Good communication is the foundation of any successful relationship or interaction.
It’s what separates understanding, learning, and growth from misunderstanding, mixed messages, and errors. It’s the most powerful and effective tool for sharing our ideas, thoughts, and feelings.
Think of a time when you had something important or relevant to express, but you struggled to communicate effectively. How did it feel? It was probably stressful and deeply frustrating.
Now think of a time when you had something important to share or express, and you managed to communicate well. How was that experience? More than likely, it was satisfying, positive, and came as a relief.
So, what exactly is good communication? How is it different from poor communication? What are the factors and techniques that make communication effective? If you’re wondering about the answers to these questions, this article is for you.
We’ll take a deep dive into the nature of effective communication, share some tips on how to improve your communication skills and why communication is key. When you apply the tips outlined in this article, you will reap the benefits of good communication in all of your relationships.
Can I improve my communication skills?
‘Communication is power,’ explains author, life coach, public speaker, and philanthropist Tony Robbins.
‘Those who have mastered its effective use can change their own experience of the world and the world’s experience of them. All behavior and feelings find their original roots in some form of communication.’
As Robbins points out, communication is something we can master. We often see leaders, public speakers, politicians, and even confident and assertive people in our daily lives who can communicate so well that we figure they must have been born with this superpower.
It’s essential to understand that the ability to communicate effectively is not reserved for those born with an innate talent for it. It is a skill, and just like any other skill, it can be learned, developed, improved upon, and mastered.
So, if you consider yourself a poor or awkward communicator now, the good news is that you can get better at it. Much better.
It may take some time and patience to really hone your technique, but again, communication is a skill, and just like any other skill, it takes consistent practice to improve.
What is communication?
The first step toward improving your communication skills is to develop a clear understanding of what communication really is. Don’t assume that because you have shared information or spoken aloud that you have communicated well.
Many mistakes are made because one person believes they have communicated their message or idea effectively to those around them when in reality, those around them failed to understand the point of the message.
As a renowned playwright and political activist, George Bernard Shaw writes,
‘The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.’George Bernard Shaw
Communication is a two way street. The sender is the person from whom the information is coming, and the receiver is the person to whom the information is being sent.
For effective communication to take place, both the sender and receiver should exert conscious effort when they exchange information – the sender must be clear and assertive with the message, and the receiver must understand the sender.
A poorly delivered message can cause problems.
Consider an employee appraisal in the workplace. An employee enters his appraisal with his boss and his supervisor. The boss and supervisor are happy with the employee’s work thus far, but they have some feedback on areas in which he could improve.
To communicate effectively, the boss must convey to the employee his thoughts, criticisms, and feedback in general. To do so, he must understand how to speak to the employee so that he will be heard.
If he is lazy or vague with his feedback, the employee will not have the chance to learn and improve at work. If he is overly critical and fails to convey his positive views of the employee to said employee, he risks distracting him with pressure to improve and fails to keep him in a calm state in which he is more receptive to what’s being said.
The employee also benefits from good communication and plays a part in making sure it takes place.
If the employee fails to pay attention and bring his focus to the boss’s words, he risks misunderstanding the message and therefore jeopardizes his future at the company. If he focuses too heavily on one negative comment, he also may get distracted and will not fully hear the rest of what his boss has to say.
To communicate effectively, the employee must apply active listening skills, including paying attention, demonstrating curiosity, and orienting his body language so that it is open and receptive.
Tips for effective communication
Dan Oswald, CEO at Business and Learning Resources (BLR), outlines three key aspects of effective communication. According to Oswald,
‘Communication must be H.O.T. That’s honest, open, and two-way.’Dan Oswald
Honesty and openness, the first two of Oswald’s recommendations for good communication, require that the sender is clear about what they want to communicate.
It requires courage and bravery to be honest about one’s feelings and confidence to be open to questions and differences of opinion from the receiver.
Openness in communication makes it two-way, which promotes mutual understanding and smooth cooperation.
Below, we have outlined some practical tips to help you improve your skill and keep your communication H.O.T.
Understand the different types of communication
There are many ways to communicate, whether that’s in the workplace or in our personal relationships.
Whether you’re in a leadership role and need to communicate important goals and objectives to your team, or you are hanging with a friend over coffee and want to listen to their latest news, understanding the many different types of communication will help you know how and when to apply each type to let the other person how you’re feeling.
The main types are:
- Verbal (speaking)
- Non-verbal (body language)
- Listening (paying attention)
1. Verbal communication
Verbal communication is something we are all familiar with. It is the simple act of expressing our ideas, thoughts, and messages through our words. Though the concept of verbal communication is simple, it still requires skill. It calls for clear expression, assertiveness, and consistency.
Imagine you’re having a conversation with your friend, and you want to share something stressful that happened to you earlier that day. To help them understand, you would need to give them some background.
You would need to tell them where you were, who you were with, and how you felt. Essentially, it would help if you painted a picture with your words.
2. Non-verbal communication
Other than verbally, we can also communicate non-verbally. Non-verbal communication is a means of expressing ourselves and sharing our message through the use of body language, facial expressions, and tone of voice.
Language teachers often rely on non-verbal communication to help their students understand the target language. They use their tone of voice to clarify whether they are asking a question or making a statement, or their posture, facial expressions, and positive body language to explain a concept better.
Tone of voice is a key aspect of non-verbal communication. Though it is conveyed through verbalization, it is non-verbal in that it is not about the words themselves but rather how they are expressed.
For example, a parent may speak to their child in a positive, optimistic tone of voice when asking to help with a household chore. If their tone of voice is negative or pessimistic, they may elicit resistance or defensiveness from the child.
