You spend hours on a test and get a lower score than the person who hasn’t cracked open the textbook all semester, or run daily at the gym only to be beat at the race by someone who rarely practices. So why can some people get by on natural talent, but you have to put in all the effort? The reality is, most people don’t get to where they are without a vast amount of practice — and failure. My fellow classmate, JaCey Yonke, and I teamed up to share our greatest communication weaknesses, and how we sharpened those into skills.
Abby: While I’m naturally adept at communicating, my weak spot is listening. I found myself leaving conversations wondering what the other person even said. I knew this would cost me connections if I didn’t address the issue immediately. The key was developing a formula for listening, and then practice, practice, practice. Below are a few tips to improve your listening skills.
1. Learn from good listeners. My friend Tiah never interrupts, and she asks probing questions about topics she learns the other person is interested in. The more time you spend with good listeners, the better listener you will become.
2. Ask questions about things you want to listen to. If you zone out chatting about the weather, then don’t chat about the weather. Try to find a similar interest you have with whom you’re talking. This way, you’re not only listening, but forming a real connection.
3. Make eye contact. Specifically, put down the phone. People often scroll through their phones when they’re bored, and if you’re refreshing your Twitter feed while having a conversation, you’re not going to leave a good impression. Setting your digital devices aside is polite and will demonstrate that you’re engaged in the conversation.
4. There’s a difference between listening and waiting to speak. When you realize you’re focused on what you’re going to say next, shift your focus back on the speaker. Humans are intuitive creatures. We can tell when someone just wants to talk over us. We don’t like it.
JaCey: Writing hasn’t come naturally to me. I get distracted easily and struggle to write well about topics I’m not knowledgeable about. Public relations professionals need to be able to write well, so over the last few months I’ve created some techniques to overcome the fear of writing. Below are a few tips to become a stronger writer.
1. Find a proof reader. Finding a willing writing mentor to point out places you struggle the most is the first step to becoming a better writer. You also can check out their own work and learn from their style.
2. Try out a blog. It’s a forum where you can write often about things you’re passionate about. This is also an excellent opportunity for future employers to see your writing focus and style.
3. Use your AP Stylebook. If you don’t have one yet, go buy one.
4. Write often. As Stephen King put it, “If you want to be a writer, you must read a lot and write a lot.”
5. Take chances. Trust me, writing for a blog such as Progressions isn’t an easy task for myself. However, with a little encouragement from my friends, I’ve found that this is a challenge I’m capable of facing every time I pick up a pencil (figuratively, of course).
Everyone’s got a weak spot. How will you get past yours to succeed?
Abby Reimer is a senior at the University of Wisconsin–Eau Claire. Whether she’s brainstorming creative ways to give her writing an edge or networking with potential employers, she is always active in communication and passionate about her public relations career.
JaCey Lynn Yonke is a senior public relations major and marketing minor at the University of Wisconsin–Eau Claire. She serves as the vice president for the UW–Eau Claire PRSSA Chapter. On a regular day, you will find her drinking a caramel macchiato while writing content for one of the many social media accounts she runs. She stresses having a career built on transparency, ethics and personal brand.