Whether you’re hoping to advance in your career or return to school, good communication skills are key to success. So how can you become a more effective communicator in the new year?

According to Dr. Annie Shibata, faculty member in Walden University’s B.S. in Communication program, one of the first steps is to be more self-aware so that you can better understand the situation and your role in the conversation. For self-reflection, Dr. Shibata suggests 10 questions to ponder in order to be a better communicator:

  1. What is my communication goal?
    Consider short- and long-term goals as well as what action, information or commitment you want now and in the future.
  2. Am I deliberate and conscious in how I communicate?
    Be conscious of both your oral and written communication. When speaking, the total impact of a message is about 7% verbal (words only), 38% vocal (including tone of voice, inflection and other sounds) and 55% nonverbal.
  3. Do I know who my audience is?
    Be aware of cultural differences, potential disabilities or learning challenges that may exist within your audience.
  4. Am I aware of my emotions when I communicate?
    Think about your emotions and how appropriate they are for the situation to determine if you’re prepared. In situations such as asking for a raise from your supervisor, it’s important to be clear and unemotional and focus on communicating what you’ve been doing well.
  5. What nonverbal message am I communicating?
    Consider how you sit or stand, your facial expressions and how you’re dressed. Again, most of the messages we send other people when we are speaking are nonverbal. People form 60% to 80% of their initial opinion of a new person they’re meeting in fewer than four minutes, so your nonverbal messages count.
  6. Am I an honest communicator?
    Are you authentic in your communication? Do you state your needs and desires clearly? Do you communicate with integrity? The answer to all of these should be yes.
  7. Am I listener focused?
    Do you often use slang, idioms, acronyms, or technical jargon? Such language can exclude some or all of your audience. Be clear and concise in your communication and consider how the listener is following and comprehending your message.
  8. How is my pace—do I talk too fast or too slow? Do I talk too much?
    Consider the time it takes for the listener to absorb what you’ve said, and pause if needed. Remember, repetition is important when communicating key messages; people need to hear a message several times before they remember it.
  9. Am I a good listener?
    Bear in mind that communication is one part talking and one part listening. Listening requires being present in the conversation by clarifying what you’ve said when asked to, asking follow-up questions and not making assumptions. It also means not formulating an answer while the other party is speaking, which is a skill that requires practice.
  10. Do I consciously consider my timing?
    Timing is important in communication. When to ask for a raise, when to deliver good or bad news, or when to discuss a difficult issue—the success or failure of these communications can depend on timing. Think about the other party in the communication and consider his or her state of mind and ability to focus when you choose to communicate something important.

View Walden’s “Communication: A Degree of Success” infographic to learn about the evolution of communication and discover why a B.S. in Communication is in demand.

Learn more about Walden’s B.S. in Communication program.