Thursday, October 27, 2016

Basic Communication Skills

Several students come to me and request me to help them improve their written communication skills and oral communication skills. There is no shortcut that can make anyone a great communicator instantly. Improving your communication requires dedicated efforts and a great deal of persistence. However, there is a list of things that can be done to improve written communication skills and oral communication skills.

Improving Written Communication Skills:
1) Read more: One of the greatest learning tools to enhance your writing skills is ‘reading’. Read more books and start by reading books with easy language. Some authors who write ‘easy reads’ could be a good starting point. Ex: Chetan Bhagat’s books may be good for people who are not used to reading much. As you progress you can select books and authors according to your area of interest. This can also help you enhance your writing skills.
2) Start writing a blog: Writing a blog can be an interesting exercise and requires minimal effort. You can start a blog and start writing about this that you are passionate about. You can exercise some caution to ensure that you are regular, with regard to writing blogs. Start by blogging 300- 350 words every week and increase the frequency and volume of writing as you become more proficient.
3) Present your work for review: Ask your friends, faculty members, and other writers/bloggers to review your writing. This will be helpful in understanding your mistakes and errors. You can correct these errors and progress stage by stage.
4) Write in small chunks: You can start writing small paragraphs with few sentences and work towards bigger paragraphs. For instance, you could start by writing merely 75 words or 100 words per paragraph. This will give you psychological comfort and motivate you to write more.

5) Experiment with different forms of writing: Different people love different kinds of writing. Try different genres of writing and discover what you like writing. Ex: Some people love writing poetry whereas some others love prose. Some people like writing good E-mails. Some people are comfortable writing small articles. Hence, experiment by trying different forms of writing.
6) Ask experts to review your writing: Once you are confident about your writing, present what you have written to the experts. Those who have written books, articles in newspapers etc. can be instrumental in helping you with the minor nuances of writing like flow, sequencing etc.
7) Use websites that can help you correct your grammar and spellings: There are several websites that can help you improve your writing in terms of grammar, spellings and context. Some of them are:
http://www.reverso.net/spell-checker/english-spelling-grammar/
http://spellcheckplus.com/
http://www.onlinecorrection.com/
http://sentencechecker.com/
https://www.languagetool.org/

8) Use thesaurus to enhance your vocabulary: Thesaurus gives you a list of synonyms and hence, helps you improve your vocabulary. Therefore, it’s advisable to buy a thesaurus or install an app that gives you a list of synonyms and meanings.
9) Join Writing Clubs/Writing Groups:  There are several writing clubs at universities, colleges and also on online forums like FB, Meetup etc. Become a member of any these clubs.
10) Make it a habit: Make ‘writing’ a habit. Establish a routine and schedule for writing and related activities. Also attend literature festivals and events related to writing.

Improving your Oral Communication Skills:
1) Start by Starting: Take initiative and grab opportunities to communicate. Don’t be afraid of mistakes. Ensure that you participate in class presentations, group discussions, debates and extempore elocution events. Never hesitate to go on stage and perform. You get used to things, by getting used to things that precede the things. Be confident.
2) Watch movies: Movies are great entertainers and learning tools. Watch one English movie every week. Check for “Must watch Hollywood Movies”, “Best Movies of All Time” etc to know what movies you should watch. You can also ask your friends who are movie bluffs. Movies like ‘The Great Debaters’, ‘The Pursuit of Happyness’ etc can teach you many lessons.

3) Communicate with your friends in English: Please communicate with your friends and classmates in English. Make it a practice that you speak to your friends and classmates in English. Don’t use your mother tongue unless absolutely necessary.
4) Mirror Talk: Presenters, TV show hosts, celebrities use the technique of ‘mirror talk’.  Talk to your mirror image for a few minutes every day to build confidence and understand where you lack.
5) Record: Use your smartphone to record rehearsed speeches and short talks. You can review the video to check for errors and mistakes. You can also share the video with people who are very good at oral communication and get feedback.
6) Read Out Aloud: Read books aloud, so that you can work on your pronunciation and diction. When you read out aloud, you also realize the words that you are unfamiliar with.
7) Watch TV Debates: TV Debates can also be instrumental in helping you improve your oral communication skills. For: NDTV's 'The Big Fight' and Times Now's 'Newshour Debate' can help you improve your oral communication skills. 



