group of friends. Clubs and meet up groups that give you chances to step in front of people and develop confidence. It is only when you speak in different situations amidst different kinds of audience that you can flex your entire range of soft skills and communication.
6. Take up courses: While you are in the learning phase, take advantage of millions of free courses online that are short and convenient. And can be taken from the comfort of your home at your convenience. Learn from the right sources and sharpen your tools often.
7. Monitor yourself: You may read articles and books at random. Watch a few talks willy nilly. But it is equally important for you track the progress you are making, if you are that is. This is the critical part. If all this work doesn’t make a difference to your skills, there is something missing and you need to find out what and rework the story board. Check if you understand more difficult words in articles that you did not before. Ask friends if there is a difference in the way you conduct yourself in formal situations. In fact, enlist the support of friends to push you to take up speaking opportunities and practice your skills wherever possible.
These are a few ways in which you can make a good start working on your soft skills and communication. In fact, the level, intensity and your sources might differ. But the method to improving our skills remains the same through out our lives. Which is your favourite tip here? Or do you have other tips that you’d like to share with the readers?