Being able to communicate your thoughts and feelings in a clear manner can be very difficult. You’re not alone. To varying degrees, many people struggle with the same challenge. Unclear communication has led to many unnecessary arguments between friends, families, couples, and perhaps even countries. Clear communication is something that takes practice. It is a skill that you can develop and acquire over time. You may struggle with it now but with practice and continued effort you will likely improve. Here are a few ways you may be able to improve your communication skills:
- Join a debate club. Debate clubs often foster skills such as articulating logical arguments and developing clarity of thought.
- Join Toastmasters. Toastmasters is an organization that helps individuals develop good public speaking skills. Here is a link to their website that describes the benefits of joining.
- Practice with friends or family. Objective listeners may be able to identify unclear presentation of ideas.
- Have other people read your work. With regard to writing, sometimes we become “too close” to our work and no longer see where we may be making errors. An objective observer can point out overlooked mistakes.
- Read. Reading has many benefits. It’s like exercising the mind. It keeps us mentally sharp. You may want to read works by “great” writers. Opinions vary greatly but a list of great writers may include Tolstoy, Dickens, Hemingway, and many others. Another way to develop your communication skills may be to read editorials and news articles in prominent newspapers such as The New York Times. Pay attention to sentence structure, grammar, presentation of ideas, and so forth and it could help you to improve your skills. Frank Rich, Op-Ed columnist for The New York Times, writes with impressive clarity. E.J. Dionne Jr. and Eugene Robinson of The Washington Post are also excellent writers, among others. You may also want to consider reading books about communication.
- Take a public speaking class. Many people avoid public speaking classes but if you’re interested in developing communication skills, I would highly recommend it. It could help you to be a more sensitive and deliberate communicator. Public speaking courses encourage an examination of our thoughts and beliefs and thus may lead to clarity of thought.
- Make it a point to speak when you’d rather write a letter. You mentioned that you write notes because you feel uncomfortable expressing yourself. It is okay on some occasions to write instead of speaking to someone directly but not if you do it to avoid the uncomfortable feeling associated with trying to express yourself. Try to force yourself to speak instead of writing. It may not be easy and it may be unpleasant at first but over time your communication skills may improve.
- Ask for an objective opinion. You struggle with communication but it would be interesting to know if others share that opinion. You could ask your friends, family members or teachers whether they agree with your self-evaluation. Their responses may surprise you. You may find that you are much better at communicating than you give yourself credit for.
I hope those ideas are helpful to you. Thanks for your question. I wish you luck.
This article has been updated from the original version, which was originally published here on March 14, 2010.