Ten Effective Communication Skills

Effective communication skills may seem at first like a simple thing to master. However, if you don't realize that effective communication skills involve more than just what you say, you probably confuse people all the time. In fact, communication utilizes many modes, including verbal, body language, written text and more. By becoming aware of these modes and learning to use them, you will be able to acquire effective communication skills that you can use in many different situations, as well as in your personal relationships.

Besides learning the many modes of communication, you’ll want to learn what types of communication are appropriate for which environments. How you communicate in the workplace will be different from how you communicate with your family and also different from how you communicate in legal proceedings or religious institutions.

Although there are different theoretical models of communication, effective communication means making sure that the message that is received is the one that you are sending. This can often mean overcoming different types of barriers in the communication process, from physical or physiological problems to ambiguous language or the use of specific types of jargon to difficulties in nonverbal language, such as gestures and facial expressions.

Blocks in communication or distortions can mean that the message becomes changed. If you’ve ever played the game “Telephone,” then you’ve experienced how a message can change drastically from one person to the next. While this can be amusing in a game, in real life these distortions can lead to misunderstandings and worse.

If these obstacles sound daunting, don’t despair. Fortunately, there are techniques you can learn that will help you avoid most of the major barriers to effective communication. Whether your goal is to make new friends, perform better in school, or gain confidence in the workplace, these methods should make a difference in your communication style.

Try the following ten tips to help you sharpen your communication skills.

To the point
Be as direct as possible, within the limits of good manners. Beating around the bush confuses people and makes them lose interest in what you're saying. Be direct whenever possible and get to the point.

Manners count
Use your manners. Whatever type of communication you use, always remember your manners. Being polite is a much better way to put a person at ease than being rude. A person who feels open and at ease is much more likely to be receptive to what you have to say.

I statements
Use the word "I." When you use the word "I," you're letting people know that what you're saying is only according to your personal understanding, not a blanket fact. This can help keep people from feeling targeted and attacked. There's a difference between telling someone "You're ignoring me" and "I feel like you are ignoring me."

Positive thinking
Emphasize the positive. Regardless if you're conducting a budget meeting or trying to get a spouse to do the dishes, you need to keep the tone positive. This can help keep people willing to listen to what you have to say and prevent them from feeling defensive.

You have to listen to understand. Actively listening to the conversation can do wonders for your overall ability to communicate. The same goes for written and non-verbal communication. Don't daydream or let your mind wander. Instead try to visualize what is being communicated about and actively engage your brain in the subject.

Spice up your words
Make your communications interesting. If you're communicating verbally, use different inflections and pauses to make the dialogue interesting. Use body language to help emphasize your words.  If you're communicating through writing, always use proper punctuation to help dramatize certain points and create character in the text.

Visual cues
Use visual elements to help explain your communication. If you're speaking or writing, try using pictures, graphs and other visual aids. This helps engage people's senses and leads to greater depth of understanding.

Avoid confusing and ambiguous language. Avoid using vocabulary that people won't know or general terms that will leave people confused. It's also best to avoid words that sound alike and may confuse listeners, such as where and wear.

You know what they say about assuming
Anticipate reactions, but never assume you know how someone will react. It's smart to plan ahead and be ready for all potential situations. However, you don't want to pigeon hole yourself into one scenario. Assumption will only limit your flexibility.

Patience is a virtue, especially when it comes to effective communication. If you rush things and become easily frustrated, your communication abilities suffer. If you are always ready to slow the pace as needed or go back over certain points, you will communicate much more efficiently. 

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