Excellent communication skills will take you anywhere in your professional and personal life. Get ahead and learn how to improve your communication skills by identifying barriers, types of communication and tips.

Here are some behaviors that may unknowingly negatively affect the way your communication skills:

Take a look at these barriers to effective communication and determine which ones you are guilty of.

1. Judging based on your biases
We all have our own biases. But what happens when your biases interfere with what and how you communicate? When listening to someone else, avoid jumping right into conclusions or avoid letting your biases get in the way. Gather as much information as you can before saying anything.

2. Not paying full attention
How many times have you talked to someone and they were busy checking their phone while “listening” to you? This is a perfect example of how nowadays, it is easy to “pay half attention” or “pseudo listen” whenever we are conversing with someone. This not only distracts the listener, but also does not show respect towards the person talking. Next time you’re talking to someone, put your phone down.

3. Using jargon that is not understandable
Have you ever spoken with someone who used so many acronyms or technical terms that you just didn’t understand? How did that make you feel? Next time you feel the urge or have the need to use technical terms, take time to explain them to ensure you are understood.

Now that we’ve looked at the barriers to effective communication, let’s find out how you can improve your communication skills:

1. Listen to both verbal and non-verbal communication
When people communicate, they communicate not only verbal but non-verbal messages as well. Being effective at communication entails listening to both. It also entails making sure your verbal and non-verbal messages match when you communicate a message. In some cultures, non-verbal messages say more than the verbal message.

For example, a colleague might say “it’s ok” to a suggestion but in a nonchalant and uninterested manner. This may mean something else. He may be uninterested in your idea, or he might be withholding his opinion.

2. Think in terms of your audience
Effective communication is audience-centered. It focuses on the audience’s ability, desire, means to understand the message that is being communicated.

Always think in terms of your audience, do they understand your message?

Do they want to listen to your message?

Is the channel of communication effective for your audience?

3. Listen to understand
Most often, when we listen, we listen to react or to answer. While listening, we are already formulating our answers. Make it a habit to listen to understand instead.

4. Practice communicating on various levels and types.
In order to be a truly effective communicator, you must be adept at communicating on various levels and types. Practice all these behaviors in front of an audience, in a face-to-face conversation with someone else, or in written communication at your workplace.

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