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Better communication skills: I, why, and how

Sagar Satyal

Sagar Satyal

Better communication skills: I, why, and how

It helps if we are specific about what we want. This aids in mapping out possible solutions going forward

Like most people his age, Ajal is about to complete his degree but senses a pressing need to improve his communication skills. He comes to me in search of a mentor who can help him become a better speaker. I’m more than happy to help him, but it’s important to dissect his problems first and then move to the possible solutions.

My first question will be: what exactly do you want to improve on as a communicator and why? Is it your ability to speak with someone who is more experienced than you? Is it for you to be able to convince a group of people? Or is it about becoming a better conversationalist in general? Whatever the reason is, unless the ‘why’ of it is powerful, following through will be quite a challenge.

It helps if we are specific about what we want. This aids in mapping out possible solutions going forward. If goals and reasons to get started on those goals are left vague, our energy and efforts will be misguided. It makes staying motivated and measuring progress difficult. Based on our conversation, my mentee and I jointly decide on the following two ways for him to achieve growth.

Belief system upgrade: This is of paramount importance. More often than not, the meaning-making machine in our heads comes up with disempowering narratives that derail our growth. These narratives could have been inherited from as far back as our childhood. For instance, we may have been dreading public speaking ever since that one time in school when one of our school teachers humiliated us during the morning assembly.

New systems for living: Simply put, this means a shift in our habits. By adopting new ways of going about doing things, we can improve our lives drastically. One important factor to remember is consistency. Instead of trying to speak in front of the mirror for an hour for a couple of days and slacking eventually, it’s much better to have deliberately focused attempts for shorter durations (maybe just 10 minutes) each day.

Once the mentee gets started with his new goal, we address the next important issue. I reiterate to him an important wisdom my mentor once imparted to me: that whatever we do, it’s never about us but crucially about the people we serve. So in that case, it helps to ask one important question: what do they want and how can I add value? If you are presenting, you have to think from the audience’s perspective. If you don’t, you will speak in an irrelevant fashion. Not just with presentations, but this applies to all aspects of life. By putting yourself in the shoes of the people you wish to serve, you can be in a better position to best serve them. This is how value is created.

Although it’s easy to give in to external pressures and think all our efforts have gone in vain, we need a shift in perspective. This is where the art of mindfulness comes in. We need to go back to our belief system and reinvigorate ourselves with empowering thought processes that help us continue moving in the right direction.

The author is co-founder of My Emotions Matter, an education initiative that helps individuals and teams learn the mindset and skills of Emotional Intelligence. You can learn more at myemotionsmatter.com