Improving Communication - Developing Effective Communication Skills
Effective communication skills are fundamental to success in many aspects of life. Many jobs require strong communication skills and socially people with improved communication skills usually have better interpersonal relationships.
Effective communication is a key interpersonal skill and by learning how we can improve our communication has many benefits.
Communication is a two way process so improving communication involves both how you send and receive messages.
The following list includes links to other pages at SkillsYouNeed that can help you further improve your communication skills.
Learn to Listen
Listening is not the same as hearing; learn to listen not only to the words being spoken but how they are being spoken and the non-verbal messages sent with them. Use the techniques of clarification and reflection to confirm what the other person has said and avoid any confusion. Try not to think about what to say next whilst listening; instead clear your mind and focus on the message being received. Your friends, colleagues and other acquaintances will appreciate good listening skills.
Be Aware of Others' Emotions
Be sympathetic to other people's misfortunes and congratulate their positive landmarks. To do this you need to be aware of what is going on in other people’s lives. Make and maintain eye contact and use first names where appropriate. Do not be afraid to ask others for their opinions as this will help to make them feel valued. Consider the emotional effect of what you are saying and communicate within the norms of behaviour acceptable to the other person.
Empathy is trying to see things from the point-of-view of others. When communicating with others, try not to be judgemental or biased by preconceived ideas or beliefs - instead view situations and responses from the other person’s perspective. Stay in tune with your own emotions to help enable you to understand the emotions of others.
If appropriate, offer your personal viewpoint clearly and honestly to avoid confusion. Bear in mind that some subjects might be taboo or too emotionally stressful for others to discuss.
Offer words and actions of encouragement, as well as praise, to others. Make other people feel welcome, wanted, valued and appreciated in your communications. If you let others know that they are valued, they are much more likely to give you their best. Try to ensure that everyone involved in an interaction or communication is included through effective body language and the use of open questions.
Do not say the first thing that comes into your head but instead take a moment and pay close attention to what you say and how you say it.
Focus on the meaning of what you want to communicate.
Aim to increase understanding by considering how your message might be received by the other person. By communicating clearly, you can help avoid misunderstandings and potential conflict with others. By speaking eloquently you will come across as more intelligent and mature.
Be aware of the messages you are sending via non-verbal channels: make eye contact and avoid defensive body language. Present information in a way that its meaning can be clearly understood. Pay particular attention to differences in culture, past experiences, attitudes and abilities before conveying your message. Avoid jargon and over-complicated language; explain things as simply as possible. Request clarification if unclear about a message. Always avoid racist and sexist terms or any language that may cause offence.
Laughing releases endorphins that can help relieve stress and anxiety; most people like to laugh and will feel drawn to somebody who can make them laugh. Don’t be afraid to be funny or clever, but do ensure your humour is appropriate to the situation. Use your sense of humour to break the ice, to lower barriers and gain the affection of others. By using appropriate humour you will be perceived as more charismatic.
Treat People Equally
Always aim to communicate on an equal basis and avoid patronising people. Do not talk about others behind their backs and try not to develop favourites: by treating people as your equal and also equal to each other you will build trust and respect. Check that people understand what you have said to avoid confusion and negative feelings. Encourage open and honest feedback from the receiver to ensure your message is understood and to avoid the receiver instead feeding back what they think you want to hear. If confidentiality is an issue, make sure its boundaries are known and ensure its maintenance.
Attempt to Resolve Conflict
Learn to troubleshoot and resolve problems and conflicts as they arise. Learn how to be an effective mediator and negotiator. Use your listening skills to hear and understand both sides of any argument - encourage and facilitate people to talk to each other. Try not to be biased or judgemental but instead ease the way for conflict resolution.
Maintain a Positive Attitude and Smile
Few people want to be around someone who is frequently miserable. Do your best to be friendly, upbeat and positive with other people. Maintain a positive, cheerful attitude to life: when things do not go to plan, stay optimistic and learn from your mistakes. If you smile often and stay cheerful, people are more likely to respond positively to you. See Personal Presentation for more.
Some communication scenarios are, by their nature, stressful. Stress can however be a major barrier to effective communication, all parties should try to remain calm and focused.
For tips and advice about stress relief and avoidance see our pages: Avoiding Stress and Tips for Relieving Stress. It is also important to learn how to relax we have a series of pages covering Relaxation Techniques.
Only Complain when Absolutely Necessary
People will not be drawn to you if you are constantly complaining or whinging. If something makes you angry or upset, wait for a few hours and calm down before taking action. If you do complain, do so calmly, try to find some positive aspects to the situation and avoid giving unnecessary criticism. (See: Anger Management, Communicating in Difficult Situations and Dealing with Criticism.)