College is an excellent setting for students to hone their communication skills. Becoming a responsible communicator is a coveted skill with high value to prospective employers. It’s also a sign of maturity, humanity and leadership.
Whether practice a sport or belong to any groups or clubs, your ability to communicate effectively is key to your success and depending on the role you hold, the success of the group. It can also help you make and keep friends and ensure a peaceful living situation with your roommate, not to mention help you develop positive relationships with your professors.
Here are some ways to practice effective communication while in college:
Learn to Listen
One of the most underrated and yet most important communication skills is listening.
- Instructions - The ability to listen to and recall information comes in very handy when someone is giving you instructions. Always keep in mind: what is the goal of this exercise? If the goal is to demonstrate teamwork in a sporting exercise, then the focus will be different than if the goal were to merely demonstrate physical ability. Make sure you pay attention to both the small details and the big picture.
- Empathizing - If someone comes to you to vent their frustration about something, try to remain empathetic but neutral. Don’t stoke the flames of their frustration nor ask them to calm down. Rather just try to listen to their perspective and put yourself in their shoes. The ability to be a good listener is also usually a sign of good leadership.
- Feedback - When a teacher, coach or other student is giving you corrective feedback, try to understand their point of view and don’t ever take anything personally. Be flexible in your thinking so you can be open to new ideas and perspectives. Accepting the fact that you’re not always right about everything will make it easier for you to work with people and will also enhance your learning skills.
Standing Your Ground
However, sometimes there are situations where you’ll have to stick up for yourself. If you were given an unfair grade or were unduly punished or were accused of something you didn’t do by a friend or classmate, then it’s important you voice your opinion. In these cases, you want to avoid either of these conflict types:
- The fighter - Having an emotional reaction, demonstrating anger or offense will only aggravate the situation.
- The avoider - However, running away from conflict and letting the injustice slide will not serve you in this situation or in the future.
- Diplomacy - Instead, try to arrange a meeting in a neutral setting and come prepared with valid points on why the person was mistaken. Use neutral language and be diplomatic. Don’t raise your voice or display anger, but do sit up tall, look the person in the eye and speak with confidence.
Learning How to Give Feedback
If you’re in a leadership role such as the captain of a team or the editor of the school newspaper, you’ll have to learn how to give feedback:
- Don’t give immediate feedback if it’s negative - If an incident just happened, it’s best to wait a while before approaching the person about it. If you give immediate feedback, it can come across as irritation or anger. When the situation cools down, then you can approach them.
- Be specific - Don’t say things like “You didn’t do a good job.” That’s too general and not helpful. Instead, let them know specifically where they failed: “The formatting for this month’s newspaper was off and had to be corrected at the last minute at the printer’s.”
- Give helpful suggestions and guidance - Using the example above, you could suggest the following: “Let’s go over the formatting together this month in order to make sure everything’s okay before going to print.”
Learning how to express thoughts and opinions, how to de-escalate conflict, how to empathize and offer feedback and guidance to others are all skills that can be practiced in college and which will serve you in professional and personal relationships afterwards.
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