Every day, we communicate with others. Whether we are meeting in boardrooms, waiting in line at the grocery store checkout or sitting around the family dinner table, communication is key.
What does it mean to communicate effectively? How can you learn to communicate better with people in your professional and personal life?
By taking the time to learn as much as possible about communication, you can improve your skills and see new opportunities and benefits come into your life.
Examples of effective communication
Effective communication can take many forms. Communicating well with others relies on both your speaking and listening skills.
When speaking with someone, you should always try to be as clear as possible. For example, if a coworker is not participating fully in a project, be upfront and clear with them about your thoughts and feelings. You can say:
- Your feelings: “I feel that I am completing this project on my own.”
- Your expectations: “We need to meet this afternoon to work on the project together.”
- Questions you may have: “What is keeping you from contributing to this project?”
In order to communicate fully, effectively listening is just as important as speaking. Continuing the above example, here are a couple of effective listening tips:
- Use your body language: Maintaining eye contact, nodding your head and taking notes are some nonverbal ways to show you are listening.
- Repetition: Repeating key points and phrases back to the person who is speaking with you can show that you understand the points they are making.
- Ask questions: While it is important to give the speaker space to express their thoughts, asking a clarifying question every now and then can show that you are actively listening.
Benefits of effective communication
Effective communication can provide a variety of benefits for your personal and professional life. If you take the time to clearly speak and actively listen to the people around you, you may see these benefits in all parts of your life:
- Stronger relationships: Your relationships with your friends, family and colleagues can improve as you work on your communication skills.
- Increased opportunities: Being able to better express your goals and communicate with those in leadership can lead to increased professional opportunities.
- More confidence: Improving your communication skills can improve your confidence. You may be able to better express your opinions in times of tension and you could also have an easier time making friends as you improve your speaking and listening skills.
- Less stress: Miscommunication can lead to a lot of stress. Communicating effectively with those around you can reduce this stress.
- Less time wasted: Miscommunication can lead to wasted time. Missed meetings and arguments can be avoided if you communicate clearly with your friends and colleagues.
By communicating effectively, you can improve the tone of your interactions with others and create more positive experiences.
Characteristics of effective communication
In order to fully integrate effective communication skills into your life, it is important to know what that looks like. Some common characteristics include:
- Clarity: You know what you are trying to communicate and can convey those points in a way that is easy to understand.
- Emotional awareness: You are aware of your emotions and the emotions of those around you. This awareness causes you to shift your tone of voice and wording as needed.
- Active and empathetic listening: You pay attention and use nonverbal cues and thoughtful questions and comments to show that you are practicing empathetic listening.
- Concrete examples: You don’t speak solely in the abstract. You use tangible examples to support your points.
- Complete thoughts: You don’t leave thoughts unsaid or incomplete. You try to convey whole thoughts during a conversation to avoid confusion.
By keeping each of these characteristics in mind when you communicate with others, you can improve your conversations and grow your communication skills over time.
Essential communication skills
There are many communication skills that are essential in both your professional and personal life. Some of these skills include:
- Public speaking: How confident are you speaking in public to groups of people? Learning to speak well can help you be more persuasive and engaging at work meetings and dinner parties.
- Writing: Are you able to clearly express yourself through writing? This can include writing emails, letters, memos and more.
- Listening: When someone else is talking, are you actually listening or are you thinking about what you are going to say next?
- Nonverbal communication: Do you maintain eye contact when someone is speaking with you? What kinds of hand gestures do you use? Do you have an open posture?
- Communicating in a virtual environment: What is your experience with communicating in virtual environments? This can include video conferencing, instant messaging and social media.
- Respectful tone: Are you respectful in your verbal and written tone of communication?
Developing each of these skills over time can help you to improve interactions with romantic partners, family members, friends, colleagues and supervisors.
Tips for communicating more effectively
There are many ways to improve your communication skills. Some of these methods include:
- Consistent practice: Make a concerted effort each day to practice a communication skill that you struggle with.
- Professional development: Consider taking professional development courses to expand your communication skills. Courses such as “Brave Conversations in the Workplace” and “Elements of Effective Business Communication” can improve your speaking and listening skills. If you work primarily online, then coursework in Digital Marketing can further your virtual communication skills.
- Therapy and coaching: If you truly believe that your lack of communication skills is negatively affecting your life, then speaking with a therapist, counselor or coach may help you.
- Advice from mentors: Reach out to mentors that you have. They may be able to provide advice and share communication practices that have helped them.
- Reading: There are many books that can teach you the communication skills you need to succeed in business and in your relationships.
- Utilizing online resources: The internet is filled with amazing resources that can help you to improve your communication skills.
There are many different people and resources that can help you if you feel you are struggling to effectively communicate with others. All you have to do is take the first step and reach out.
Common communication challenges
If you are struggling to effectively communicate, you may be dealing with a common communication challenge, such as:
- A lack of confidence: This can keep you from speaking your mind, expressing your opinions or standing up for yourself.
- Uncertainty: It is hard to communicate effectively when you are unsure about the points you want to make.
- A lack of patience: Your listening skills could be lacking if you don’t have the patience to let other people talk.
Each of these challenges can affect the way you speak and listen to other people. By identifying the communication challenge that gives you the most trouble, you can take steps to overcome that challenge and improve your communication skills.
Potential outcomes of poor communication
If you struggle with poor communication and do not take steps to improve your communication skills, then there will most likely be negative outcomes. Some potential outcomes of poor communication include:
- Poor first impressions: Whether you are trying to make new friends or get a new job, making a good first impression is important, but it depends entirely on your communication skills.
- Limited relationships: Having deeper personal relationships relies on your ability to speak with and listen to others.
- Minimal opportunities for advancement: Poor communication means poor relationships with those you work with. This can negatively affect your access to promotion opportunities.
- Isolation: Poor communication can lead to feelings of isolation and loneliness.
Poor communication can touch every part of your life. However, taking steps to improve your communication skills can reduce your risk of experiencing these outcomes.
The value of nonverbal skills
Beyond speaking, writing and listening, nonverbal skills are a vital part of effective communication. Some nonverbal communication skills that you can practice are:
- Eye contact: Maintaining eye contact shows others that you are both confident and attentive.
- Hand gestures: Using hand gestures when you talk can help to highlight key points and bring energy to a conversation.
- Nodding: Nodding occasionally is a simple way to show that you are in agreement or that you are interested in what another person is saying.
- Open posture: Stand up straight, lift up your chin and uncross your arms to create a more open posture and let others know that you are listening.
Each of these skills shows that you are engaged in a conversation and that you are actively listening to the other person’s input.
Other factors that can impact your communication skills
There are many factors that can impact your communication skills. It is important to be aware of these factors so you can make adjustments accordingly. Some factors include:
- High stress levels: If you are feeling stressed, this can impact your communication skills. It can limit your patience when listening and might affect your ability to convey clear and cohesive messages.
- Distractions: If you are distracted, then you can have difficulty being fully present and engaged in a conversation.
Taking the time to work on your communication skills and to understand the challenges you face surrounding communication can have a positive impact on your life. Taking one small step every day to better communicate with the people around you can open up new doors for career opportunities, relationships and so much more.