Want to communicate better? These tips will help you avoid misunderstandings, grasp the real meaning of what’s being communicated, and greatly improve your work and personal relationships.
What is effective communication?
Effective communication is about more than just exchanging information. It's about understanding the emotion and intentions behind the information. As well as being able to clearly convey a message, you need to also listen in a way that gains the full meaning of what's being said and makes the other person feel heard and understood.
Effective communication sounds like it should be instinctive. But all too often, when we try to communicate with others something goes astray. We say one thing, the other person hears something else, and misunderstandings, frustration, and conflicts ensue. This can cause problems in your home, school, and work relationships.
For many of us, communicating more clearly and effectively requires learning some important skills. Whether you’re trying to improve communication with your spouse, kids, boss, or coworkers, learning these skills can deepen your connections to others, build greater trust and respect, and improve teamwork, problem solving, and your overall social and emotional health.
What's stopping you from communicating effectively?
Common barriers to effective communication include:
Stress and out-of-control emotion.When you're stressed or emotionally overwhelmed, you're more likely to misread other people, send confusing or off-putting nonverbal signals, and lapse into unhealthy knee-jerk patterns of behavior. To avoid conflict and misunderstandings, you can learn how to quickly calm down before continuing a conversation.
Lack of focus.You can't communicate effectively when you're multitasking. If you're checking your phone, planning what you're going to say next, or daydreaming, you're almost certain to miss nonverbal cues in the conversation. To communicate effectively, you need to avoid distractions and stay focused.
Inconsistent body language.Nonverbal communication should reinforce what is being said, not contradict it. If you say one thing, but your body language says something else, your listener will likely feel that you're being dishonest. For example, you can't say “yes” while shaking your head no.
[Read: Nonverbal Communication and Body Language]
Negative body language.If you disagree with or dislike what's being said, you might use negative body language to rebuff the other person's message, such as crossing your arms, avoiding eye contact, or tapping your feet. You don't have to agree with, or even like what's being said, but to communicate effectively and not put the other person on the defensive, it's important to avoid sending negative signals.
Speak to a Therapist Now
Affordable private online therapy. Get instant help, on any device, wherever you are in the world. Start feeling better today!
GET 20% OFF
With over 25,000 licensed counselors, BetterHelp has a therapist that fits your needs. Sign up today and get matched.
GET 20% OFF
Get professional online counseling for relationship or marital issues. It’s confidential and convenient to get started.
GET 20% OFF
Effective communication skill 1: Become an engaged listener
When communicating with others, we often focus on what we should say. However, effective communication is less about talking and more about listening. Listening well means not just understanding the words or the information being communicated, but also understanding the emotions the speaker is trying to convey.
There's a big difference between engaged listening and simply hearing. When you really listen—when you're engaged with what's being said—you'll hear the subtle intonations in someone's voice that tell you how that person is feeling and the emotions they're trying to communicate. When you're an engaged listener, not only will you better understand the other person, you'll also make that person feel heard and understood, which can help build a stronger, deeper connection between you.
By communicating in this way, you'll also experience a process thatlowers stress and supports physical and emotional well-being. If the person you're talking to is calm, for example, listening in an engaged way will help to calm you, too. Similarly, if the person is agitated, you can help calm them by listening in an attentive way and making the person feel understood.
If your goal is to fully understand and connect with the other person, listening in an engaged way will often come naturally. If it doesn't, try the following tips. The more you practice them, the more satisfying and rewarding your interactions with others will become.
Tips for becoming an engaged listener
Focus fully on the speaker.You can't listen in an engaged way if you'reconstantly checking your phone or thinking about something else. You need to stay focused on the moment-to-moment experience in order to pick up the subtle nuances and important nonverbal cues in a conversation. If you find it hard to concentrate on some speakers, try repeating their words over in your head—it'll reinforce their message and help you stay focused.
Favor your right ear.As strange as it sounds, the left side of the brain contains the primary processing centers for both speech comprehension and emotions. Since the left side of the brain is connected to the right side of the body, favoring your right ear can help you better detect the emotional nuances of what someone is saying.
