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Communication isn’t something that needs to be feared, but something that you can master, with practice

The basis for the art and science of communication lies in a ‘mantra’: communicate more in less — easier said than done. Mastery of communication does not lie in its theory, but in its practice, the beginning of which stems from the introduction of the self — an essential for the professional and personal domain. Everyone is a narcissist — the degrees vary — and hence, introduction of the self should not fall difficult for most of us. Try this: introduce yourself in five sentences; the challenge lies in summing up your professional journey and yourself in just five sentences, not more and not less. However, it serves as a very useful exercise to define what makes YOU in a concise way, using powerful words.

Another hurdle in conversations remains ice-breakers. Is a conversation waiting to be started? When to start a conversation? What are the ‘safe’ topics? Simple answer: use your discretion. Take note of non-verbal communication post subtle introduction of a casual ice-breaker such as the weather; politics and religion are taboos as ice-breakers, and this doesn’t need explaining as to why. Once the ‘ice is broken’, knowledge of a little of almost everything serves as a good conversation accelerator. And, do not forget: it is not always about just talking, but also about listening.

Yet another important lesson: cancelling fillers. Fillers are essential bridges, but when overtly used can break the impact of the sentence. One important exercise is speaking five lines (to begin with) on a subject without consciously using these. The five lines can be increased to ten to serve as practice.

Non-verbal cues

The above may seem as a focus on just verbal communication, but it is to be noted that most communication happens non-verbally, of which the face, gestures and body language serve as important components. Is your head tipped to one side while listening to a person? Is your body leaning a bit too forward across a table while conversing? Have you unconsciously crossed your arms in an open conversation? Do you touch your nose and chin frequently when conversing? How close are you standing to another individual while speaking? The rules of the game are never-ending, and yes, an absolute delight to watch and learn. Take an example of handshakes: in some countries individuals of the opposite gender do not shake hands — it is just a part and parcel of culture; yet in some, the lady is expected to extend the hand first, if interested in initiating a hand-shake, and yet in others, she just presents a ‘soft’ hand. In the corporate culture, the rule that exists is simple: a hand-shake reveals a lot about your personality and the intention you bring to the discussion, so make the most of it.

Another interesting component of communication is eye contact — again, a culture thing to a large extent. The thumb rule is do not stare, while eye contact is essential in most professional (and personal) communication, it may not always be invited.

With the world becoming a global family, intercultural intelligence is becoming an important subject – not only to understand cultures across the world, while doing business, but also understanding the many cultures that form a diverse country like India. This intelligence thrives on communication too.

Certain professions, well most of them, rely heavily on communication: education, skilling, training, management, policy implementation, and the list goes on. For example, a subject like public policy, where a professional is expected to serve as a bridge between domains and sectors, communicating the ‘right’ matter to the ‘right’ person at the ‘right’ time is paramount.

So, the next time you seek to improve your communication skills, you know what to do. Right? Listen. Yes, you read that right — in listening, one of the most important components of communication, lies the learning.

The writer is advisor, communications and media outreach, IL&FS Education and Technology Services.

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Printable version | Apr 5, 2020 12:58:22 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/education/start-a-conversation/article28107676.ece

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