Thursday, January 05, 2006

Developing Communication Skills for Students

Have you read the story of the jackal that fell into the washer mans tub and was colored blue? Here I narrate it once again.
Once upon a time there lived a jackal that strayed into a city in search of food. He was hungry and was being chased by a group of dogs. He accidentally entered the house of a dyer and fell into a vat of indigo (blue), and was stained blue from head to toe. When he escaped from the house back into the forest, all animals were surprised at his appearance and could not place its identity. Taking advantage of the situation, the jackal decided to play the situation to his advantage. He proclaimed that he was Fierce Owl, sent by the king of Gods, Indra, to earth to guard the forest.
The gullible animals believed the jackal. The jackal then appointed the Lion as his Prime minister, tiger as his guardian of the bedchamber and the elephant was made the doorkeeper. He then drove all the jackals out of sight from the forest for fear of being recognized. The animals would hunt food and bring it to the self-proclaimed king and the king would distribute the food to all equally just as a king would do. So he was leading a life of luxury. One day a herd of jackals were passing by, howling to their glory. Unable to control his natural instinct, Fierce Owl showed his natural voice and howled at the top of his voice. Hearing this howl, the animals realized that they had been fooled by a jackal and killed the jackal instantly. Had he not opened his mouth with out giving proper thought, he would not have been killed.
No body knows what you are till the time you communicate with them. Your success or failure is entirely dependent on what impression you leave on others when you communicate with them.
Communication can be categorized as verbal and non-verbal even your gestures and body language can speak a lot and will be discussed in a later chapter. Here we will be talking about the first type and we will broadly discuss the skills about which you, as a student are more concerned.
Good Communication Skills are essential
Being an effective communicator takes real skill. Communication skills have to be developed, honed and added to on an on-going basis. They are the heart of interpersonal skills and the greater your awareness of how it all works, the more effective your communication will be.
To be effective in interviews or practical examinations you have to communicate well. Here we look at basic communication dynamics, learning skills to improve your communication, using effective communication to improve your personality and promote interpersonal skills.
Communication Core Skills - The Essentials
Communication is Individual: Were not all The Same. When you look at communication, there is some thing more to merely possessing good presentation skills. Key for successful communication is to strike a good rapport with whom you are communicating. Everyone communicates differently and sees the world differently. The greatest skill you can have in order to instantly and significantly improve you communications skills is to understand the other persons point view and how they see the world. Then you can adjust your own communication to take that into account.
You are the only one of you. There's never any one right way to communicate. Authentic effective communication always happens when we reply on those things we know to be true about or for ourselves. Remember your personal style probably says more for you that all the words you use can.
Interpersonal skills. Everything communicates. Remember! If you aren't clear about what you mean and what your intention is, the other person (or people) could easily (and sometimes deliberately), misinterpret what you mean.
What you do matters, as much as what you say. It's now accepted that the words account for only 7-11% of a communication. Your behavior will 'read' unconsciously to other people and you can certainly be more in charge of the reading matter!
Language is one of the most powerful reflections of how we think and feel about others and ourselves. You need to be aware of the padding, justifications and excuses you use and whether they are appropriate. You can make a big impact simply by changing some of your language and developing your verbal skills, this way you can significantly improve your communication skills.
Communication Cycle: There is a neat communication cycle which will help you to understand how to make communication work better. It means that you can take responsibility for every stage on the Communication Cycle. Typical Communication Cycle consists of following steps: -Spoken; Heard; Understood; Agreed to; Acted on and finally Implemented.
In a typical communication process one or more of the above listed steps may be missing rendering the process ineffective and inefficient.
Be aware of where you, or others, tend to fall off the cycle, as that is where misunderstanding starts which eventually leads to many problems.
Improving Communication Skills
Attitude: You can change the direction of a communication if you change your attitude. There is no one attitude that's the 'right' one to have, though being direct and clear certainly helps. Just listen to others point of view also and do not have fixed ideas. Be prepared to change your line of argument if necessary.