Avoid interrupting or trying to redirect the conversation to your concerns.By saying something like, “If you think that's bad, let me tell you what happened to me.” Listening is not the same as waiting for your turn to talk. You can't concentrate on what someone's saying if you're forming what you're going to say next. Often, the speaker can read your facial expressions and know that your mind's elsewhere.
Show your interest in what's being said.Nod occasionally, smile at the person, and make sure your posture is open and inviting. Encourage the speaker to continue with small verbal comments like “yes” or “uh huh.”
Try to set aside judgment.In order to communicate effectively with someone, you don't have to like them or agree with their ideas, values, or opinions. However, you do need to set aside your judgment and withhold blame and criticism in order to fully understand them. The most difficult communication, when successfully executed, can often lead to an unlikely connection with someone.
[Read: Improving Emotional Intelligence (EQ)]
Provide feedback. If there seems to be a disconnect, reflect what has been said by paraphrasing. “What I'm hearing is,” or “Sounds like you are saying,” are great ways to reflect back. Don't simply repeat what the speaker has said verbatim, though—you'll sound insincere or unintelligent. Instead, express what the speaker's words mean to you. Ask questions to clarify certain points: “What do you mean when you say…” or “Is this what you mean?”
Hear the emotion behind the words
It's the higher frequencies of human speech that impart emotion. You can become more attuned to these frequencies—and thus better able to understand what others are really saying—by exercising the tiny muscles of your middle ear (the smallest in the body). You can do this by singing, playing a wind instrument, or listening to certain types of high-frequency music (a Mozart symphony or violin concerto, for example, rather than low-frequency rock, pop, or hip-hop).
Skill 2: Pay attention to nonverbal signals
The way you look, listen, move, and react to another person tells them more about how you're feeling than words alone ever can. Nonverbal communication, or body language, includes facial expressions, body movement and gestures, eye contact, posture, the tone of your voice, and even your muscle tension and breathing.
Developing the ability to understand and use nonverbal communication can help you connect with others, express what you really mean, navigate challenging situations, and build better relationships at home and work.
- You can enhance effective communication by using open body language—arms uncrossed, standing with an open stance or sitting on the edge of your seat, and maintaining eye contact with the person you're talking to.
- You can also use body language to emphasize or enhance your verbal message—patting a friend on the back while complimenting him on his success, for example, or pounding your fists to underline your message.
Improve how youread nonverbal communication
Be aware of individual differences. People from different countries and cultures tend to use different nonverbal communication gestures, so it's important to take age, culture, religion, gender, and emotional state into account when reading body language signals. An American teen, a grieving widow, and an Asian businessman, for example, are likely to use nonverbal signals differently.
Look at nonverbal communication signals as a group. Don't read too much into a single gesture or nonverbal cue. Consider all of the nonverbal signals you receive, from eye contact to tone of voice to body language. Anyone can slip up occasionally and let eye contact go, for example, or briefly cross their arms without meaning to. Consider the signals as a whole to get a better “read” on a person.
Improve how youdeliver nonverbal communication
Use nonverbal signals that match up with your words rather than contradict them. If you say one thing, but your body language says something else, your listener will feel confused or suspect that you're being dishonest. For example, sitting with your arms crossed and shaking your head doesn't match words telling the other person that you agree with what they're saying.
Adjust your nonverbal signals according to the context. The tone of your voice, for example, should be different when you're addressing a child than when you're addressing a group of adults. Similarly, take into account the emotional state and cultural background of the person you're interacting with.
Avoid negative body language. Instead, use body language to convey positive feelings, even when you're not actually experiencing them. If you're nervous about a situation—a job interview, important presentation, or first date, for example—you can use positive body language to signal confidence, even though you're not feeling it. Instead of tentatively entering a room with your head down, eyes averted, and sliding into a chair, try standing tall with your shoulders back, smiling and maintaining eye contact, and delivering a firm handshake. It will make you feel more self-confident and help to put the other person at ease.
