Communication skills are learned, not inherited. How we communicate with other human beings defines our success in life--academically, socioeconomically and interpersonally. Language, written and spoken, is one of the defining features of our humanity and one of the primary distinctions between us and animals. Estimates date the human ability to speak from anywhere between 50,000 to 2 million years ago. Our ability to use written language is much more recent--only a few thousand years old.

Getting the most out of life involves developing and utilizing our communication skills on a daily basis. Whether we are ordering a coffee, applying for a job, or trying to work through or avoid relationship drama and pitfalls, how we communicate is everything. Below are some ways that you can work on your communication skills and become a better communicator starting today.

Improve Your Ability to Use Language

Your thoughts and ideas are constrained by the language you have at your disposal. How many times throughout your life have you been reading or listening to something--a podcast, a magazine or newspaper article, a book, a movie--and you have heard language or terminology that you didn’t understand? Being able to accurately and concisely use language, and to interpret it as you encounter it, is crucial to your success in life.

One way to improve your ability to communicate, both verbally and written, is to incorporate language and vocabulary-building tools into your daily routine. There is a wide range of these applications and tools online, but a scrabble word finder is certainly one of the more fun ways to be constantly working on and improving your vocabulary.

Actively Listen

One of the most enduring quotes from the oft-quoted 20th-century business tycoon Dale Carnegie is “to be interesting, be interested.” That is to say, for people to take an interest in you and what you have to say, take an interest in them first. This involves actively listening, allowing people to speak, allowing them to use their own words, and refraining from interrupting or interjecting.

And don't just listen with your ears, listen with your entire body, particularly your eyes. Even more important is to work on active listening that is also genuine. This means taking a sincere interest in what someone else is saying, regardless of the topic or content of their speech.

If you do this, your body language (including what you do with your eyes, arms and frame) will radiate that interest and people will not only appreciate it, but be much more willing to do the same for you. While it is unreasonable to assume that you are going to be riveted by everything every single person you come across is going to have to say, if you approach your interactions with others--from strangers to friends and family--as potential learning experiences, you will find your interpersonal communication much richer and more meaningful.

Avoid Dismissive Cliches and Idiomatic Expressions

How many times have we all been in the middle of telling someone something, or expressing a feeling or thought, believing we have the floor and their attention, only to find out we might as well have been talking to the wall. When you hear words and phrases like “totally,” “pretty much,” or “crazy” after pouring your heart out or trying to add something meaningful to a conversation, it can be insulting and demoralizing.

This goes back to what was previously mentioned regarding expressing and showing interest in other people. Being a good conversationalist, either screen-to-screen or in person, means not only giving your counterpart your undivided attention, but taking care to provide thoughtful answers and feedback that show you are listening and engaged. Add your personal insight, extrapolations and follow-up questions to not only keep a conversation flowing, but to show the other person you aren’t trying to get rid of them or are uninterested.

Learn How to Have Difficult Conversations

Some of the most meaningful and highest stakes communicating we do with one another is that which involves difficult or controversial topics and subject matter. People see the world differently, and often those differences are moral-philosophical and/or political in nature. These differences might be between family members, friends, colleagues, acquaintances, and even complete strangers.

What’s important is knowing “how to approach and have potentially uncomfortable conversations” with people in a way that preserves their dignity. Learn how to do this and you have unlocked a door to interpersonal success that many people will fail to pass through or even find in their lifetime. Avoid one-upmanship and show people that you are a trustworthy conversation partner--which is to say, show people that you care about or want the same things as them.

Work on Your Cross-Cultural Communication

If you have never heard the term before, cross-cultural communication means exactly what it sounds like. We live in a constantly globalizing world. More and more our colleagues, classmates, friends and even family members come from cultural backgrounds different than our own.

Most people don’t realize that communication styles are not universal, but change from place to place and culture to culture. Even within the same country, there can be regional differences in the way people express themselves, and it not only involves the language and dialects used. Learning to be a good cross-cultural communicator means educating yourself on different standards and norms people from different cultures have when it comes to handling conflict, expressing wants and needs, the kinds of postures and body language people find normal, and the directness and indirectness of requests, rejections and suggestions.

Some people are more naturally inclined to cross-cultural communication than others but generally speaking, it is something you will have to educate yourself on. There has been an explosion of resources and literature on cross-cultural communication over the last several decades, much of which is free to access online and incredibly helpful.


Communication skills are increasingly the ones that many employers across industries rate the highest--sometimes even higher than the hard technical skills that are involved in a given role. Communication skills help you avoid needless conflict and interpersonal strife; they allow you to express yourself and convey ideas; and they enable you to convince people to do things for you or to see things from your perspective. Human beings are social animals and how, what, and why we communicate is everything. Keep the above communication advice in mind and you will stand out as a superior communicator everywhere you go.

Author's Bio: 

Hannah is a professional writer who loves to make research on unique topics and express her thoughts by content writing.