Maximizing Your Communication Opportunities

  • Add to list Added to list Added
  • Cite
  • Share
  • Embed
  • Download PDFopens in new window


Life does not exist without communication. The importance of enhancing communication skills is critical in our academic, professional, and personal lives. Effective communication is one of the key indicators of student success in college and can provide several benefits, including but not limited to, overcoming imposter syndrome, establishing open lines of communication with lecturers and other students, removing barriers to success, and providing a sense of belonging. The good news is effective communication can be learned.

When communicating with others, we typically rely on our default communication style as we encounter different contexts and individuals. The question becomes, can you identify your primary communication style? By increasing awareness around default communication styles, you can better understand how you, your peers, and instructors communicate and make the appropriate adjustments to establish stronger relationships, build trust and achieve the results that you are seeking.

Did you know that communication styles are influenced by behavior traits? When uncovering how to communicate effectively with someone, it is important to understand their primary personality style as well. Behavioral traits help you to better understand how people respond to information, which, in turn, helps you anticipate how to converse in a way that strengthens the relationship, for example, what you should be communicating and what you should avoid.

When you look at improving our communication skills, it is critical to develop core competencies around active listening, being genuinely curious, speaking so others will want to listen, and utilizing nonverbal communication to our advantage. Listening is a critical part of communication; in fact, not one that we pay much attention to during conversation. The tendency is to talk especially when there is silence. Becoming a better active listener requires you to be focused and attentive to the global environment. Curiosity goes hand in hand with active listening. It demonstrates to the other person that we are genuinely interested in what the other person has to say. When you are curious, you will tend to favor exploratory and open-ended questions that allow you to tap into deeper sources of information, feelings, and motivations. Curiosity also eliminates potential judgment and opens pathways to unexpected information.

Bad habits can get in the way of effective communication and actively working to improve our speech can aid in people wanting to listen to you. How you say things and what you say can dramatically improve your communication. Nonverbal communication accompanying your voice influences whether the other person sees you as trustworthy, confident, and believable. Ensuring that aspects of our nonverbal communication align with what we are trying to convene can make the difference in communicating effectively; keeping in mind that nonverbal communication and behavior can vary between cultures.

Simply learning about how to effectively communicate is only one side of the coin. We must put our learning into action. As we navigate our way through college and beyond, it becomes increasingly important to develop our unique brand (what makes us stand out), improve our professional voice so we can influence and connect with others, and develop our emotional awareness so we can be confident in knowing when to communicate and when to bite our tongue. Take this learning journey with us as we uncover ways to maximize your communication opportunities.

Recommended Readings and Videos
Adams, J., Baker, K., Daufin, E. K., Ellington, C., Emanuel, R., Fitts, E., Himsel, J., Holladay, L., & OkeowoD. (2008). How college students spend their time communicating. International Journal of Listening, 22(1), 1328.
Cathcart, J., & Patrick, L. (2021). Intelligent curiosity: The art of finding more. Beyond Publishing.
Gaither. (2008). Journal of undergraduate research (Vol. 9, Art. 5). Minnesota State University.
Sinek, S. (2009). Start with why: How great leaders inspire everyone to take action. Penguin Group.
Treasure (2011, July 29). 5 ways to listen better [video].
Treasure (2014, June 27). How to speak so people will want to listen [video].
Frazier, D., & Love, R. (2016). Set your voice free: How to get the singing or speaking voice you want. Little, Brown and Company.