Skill 3: Keep stress in check
How many times have you felt stressed during a disagreement with your spouse, kids, boss, friends, or coworkers and then said or done something you later regretted? If you can quickly relieve stress and return to a calm state, you'll not only avoid such regrets, but in many cases you'll also help to calm the other person as well. It's only when you're in a calm, relaxed state that you'll be able to know whether the situation requires a response, or whether the other person's signals indicate it would be better to remain silent.
In situations such as a job interview, business presentation, high-pressure meeting, or introduction to a loved one's family, for example, it's important to manage your emotions, think on your feet, and effectively communicate under pressure.
|Communicate effectively by staying calm under pressure|
|Use stalling tactics to give yourself time to think. Ask for a question to be repeated or for clarification of a statement before you respond.|
|Pause to collect your thoughts. Silence isn't necessarily a bad thing—pausing can make you seem more in control than rushing your response.|
|Make one point and provide an example or supporting piece of information. If your response is too long or you waffle about a number of points, you risk losing the listener's interest. Follow one point with an example and then gauge the listener's reaction to tell if you should make a second point.|
|Deliver your words clearly. In many cases, how you say something can be as important as what you say. Speak clearly, maintain an even tone, and make eye contact. Keep your body language relaxed and open.|
|Wrap up with a summary and then stop. Summarize your response and then stop talking, even if it leaves a silence in the room. You don't have to fill the silence by continuing to talk.|
Quick stress relief for effective communication
When a conversation starts to get heated, you need something quick and immediate to bring down the emotional intensity. By learning to quickly reduce stress in the moment, you can safely take stock of any strong emotions you're experiencing, regulate your feelings, and behave appropriately.
Recognize when you're becoming stressed. Your body will let you know if you're stressed as you communicate. Are your muscles or stomach tight? Are your hands clenched? Is your breath shallow? Are you “forgetting” to breathe?
Take a moment to calm down before deciding to continue a conversation or postpone it.
Bring your senses to the rescue. The best way to rapidly and reliably relieve stress is through the senses—sight, sound, touch, taste, smell—or movement. For example, you could pop a peppermint in your mouth, squeeze a stress ball in your pocket, take a few deep breaths, clench and relax your muscles, or simply recall a soothing, sensory-rich image. Each person responds differently to sensory input, so you need to find a coping mechanism that is soothing to you.
[Read: Quick Stress Relief]
Look for humor in the situation. When used appropriately, humor is a great way to relieve stress when communicating. When you or those around you start taking things too seriously, find a way to lighten the mood by sharing a joke or an amusing story.
Be willing to compromise. Sometimes, if you can both bend a little, you'll be able to find a happy middle ground that reduces the stress levels for everyone concerned. If you realize that the other person cares much more about an issue than you do, compromise may be easier for you and a good investment for the future of the relationship.
Agree to disagree, if necessary, and take time away from the situation so everyone can calm down. Go for a stroll outside if possible, or spend a few minutes meditating. Physical movement or finding a quiet place to regain your balance can quickly reduce stress.
Do you struggle to clearly express how you're feeling inside?
Differences arise in any relationship, whether at home or at work. But there is a way out of seemingly unresolvable conflicts where everyone leaves with a sense of fulfillment and with their self-respect intact. This is the path of Nonviolent Communication from Sounds True.
GET ACCESS TO THIS FREE TRAINING NOW
Skill 4: Assert Yourself
Direct, assertive expression makes for clear communication and can help boost your self-esteem and decision-making skills. Being assertive means expressing your thoughts, feelings, and needs in an open and honest way, while standing up for yourself and respecting others. It does NOT mean being hostile, aggressive, or demanding. Effective communication is always about understanding the other person, not about winning an argument or forcing your opinions on others.
|To improve your assertiveness:|
|Value yourself and your options. They are as important as anyone else's.|
|Know your needs and wants. Learn to express them without infringing on the rights of others|
|Express negative thoughts in a positive way. It'sokay to be angry, but you must remain respectful as well.|
|Receive feedback positively. Accept compliments graciously, learn from your mistakes, ask for help when needed.|
|Learn to say “no.” Know your limits and don't let others take advantage of you. Look for alternatives so everyone feels good about the outcome.|
Developing assertive communication techniques
Empathetic assertion conveys sensitivity to the other person. First, recognize the other person's situation or feelings, then state your needs or opinion. “I know you've been very busy at work, but I want you to make time for us as well.”
