Speaking to the people at ATC can be intimidating for inexperienced pilots. It takes a while to learn the lingo and interpret all of the garbled chatter in your ear. Air traffic controllers themselves are not always the easiest people to deal with either, so the whole experience can leave new pilots feeling a little overwhelmed!
The Air traffic controller's Job
It helps if you can understand the job of the air traffic controller. One of the biggest problems between ATC and pilots is that there is often a lack of understanding about the capabilities of each party. Air traffic controllers are not mind readers, so they cannot predict what you will do. Similarly, it is easy for pilots to think that a controller knows more than they actually do. Another complication is that controllers will sometimes issue instructions to a pilot that he or she is totally unable to carry out. Therefore, a better understanding is required to prevent conflicts and problems.
Why not take a tour of an ATC sometime? Many control towers will be happy to do so, as it can only benefit everyone involved. This is certainly a good idea at an airport you regularly fly out of. You will be able to learn everything they do and why they do it, which can be a very enlightening experience. The more understanding you have of their work, the easier it will be for you to assist them, making your own job of flying easier too. One of the biggest benefits of visiting a control tower at the airport you use frequently is that you may get to meet in person the people you are going to be dealing with while up in the air. If you can put a face to the voice on the airwaves, this can make communicating a whole lot easier.
Think Before You Speak
One of the problems that ATC has with student or inexperienced pilots is that they will very often not include all of the information that ATC asks for. This results in ATC having to ask even more questions of the pilot, clogging up the airwaves and making everybody's life that much harder. This causes a lot of tension, especially at crowded airports as it means that other people are unable to speak when they need too.
Therefore, it's a good idea to try and learn not to just speak spontaneously all the time, but instead try to formulate your statements in your mind before you speak. Do this, and gradually you will see that things improve and your communications with ATC become easier.