Learning English idioms and expressions is just one way
of improving your communication skills in English speaking countries.
There are other factors to consider as well, such as verbal and non
verbal communication skills, cross cultural communication issues,
miscommunication problems, and so on.
You can read more about these in various articles and in the books recommended below at the bottom of this page.
But first here are a few pointers:
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1. Speak your mind.
One of the first things to remember is to say what's on your mind when it becomes necessary. If you don't understand something, say so. If there’s something to be said, say it. Don't be shy.
There’s an expression in English that is mentioned elsewhere on this site under "S" and it goes like this: “Squeaky wheel gets the grease.” In other words “If you don’t complain, you won’t get any attention, and the louder you complain, the sooner you’ll get that attention.”
So, speak up. If there’s a problem, let others know about it. If they’re not addressing your point of view, chances are they’re not aware of it. Be reasonable and clear, but do talk about it. If you don't, you may never get it addressed, and you won’t have anyone to blame but yourself.
2. Think before you speak.
Another point that is extremely important has to do with inter cultural or cross cultural communication issues, where a word of caution is necessary.
There’s a popular saying in parts of Africa and some Arab countries, also mentioned elsewhere on this site under Foreign Expressions, that goes like this: "If you speak the word, it shall own you. If you don’t, you shall own it."
Organize your thoughts and think before you speak. Make sure that what you’re going to say makes sense to the person you're talking to. Are you sure you won’t be misunderstood? Are you sure you won’t be offending them? This is good advice for successful communication, especially when you’re trying to communicate with someone from a different culture or nationality, which in today’s world is an increasingly common occurrence.
Certain innocent or friendly phrases or gestures in one culture may be offensive in another. Always be on the safe side. If you’re not sure, check reliable resources first. Saying or doing the wrong thing will set you back in your dealings with others, as you will then have to spend time or resources to repair the damage, assuming of course that it could be repaired. It doesn’t matter if you’re doing business, or talking to your love interest. Either way, you may lose a lot.
3. Look them in the face.
Another thing that I strongly suggest is this. Always look at the expression on someone's face while you're talking to them. This way you can easily notice if they are following you, and change your way of talking to suit the occasion. This is very helpful because a lot of people won't tell you if they don't understand you. Maybe they don't want to interrupt you, or maybe they're too shy, especially if they're foreign students.
4. And maybe follow Reza’s Rule.
Here’s something I've come up with that also helps. Others might be using it, too. I don't know! It’s a very simple system that I first started using in my classes, and then in everyday life. And it always works. Well, almost always!
Here’s what I'm talking about. Sometimes we say things to people which they don’t seem to understand. We then tend to say it again and again. We might even say it louder, much louder! And it still doesn’t work. Why?
Well, maybe they can’t quite hear us, or the connection is bad, or they don’t know the meaning of a word, and so on. But maybe, just maybe, the way that we have put the words together makes it hard for them to understand what we're saying. I have found this to be the reason very often.
Reza’s Rule says: Use a different set of words, or maybe even use the same words but in a different order. For example, let’s suppose you say “I’ll cash the check today,” and your spouse says “What?” Then, instead of raising your voice, maybe you should try something like “I’ll go to the bank to cash my check,” or “Today I’ll be cashing the check.”
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Well, of course this is not all that could be said about communication skills, but it's a start.
I strongly suggest that you read some of the great articles written on the subject. I also recommend reading one or more of the following books.
Good luck with your communication skills!