Can We Talk? Improving the Channels of Communication in 2019

Photo by Joshua Ness on Unsplash

Every January people make New Year’s resolutions. Many of them are related to health, like resolving to exercise more, or are related to the fulfillment of dreams, such as writing a novel. Often our New Year’s resolutions are vague and involve unrealistic expectations and so can be frustrating to see through or even become an embarrassment for people. That’s why it’s important to set realistic and specific resolutions that enable measurable progress.

If you want to make a resolution that is related to communication skills, here are a handful of examples that are realistic and can help you become a better communicator and gain a more constructive outlook on interpersonal relationships.

1. One resolution is to listen to or otherwise make use of a news source that approaches issues from a point of view with which you disagree in order to gain a better understanding of the points of view of the other side. Someone conservative may listen to an hour of news a week from a progressive outlet, or someone who considers themselves on the Left could read a conservative newspaper once a week. This will help people gain a more accurate understanding of the points of view of people they disagree with. From there, more meaningful communication is possible since there are fewer opportunities for the kinds of misunderstandings that stem purely from ignorance. Some handy outlets that are worth considering for people who seek to hear different perspectives are sources like C-SPAN, PBS, and NPR, all of which offer chances for people to interact with journalists and share their insights as well as responsibly broadcast a wide range of perspectives.

2. One great resolution is to select a subject a month and listen to podcasts that cover that topic. This is a great way to gain more knowledge and learn about the importance of creative communication. Podcasts give people with a huge range of experience and expertise opportunities to build an audience and to share their thoughts in a meaningful and creative format. There are podcasts on a multitude of niche subjects and specific issues that share perspectives that are worth hearing. An example that comes to mind is a podcast called Nukes Of Hazard, which covers nuclear weapons and policy and was created by the Center for Arms Control & Non-Proliferation to educate listeners by providing expert commentary and educated conversations about developments in this area.

Create opportunities to chat with people in settings you feel comfortable with who might not share all of your opinions. This could involve getting a pen pal with a difference of views on a topic like religion and writing a letter or email a month to them. This could also involve joining debate groups and interacting respectfully with people who don’t share your views.

3. Join a club or organization, like Toastmasters International, that helps participants work on communication skills in a variety of capacities. These organizations exist to help people and are administered by skilled orators and talented communicators who want to share their skills and lessons about how they got to where they are with people who want to learn and who want to improve their ability to communicate.

4. Create an account on a site like YouTube or Spreaker and create your own content. This is extremely intimidating to a lot of people, but it’s also a very easy thing to do, at least in theory. Anyone can create an account on these sites and start creating content. This content could be vlogs or weekly podcasts and there’s no need for fancy equipment anymore either. Plenty of channels have been created and are run by people who film videos on their cellphones without any additional equipment. In 2019, that’s not a limitation. In fact, there are a lot of ways it can be a strength. For a true public speaking experience someone could even resolve themselves to practice not just recording videos but one day live stream on their existing social media platforms or on places like YouTube so they can digitally practice public speaking and gain real experience on a regular basis.

These are just a handful of resolutions that are approachable, realistic, and can help you gain new perspectives and improve your existing skills relative to communication. It can be intimidating to resolve oneself to take stock of your own strengths and weaknesses in the context of communication, but it’s a valuable process and a fantastic step forward. Don’t be scared to try and learn where you shine as a communicator and where you need help. Realize that this process is a courageous one, and one that not everyone will consciously try out.