Eye contact is a type of non-verbal communication that can make or break the effectiveness of your message. If you want someone to pay attention to what you’re saying, then you must maintain eye contact. Without it, you risk appearing less confident and less assured of your message.
The most underrated and under-utilized tool for effective and productive communication is listening. As Dan Oswald explains, good communication is two-way.
It is not just about the output from the sender but also about how well the receiver understands the sender’s message. The receiver plays just as crucial a part when it comes to ineffective communication as the sender.
Listening is a skill that, when developed and honed, helps you improve communication in all areas of your life. For example, in a relationship where one partner confronts the other about an issue, the other partner can help the relationship stay strong by actively listening to what their partner is saying.
Active listening requires that you pay careful attention to the person speaking – not just hearing the words they are saying. We must pay attention and be curious about their entire message.
We must listen with the intent to understand, ask for clarification if we don’t, and imagine what it would be like to be that person sharing that message. Listening with intent and compassion is a sign to the person speaking that we are interested and curious about what they’re saying.
“Not everyone with a problem needs you to solve it,” writes Zero Dean, author of Lessons Learned from The Path Less Traveled. ‘Sometimes all a person needs is to feel like they’ve been heard. Listening without judging can be more effective than injecting your opinions or trying to solve a problem that doesn’t have an easy answer.”
Convey assertiveness in your communication through clarity, honesty and openness, tone of voice, and body language. When you are assertive, you demonstrate to the receiver that you are confident in what you’re saying and increase the likelihood that your message will be understood.
Take public speaking as an example. When you see highly skilled public speakers, you can’t help but pay close attention.
They are alluring and interesting, not just because of their message but because of how they share their message. Their posture, tone of voice, and level of openness all align to make you, the listener, actually want to listen.
Tips for effective communication in the workplace
When communication goes wrong in the workplace, the results can be disastrous.
What appears to be a clearly understood message or set of instructions can leave you feeling stressed and rushed at the end of the week because it turns out that your message was misunderstood, your employees have not followed your instructions well, and you’ve lost both time and money.
When communication goes well in the workplace, everyone benefits. Tasks and projects run smoothly, everyone feels confident in what they’re doing, and you reach your goals in good time.
For effective communication in the workplace, it’s important to take a collaborative approach. For example, if you’re leading a group meeting, allocate some time in the meeting for opinion sharing, feedback, and concept and instruction checking.
“Communicate unto the other person that you would want him to communicate unto you if your positions were reversed.”Aaron Goldman
It’s also important to treat your employees, supervisors, bosses, interns, and every other person in your company as a human being – that means speaking to them with respect, trust, and compassion.
Remember that communication is as much about your tone and body language as it is about your words. So, if you are negative, pessimistic, condescending, or patronizing with your non-verbal communication, your coworkers will pick up on those cues and may react poorly, which hinders healthy and effective communication.
Tips for effective communication in romantic relationships
Romantic relationships can be tricky to navigate when the quality of communication is low. These relationships are an ongoing process of relating to and sharing ourselves with another person, so they call for effective communication if they are going to last.
Communication in a romantic relationship is improved when both partners are in tune with their own feelings, beliefs, and values while respecting and trying to understand the other person’s.
Often we enter conflict with our partner and become highly reactive. We hear their words and start planning our ‘perfect’ reply before they have even finished communicating how they feel.
“I think for any relationship to be successful, there needs to be loving communication, appreciation, and understanding.” – Miranda Kerr
Active listening, then, is key for healthy and effective communication in romantic relationships. When we actively listen to our partner, we don’t rush to react or reply.
We pay curious attention to their words, tone of voice, body language, and entire message. We imagine how it would be if the roles were reversed and treated with the same respect and compassion with which we would want to be treated.
Why Is Communication Important in a Healthy Relationship?
Below we have listed the reasons why communication is important in a relationship:
- It helps you get to know each other beyond the surface level – The things that are intangible, such as thoughts and feelings, are crucial in your relationship. They affect how both of you respond to ideas and issues, thereby affecting your connection. Communication allows you to share these intangible things.
- It lets you prevent misunderstandings – By expressing what you feel individually, communication will enable you to find a middle ground for your concerns. It also helps you resolve disagreements and concerns quickly.
- It allows both of you to set expectations in the relationship – If your expectations for each other are defined and communicated clearly, you will be able to meet your relationship needs. Hence, communication makes you feel understood and loved.
- It makes you love each other even more – Communication helps you establish respect and trust for each other. It solidifies your love as your connection becomes deeper and deeper.
- It lets you learn from each other – Your insights, values, and principles are part of who you are. When you are in a relationship, you share things with each other that are important and enable you to grow and learn as an individual and couple.
- It aids in the decision-making – If there are important matters to be decided upon, discussing them with your partner makes the decision-making easier. This discussion enables you to consider different perspectives and get emotional support from each other.
Benefits of good communication
There are so many benefits to good communication that happen as an indirect result of this important life skill.
In sum, communication helps you get your wants and needs met, shows others how you feel, and helps you be more productive and effective in your professional and personal life. With even just these benefits, other areas of your life will follow in a growth-oriented domino effect.
They say communication is key. But what is it the key to? Which doors does it unlock?
- Increased trust in yourself and others
- Stronger teams in the workplace
- More effective problem solving
- Improved relationship quality
- Greater engagement and productivity at work
- Increased self-awareness
- Reduced stress
Any new skill, whether it’s writing, painting, coding, or running a business, requires practice and consistent effort; communication is no different. Even if you’re not the most skilled communicator today, trust that you can build and improve upon this crucial skill.
Being a good communicator is increasingly important to help form or maintain strong social and personal relationships, contribute to your personal success,