Escalating assertion can be employed when your first attempts are not successful. You become increasingly firm as time progresses, which may include outlining consequences if your needs are not met. For example, “If you don't abide by the contract, I'll be forced to pursue legal action.”
Practice assertiveness in lower risk situations to help build up your confidence. Or ask friends or family if you can practice assertiveness techniques on them first.
Authors: Lawrence Robinson, Jeanne Segal, Ph. D., and Melinda Smith, M.A.
3aPPa3 – When cognitive demand increases, does the right ear have an advantage? – Danielle Sacchinell | Acoustics.org. (n.d.). Retrieved May 22, 2022, fromhttps://acoustics.org/3appa3-when-cognitive-demand-increases-does-the-right-ear-have-an-advantage-danielle-sacchinell/
How to Behave More Assertively. (n.d.). 10.
Weger, H., Castle Bell, G., Minei, E. M., & Robinson, M. C. (2014). The Relative Effectiveness of Active Listening in Initial Interactions.International Journal of Listening, 28(1), 13–31.https://doi.org/10.1080/10904018.2013.813234
Get more help
Effective Communication: Improving Your Social Skills– Communicate more effectively, improve your conversation skills, and become more assertive. (AnxietyCanada)
Core Listening Skills– How to be a better listener. (SucceedSocially.com)
Effective Communication(PDF) – How to communicate in groups using nonverbal communication and active listening techniques. (University of Maine)
Some Common Communication Mistakes– And how to avoid them. (SucceedSocially.com)
Last updated: November 1, 2022
Effective communication is always about understanding the other person, not about winning an argument or forcing your opinions on others. To improve your assertiveness: Value yourself and your options. They are as important as anyone else's.What is effective communication PDF? ›
Effective Communication Effective communication is a combination of a set of skills which include attentive listening, nonverbal communication, the ability to deal with stress in the present situation, and the capability to identify and understand one‟s own emotions and those of the person one is communicating with.What are the 4 main points to have effective communication? ›
Four Key Areas for Improvement. There are generally four main areas of communication skills that most of us would do well to improve. These are listening, non-verbal communication, emotional awareness and management, and questioning.What are the 4 P's of effective communication? ›
Using creativity and know-how to make up the difference, Louisville Water's communications team has developed tools that build on the company's assets and focus on “4 Ps”: people, product, partnerships, and pipe.What are the 9 Elements of communication? ›
The communication process involves understanding, sharing, and meaning, and it consists of eight essential elements: source, message, channel, receiver, feedback, environment, context, and interference.What is principle of 7c communication? ›
The seven C's of communication are a list of principles for written and spoken communications to ensure that they are effective. The seven C's are: clarity, correctness, conciseness, courtesy, concreteness, consideration and completeness.What is the importance of effective communication? ›
When communication is effective, it leaves all parties involved satisfied and feeling accomplished. By delivering messages clearly, there is no room for misunderstanding or alteration of messages, which decreases the potential for conflict.What is effective communication summary? ›
Effective communication is the process of exchanging ideas, thoughts, opinions, knowledge, and data so that the message is received and understood with clarity and purpose. When we communicate effectively, both the sender and receiver feel satisfied.What are the 7 barriers to effective communication PDF? ›
Anger, fear, jealousy, insecurity, shyness, and close-mindedness are all psychological barriers that can obstruct communication. All of these conditions are difficult to manage at times and will obstruct communication.What are 10 ways to communicate effectively? ›
- Listen, listen, and listen. ...
- Who you are talking to matters. ...
- Body language matters. ...
- Check your message before you hit send. ...
- Be brief, yet specific. ...
