Whether you’re in entry-level retail or the CEO of a fashion brand, communications skills are important to what you do. Think about it: every job you’ll ever be in includes a ton of communicating – sharing ideas with coworkers, speaking to clients and consumers, and having discussions with your higher-ups. As a result, you certainly won’t get from that retail position to the CEO one without having knockout communication skills.
But, not everyone starts off as an incredible communicator, so if you’re feeling down about your own skills, know that there’s hope. You just have to know how to improve your skills.
1. Speak up whenever you can
Raise your hand in class, share your ideas in work meetings, and even in your personal life, and offer your thoughts more frequently to friends and family. Take it all a step further and be the first to volunteer to give verbal presentations at work or in class when necessary.
This all may be hard to do if you’re shy or introverted or generally have trouble articulating your thoughts off the cuff, but the only way to get better is practice, even if it starts out with one comment per class, or only raising your hand to agree with something instead of sharing your own thoughts – any method of speaking up is important. Remember that nobody starts out with perfect skills, so if you have trouble at the beginning, it’s only part of the journey. Even if it’s a gradual process, you’ll climb further and further out of your shell until you find yourself able to engage in full-on class discussions or bounce ideas freely off of your coworkers during meetings.
2. Write as much as you can
Written communication is just as important as verbal communication. Even if you aren’t doing a lot of writing on your day-to-day job, becoming good at writing can benefit your communication skills overall. Learning how to write helps you organize and articulate your ideas better, ultimately helping to sharpen your personal voice. Once you get good at written communication, it’ll become easier for you to speak up when you have to.
You can take writing courses – copywriting, creative writing, business writing – whatever piques your interest or is essential to your career plans. If you can’t find or afford one, there are plenty of exercises online to help you practice from the comfort of your own home. And, if all else fails, simply practice journaling – write about your day or about ideas you have. Write a stream of conscious entry and then go back and edit it to see how you can sharpen your ideas more or make your writing sound more effective. Reading a lot is also a good place to start, from news articles to novels, because you’ll get an idea of how writing professionals articulate their ideas.
3. Make every interaction matter
Look at all the tiny ways you interact with people every day: small talk in line at the store, commenting on a LinkedIn post, or replying to a tweet. These are all things that can help you build your communication skills, too, as long as you really focus on how you can elevate these interactions.
Don’t overthink it, but when you’re leaving that comment or reply on social media, brainstorm ways you can contribute to the conversation in a meaningful way – what could you say that will allow people to continue the discussion? What can you say that will offer unique insight only you could bring to the table? When you’re in a situation where you can strike up conversations with strangers, put some thought into ways you can speak to them – if they’re wearing anything unique you can comment on, or if you’re in a situation together that warrants a conversation. If someone engages in small talk with you, don’t just brush them off – try to keep the conversation going.
It can be anxiety-inducing, but if worse comes to worst, they won’t even recall the stranger who said a few things to them in line at the store. What matters is that even putting yourself out there in small ways like this will enhance your communication skills.
The point is a simple one: practice! Whenever you see an opportunity to sharpen your communications skills, take it! The more you practice, the better you’ll become with these skills and soon, they’ll start to come naturally to you when you look to bring them into the workplace. Better yet, a point may come where you’ll want to seek out opportunities to put your communication skills to use!
Need further guidance on your career journey? Ask Style Nine to Five founder, Christie Lohr, 1 Career Question!
Emily Morrison is a media professional with passions for writing, film and popular culture.
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