I recently realized that I am old and dated. I am text-message illiterate. I have no clue on how to text and type all these acronyms. Even when I used chat rooms 10 million years ago, I did not learn more than a handful of them. I have to thank my grade and middle school teachers for this character flaw. They really instilled good use of language back then and I cannot get myself to bend those rules. I have to say that I’ve had to “unlearn” the English I was taught in school to sound more conversational and incorporate slang into my vocabulary. I’ve learned to say “I’m good, or pretty good” instead of “fine or well.” Sometimes I even catch myself using the wrong verb tense, but I still refuse to say “I should of went somewhere.” A friend complimented me once when I said “We’re not in Kansas anymore, Toto”; she said she was surprised that I was so assimilated into the culture that I could use and understand those expressions. So what does the way we communicate say about us?
If I travel down memory lane, there are many things I can reflect on in my communication skills. I started talking when I was very young, probably 10 months old –my mom and my husband say that I’ve never stopped since-, probably because I was surrounded by adults or I had too much to say. As a child I was very unusual, with an advanced vocabulary for my age. I learned how to read before I was four and books and conversations with older children and adults contributed to this precocious language development. I was an unusual child because I enjoyed talking to adults and using big words, and lots of them. When I was in grade school, I read the encyclopedia for fun, long after I had completed my homework.
In my teenage years I became a ‘rebel’. I can think of many reasons I enjoyed using slang. I remember using ‘sign language’ in grade school to “talk” during class and using ‘code words’ to communicate in writing and in person (this was in the prehistoric age of cell phones and e-mail.) There was a sense of belonging, challenging the adult world and having a “secret code” to communicate with our friends. Aha! So that is one reason why we communicate, to feel that we belong to a special group.
I also recall being stressed out about learning complex grammar rules in school and enjoying not having to worry about the rules when I communicated with my friends. There is communication reason number two; we just want to get the message across, not worry about being graded on it.
However, when I entered the “adult world” as a college graduate, I really had to start paying attention to my communication skills again. As an education professional, written and verbal communication are critical. No more use of slang. Pay attention to grammar and spelling again.
I had the fortune of working with very wise man and PhD candidate in Spanish Literature for five years. He taught me how to read and write again. He has impeccable communication skills; he is an engaging presenter and was my grammar and spelling proofreader during the time we worked together. Since then, I have acquired the habit of proofreading everything I read and I find it frustrating when professional or commercial publications present multiple errors. More than anything, he taught me the love of the correct use of language and the power of communication. When you pay attention to the way you write and the way you speak, you show respect to your audience and you show respect to yourself.
Five Tips to Better Communication
- Spell Check! This seems so obvious but it’s amazing how we miss it. Before the era of word processors, we relied on the dictionary and white out. Now we’re so complacent that we don’t even hit the little Spell Check button. Even if it is informal communication like an e-mail or a tweet, make sure you use words correctly. You can never go wrong if you use proper grammar and spelling.
- Read it. Reading out loud will give you an extra opportunity for checking the way your message comes across.
- Proof it. Every once in a while, have an extra set of eyes proofread your material. After a while, you miss errors by having read your writing too many times.
- Enrich your vocabulary. Even reading the “word of the day” on the online dictionary will help you learn new words and utilize them correctly. If you don’t like to read much, or don’t have the time, audio books are a great option. Reading or listening to different authors will help you expand your repertoire.
- Awareness – It doesn’t matter what you do, we are all communicators. In this fast-paced interconnected world, we can contribute and share our ideas at lightning speed. Good communication skills are required in 99% of jobs. Speaking well helps you show how smart you are. Work hard at communicating better. Trust me, it is worth it.
Communication is inevitable. Good communication is optional and highly beneficial if you want to lead, influence others and succeed.
BTW, I have to call my BFF and LOL about this post. TTYL!
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