- Write things down. ...
- Sometimes it's better to pick up the phone. ...
- Think before you speak.
- Find your voice. ...
- Avoid filler words. ...
- Consider your body language. ...
- Use "I" statements. ...
- Practice active listening. ...
- Pay attention to facial expressions. ...
- Provide visual context. ...
- Learn to say "no"
- An intention for connection. ...
- Listen more than you speak. ...
- Understand the other person first. ...
- Understand needs, wishes and values. ...
- Begin with empathy. ...
- Take responsibility for your feelings. ...
- Make requests that are practical, specific and positive. ...
- Use accurate, neutral descriptions.
Every human communication interaction, be it face-to-face, written, by telephone, or by other means, has three critical components: Sending Communication, Receiving Communication and Feedback. These are the elements of good communication.What are the 3 major functions of effective communication? ›
The Communication Process. Communication fulfills three main functions within an organization, including coordination, transmission of information, and sharing emotions and feelings.Why 4 C's are better than 4 P's? ›
The 4 P's focus on a seller-oriented marketing strategy, which can be extremely effective for sales. However, the 4 C's offer a more consumer-based perspective on the marketing strategy.What are the 10 golden rules of communication? ›
- 1) Simplicity: Use Small Words. ...
- 2) Brevity: Use Short Sentences. ...
- 3) Credibility Is As Important As Philosophy. ...
- 4) Consistency Matters. ...
- 5) Novelty: Offer Something New. ...
- 6) Sound and Texture Matter. ...
- 7) Speak Aspirationally. ...
- 8) Visualize.
1) Sender; 2) Objective; 3) Message; 4) Dispatching; 5) Time-Place Factor; 6) Medium; 7) Reception; 8) Receiver; 9) Understanding; and 10) Response.What are the 6 important parts of effective communication? ›
- Verbal Communication.
- Nonverbal Communication.
- Emotional Awareness.
- Written Communication.
- Communicating in Difficult Situations.
Let's explore four categories of barriers to effective communication in the workplace (language barriers, inclusion barriers, cultural barriers, and environmental barriers).What are the 3 barriers of communication? ›
Although the barriers to effective communication may be different for different situations, the following are some of the main barriers: Linguistic Barriers. Psychological Barriers. Emotional Barriers.
- Aristotle Model of Communication.
- Berlo's Model of Communication.
- Shannon and Weaver Model of Communication.
- Schramm's Model of Communication.
- Helical Model of Communication.
- WRITTEN COMMUNICATION. Convey ideas and information through the use of written language.
- ORAL COMMUNICATION. Convey ideas and information through the use of spoken language.
- NON-VERBAL AND VISUAL COMMUNICATION. ...
- ACTIVE LISTENING. ...
- CONTEXTUAL COMMUNICATION.
There are four main styles of communication: passive, aggressive, passive-aggressive, and assertive.What are communication barriers? ›
Communication barriers are anything within your organization that prevents people from receiving or understanding messages, ideas, and information. These barriers can also prevent messages from being sent effectively, causing a disconnect within the company.What is the most effective means of communication? ›
1. When face to face is the best means of communication. Face-to-face communication is often an effective strategy for managing conflicts at work and having difficult conversations. After all, taking time to talk to someone in person can convey integrity, honesty and authenticity.What is the introduction of effective communication? ›
Effective communication may be said to involve the transfer of values, beliefs and thoughts from one person to another. To transfer a spoken message, it is obvious that speakers and listeners are involved, with timing used for speedy transmission.What is the conclusion of effective communication? ›
Conclusion. Communication is the greatest importance. It is important to sharing out one's thoughts and feelings to live a fuller and happier life. The more we communicate the less we suffer and the better we feel about everything around.What is a good example of effective communication? ›
Active listening ensures you understand what is being conveyed and are communicating that back to the speaker or writer. In a conversation, let the the speaker know you get what they're saying by, for example, nodding your head or repeating their statement in alternative words.What are the 8 principles of effective communication? ›
- Conversation. Understanding communication styles helps you master critical conversations. ...
