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Developing Communication Skills for Students

By Lieutenant Colonel Anil Kumar Nigam

Communication skills for Students

Have you read the story of the jackal that fell into the washer man's 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: We're 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 person's 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
Spoken,, Heard, Understood, Agreed To, Acted On, 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 other's point of view also and do not have fixed ideas. Be prepared to change your line of argument if necessary. Enough has already been said on attitude in chapter one which is considered adequate for purpose of this book.

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? That's 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 material"the 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.

Points to Consider

"Body Movements. Control your unnecessary body and hand movements. Movements must be to support what you are saying and should be used to make gesture.
"Eye Contact It is considered as one of the most important factors of nonverbal communication. Nothing will enhance your delivery more than effective eye contact with your audience. Eye contact is important for three reasons. First, it lets the listeners know that you are interested in them. Most people like others to look at them when talking. Second, effective eye contact allows you to receive nonverbal feedback from your audience. With good eye contact, you can gauge the effect of your remarks. You can determine if you are being understood and which points are making an impact and which are not. You will be able to detect signs of poor understanding and signs that the listeners are losing interest. Then you can adjust your rate of delivery or emphasis. Humor. Humor is of great use in breaking monotony and to draw the attention of the audience. Do not use it in isolation and it try to bring it naturally in the flow and commensurate with what you are to deliver
"Intelligibility. What you are saying should make sense to those listening and not only to you. It will be better to take an independent view from some of your friends.
"Statistical and Visual Support. It will be more convincing if you can support of some valid data, best if you can support with some paper cuttings, photographs or even with video clippings.
"Time Management. Managing to restrict yourself to time limit will probably require a little rehearsal. Just keep an eye on the watch or may be use one of your friends to prompt you about the time.
"Use of Voice as discussed already in first chapter it is better to use heavy voice for which you have to practice. Make it a habit to use heavy voice as a routine it will help you.
"Give enough pauses and repeat important points. You should not be too quick to speak, give time for things to be digested by the audience and repeat if you feel it necessary.
"Overuse of pet words such as "OK," "like,'' and ''you know'' should be avoided. These expressions serve no positive communicative function and only convey a lack of originality by the speaker.

There are two most Important points that should not be forgotten

"Key is to make it interactive so that it does not become monotonous. They do not loose interest because they are involved in it
"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.

Although gestures can be perfected through practice, they will be most effective if you make a conscious effort to relax your muscles before you speak, perhaps by taking a few short steps or unobtrusively arranging your notes. Effective gestures are complete and vigorous. Many speakers begin to gesture, but perhaps out of fear, they do not carry through and their gestures abort. Comedians get laughs from the audience by
timing gestures improperly. A gesture that comes after the word or phrase is spoken appears ludicrous. Good gestures should come exactly at the time or slightly before the point is made verbally. Poor timing results from attempting to "can" or preplan gestures. Finally, good gestures are versatile. A stereotyped gesture will not fit all subjects and situations. Furthermore, the larger the audience, the more pronounced the gestures would need to be. As with all aspects of communication, gestures must fit the situation.
You should not adopt a dynamic, forceful mode of delivery if by nature you are quiet and reserved. As with movement, gestures should spring from within. Effective gestures are both natural and spontaneous. Observe persons talking with each other in a small group. You should try to approximate the same naturalness and spontaneity of gestures when you are speaking.

Suggestions for Nervous Speakers

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.

Writing and Reading. Enough has been said on these subjects in chapter one.

About the Author

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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