Sunday, June 26, 2016

THE FINE ART OF HEALTHY CRITICISM


Criticism may not be agreeable, but it is necessary. It fulfils the same function as pain in the human body. It calls attention to an unhealthy state of things.
-Winston Churchill-




The dictionary meaning of criticism is “the expression of disapproval of someone or something on the basis of perceived faults or mistakes”. It clearly means that criticism is subjective. Healthy criticism is one of the most underrated skills at workplace. Let’s accept the fact that most people don’t like to be criticized and hence criticizing other people is a tough job. In fact, successful managers are always good at healthy criticism. They convince people to change in an amicable manner. ‘What you say’ and ‘how you say it’ becomes important and critical when it relates to criticism. Colleagues who engage in healthy criticism are regarded as good mentors and guides. Giving and receiving feedback at the workplace is essential for continuous improvement and progress of the team. This is an integral part of workplace dynamics. However, the objective of criticism should always be improvement or development. Any criticism to be deemed healthy needs to fulfill a few conditions-

1.    It should be aimed at a process/ event and not a person. Using criticism to target someone personally just goes on to speak volumes about the intention and attitude of the criticizer.
2.    ‘Praise in public and criticize in private’. Criticism is always more acceptable when it’s accompanied by reasoning, logic and justification. Hence, it’s always better to have a one-on –one conversation when you can do it.
3.    Criticism should not be used as a tool to belittle other people. It should be used as a tool for improvement.
4.    ‘Practice before you preach’: Criticize others when you are confident that you have yourself practiced it. Never advocate what you don’t follow. It’s a matter of credibility and substance.
5.    Contextualize and customize criticism: Just like gifts, criticism needs to be customized and contextualized to ensure better acceptance.
Choose the words you use to criticize very carefully. The words you use may affect someone psychologically. There is a certain intensity that every word carries with itself. They also set the “tone” of the conversation. Many a time, people are very casual with regard to the words they use to criticize others. Criticism should also be timed adequately in order to ensure that it is fruitful. People expect credibility from the person who criticizes. When you criticize others you need to have appropriate KSA’s (Knowledge, Skills and Attitude) relating to the matter of criticism. This lends the ‘credibility’ factor and makes criticism from you more acceptable. For example, you cannot criticize someone for poor body language when you do not display good body language. These are minute details which are neglected in several cases. It’s also important to understand that criticism in itself does not serve any purpose completely. It needs to be supplemented with instances, guidance and improvement plans. This completes the loop of the criticism process and makes criticism successful. Therefore, the next time you are about to criticize someone, think twice!




Tuesday, February 9, 2016

'What to do' in Bengaluru?

Bengaluru attracts a huge number of students and employees from different parts of the country and is known for several good things including the weather. Many a time, people ask me, "What's special about Bengaluru?" . There are hundreds of interesting things to do at Bengaluru and hundreds of places to visit as well. But then, some things just stand out and qualify to become the "must do things at Bengaluru". They are:

1) Enjoy the local cuisine in at some iconic eateries like MTR and Vidyarthi Bhavan. (Try the Masala Dosa and the Rava Idli which are a specialty offering)
2) Visit the Lal Bagh and Cubbon Park to breathe in some fresh air and enjoy the serene atmosphere. The Cubbon Park also houses a huge library with a great collection of books.
3) Visit the 'Food Street' at V.V. Puram and taste some of the best snacks and the great variety of food stuff.
4) Visit the “Art of Living’ International Center located on the Kanakapura Road to get a glimpse of some brilliant architecture and the global spirituality super store.
5) Let yourself loose at Wonderla, one of India’s best amusement parks, located close to Bidadi.
6) Visit Innovative Film City, to click some wonderful pictures which would easily qualify to be your whatspp DP or facebook profile picture.
7) Engage in go-karting at Patel’s Inn, RT Nagar or visit Dirt Mania on Kanakapura Road for some hardcore outdoor adventure.
8) If you are a nightlife enthusiast or looking out for a quick drink, visit one of the numerous pubs/bars like ABC, Skyee, High, Toit or 3 Monkeys.
9) Go watch the sunrise and some breath-taking views at the Nandi Hills. You could also take a wine tour on the foothills of Nandi Hills, adding to the overall experience.
10) Watch a play at Rangashankara/Alliance francaise and get a truly amazing theatrical treatise. You can get the play details on Bookmyshow for most of the plays being staged at Rangashankara/Alliance francaise.
11) Go shopping at Commercial Street and Chikpet and shop for pocket friendly clothing and accessories.
12) An evening stroll on MG Road/Brigade Road and a visit to ‘Rangoli’- The Metro Art Center and dinner at Hard Rock cafĂ© could be the perfect end to your day.
13) Visit ISKON/Infant Jesus Church for some soul searching and God Company.
14) Participate in one of the several marathons/walkathons organized very frequently at Bengaluru
15) Visit the various shopping malls (UB City/Orion Mall/Phoenix Market City et al) / indoor gaming destinations like Amoeba.
16) If you are a frequent buyer of electronic devices, visit S.P Road.
17) Visit Visvesvaraya Industrial and Technological Museum/ Jawaharlal Nehru Planetarium/ HAL museum for some scientific and technological knowledge up gradation.
18) Visit the Bannerghatta National Park and sight the white tiger and various other magnificent animal folk.


Well that’s just a minute list and we could just keep adding to the list and the magnificence of  Bengaluru!