Effective Listening and Responding: You can have tremendous influence on a communication as the listener and the responder. When we get little or no response from the listener, we often project our assumptions onto them about what they are thinking (and usually we assume they aren't thinking good things about us!).
Be Positive: Use affirmation and encouragement to get the best out of any group that you may become member of. Notice when others do things well (even if it's part of their daily routine). This shows you're being attentive and considerate; most people respond well when they know that others are aware of what they do. This will do wonders for the students staying in hostels and becoming members of diverse groups. It is also important to have positive outlook about yourself and your achievements what ever these may be. Essential Communication Skills for students. As a student you have to pay special attention to following skills: -Listening; Speaking ; Writing; Reading.
How to be an Effective Listener?
Be the kind of listener you want others to be when you are talking. Ask, How would I want others to listen to me? Thats how you can be an effective listener.
Speaking
This is the most important and most feared of skill. Recent studies show that speaking in front of a group is by far the greatest fear of most people. Although the fear of speaking is common, studies show that one of the most admired qualities in others is their ability to speak in front of a group.
Furthermore, other things being equal, the person who can communicate ideas clearly will be more successful. In order to speak well in front of any kind of audience one has to plan the introduction, main body, concluding remarks, timings and mode of delivery among many of other considerations. The first consideration in planning the body of what you have to speak is how to organize the main points, but organization of sub points is also important. Arrangement of the main points and sub points will help both the speaker and the audience remember the materialthe speaker while speaking, and the audience while listening.
Most oral presentations, regardless of their length, can be divided into two to five main points. Five is about the maximum number of points from one talk that listeners can be expected to remember.
You cannot speak well unless: You have prepared well,there is no short cut here; Are confident which comes through depth of knowledge; Have faith in audience, if you assume they are going to laugh at you in any case, you can not sound good. A rehearsal will help in boosting up confidence; Write points on which you are going to speak. It will not be a good idea to mug up the things you are going to say. It does not leave ant flexibility with you and if you forget you know what you will face.
There are two most Important points that should not be forgotten: (a)Key is to make it interactive so that it does not become monotonous. They do not loose interest because they are involved in it. (b)And Just KISS (Keep it Simple Stupid)
A word about Gestures
Gestures should form an essential part of the act and should look natural and should be used to support your point. Gestures may be used to clarify or emphasize ideas. By gestures we mean the purposeful use of the hands, arms, shoulders, and head to reinforce what is being said. Fidgeting with a paper clip, rearranging and shuffling papers, and scratching your ear are not gestures. They are not purposeful and they distract from the verbal message. Placing both hands in your pockets, or behind your back, or in front of you in a fig leaf position severely limits their use for gesturing. Holding your shoulders and head in one position during the talk will also rob you of an effective means of strengthening your communication.
Consider the following suggestions for coping with nervousness.
Enthusiasm is the key when practice is over and you are ready to deliver the talk. At times you may talk on subjects that you find dull, but as you get more involved, the subject becomes more interesting. There is no such thing as a dull subject, only dull speakers. It is important to be enthusiastic about your subject, because enthusiasm can replace fear. And the more enthusiastic you are about the subject, the more involved the audience will be both with you and what you are saying. Hold good thoughts toward your audience. The listeners in the audience are the same ones that you enjoy speaking with in a less structured environment. Most audiences are made up of warm human beings with an interest in what you have to say. They rarely boo or throw vegetables. Most listeners have great empathy for speakers and want them to do a good job.
Do not rush as you begin to speak. Many speakers are so anxious to get started that they begin before they are really ready. The little extra time taken to arrange your notes will generally pay big dividends. When you are ready to begin, look at various parts of the audience, take a deep breath, and begin to speak.
Author has 28 years of experience in the field of Teaching and Management. He is M. Tech from IIT Kanpur and has worked in different capacities including Signal corps Indian Army, Regional Manager for a Telecom Company. Currently he is Associate Professor with ITM, Gurgaon that is rated as best Engineering colleges of North India.
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