- Listen. Listen 70% of the time! ...
- Body language. ...
- Anticipating needs. ...
- Trust. ...
- Re-confirm. ...
- Be positive. ...
- Be prepared.
- Dissatisfaction or Disinterest With One's Job. ...
- Inability to Listen to Others. ...
- Lack of Transparency & Trust. ...
- Communication Styles (when they differ) ...
- Conflicts in the Workplace. ...
- Cultural Differences & Language.
- Make Your Ideas Clear Before Communicating. ...
- Ensure the Time of Your Communication is Good. ...
- Use a Language Your Listener Can Understand. ...
- Make your Message to the Point and Short. ...
- Check if the Other Person has Understood Your Message.
- Be kind. Both you and your employees are humans with emotions, needs, and personal lives. ...
- Talk (and listen) professionally. Tactfully watch what you say and how you say it. ...
- Use proper grammar. ...
- Keep emotions in check. ...
- Choose your words wisely. ...
- Avoid being vulgar and crude.
Early childcare assistants know that it's important to communicate regularly with their student's families. This will enable families to keep track of their child's educational progress and it will also allow the educators and assistants to have access to information about how that child is doing at home.Why is communication important in ECCE? ›
Talking is an essential human skill in order to communicate our wants, needs, hopes, dreams and to make social connections with others. While infants can make their needs known it takes some time for children to achieve adult like language and communication abilities.What is communication according to Henry Kuntz? ›
Other Concepts of Communication
Henry Kuntz – Communication is the transferring of information from one person to another whether or not he/she elicits that confidence.
Effective communication builds understanding and trust. When you and parents or carers understand and trust each other, you'll all be better able to work together to support children's wellbeing and development.What is importance of effective communication? ›
When communication is effective, it leaves all parties involved satisfied and feeling accomplished. By delivering messages clearly, there is no room for misunderstanding or alteration of messages, which decreases the potential for conflict.What are the three barriers to effective communication? ›
- Dissatisfaction or Disinterest With One's Job. ...
- Inability to Listen to Others. ...
- Lack of Transparency & Trust. ...
- Communication Styles (when they differ) ...
- Conflicts in the Workplace. ...
- Cultural Differences & Language.
Effective communication is the process of exchanging ideas, thoughts, opinions, knowledge, and data so that the message is received and understood with clarity and purpose. When we communicate effectively, both the sender and receiver feel satisfied.How do you communicate effectively in early childhood? ›
- Active listening. Listening actively helps children to feel heard and understood. ...
- Reflective listening. ...
- Speaking clearly. ...
- Avoiding bribes. ...
- Explaining feelings. ...
- Using 'noticing' statements. ...
- Having fun together. ...
- Focusing on behaviour.
- Practice active listening.
- Communicate intentionally and respectfully.
- Build trust with families.
- Open a two-way line of communication.
- Be flexible about how you communicate.
- Don't wait until something is wrong to reach out.
James Humes said, “The art of communication is the language of leadership.” Communication is never perfect at all times, but by following these nine C's, you will have a great start to being a more effective communicator.What are the 3 main elements of communication as described by Albert Mehrabian? ›
Professor Mehrabian (1939-) believes that there are three core elements in the effective face-to-face communication of emotions or attitudes: nonverbal behaviour (facial expressions, for example), tone of voice, and the literal meaning of the spoken word.What is communication according to Kotler? ›
Philip. Kotler and Kevin Lane Keller define marketing. communications as "the means by which firms. attempt to inform, persuade and remind their. customers - directly and indirectly - of products.What are 3 importance of communication? ›
Communication is important to express oneself. It also satisfies one's needs. One should have effective communication for advancement in the career. In your personal life, effective communication skills can smooth your way and your relationships with others by helping you to understand others, and to be understood.How can we help children with communication needs? ›
Attention and Listening
Remind the child to use good “listening skills” and praise them when they do. Give instructions before an activity rather than during it where possible, particularly if doing practical exercises. Encourage the child to repeat back instructions to ensure that they have heard you.