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.
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 behaviour.
- 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.
- 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 it’s important to avoid sending negative signals.
- 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. 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.
- 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 every can. Nonverbal communication, or body language, includes facial expressions, body movement and gestures, eye contact, posture, the ton of your voice, and even your muscle tension and breathing. Improve how you read nonverbal signals:
- Be aware of individual differences. People from different countries and cultures tend to use different nonverbal communication gestures, so it’s important to age, culture, religion, gender and emotional state into account when reading body language signals.
- Look at nonverbal communication signals as a group. Don’t read too much into a single gesture or nonverbal cue. Consider all 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.
Adapted from: HelpGuide.org