What is effective communication?
Communication is about more than just exchanging information. It’s about understanding the emotion and intentions behind the information. Effective communication is also a two-way street. It’s not only how you convey a message so that it is received and understood by someone in exactly the way you intended, it’s also how you listen to gain the full meaning of what’s being said.
Barriers to effective interpersonal communication include stress and out-of-control emotion, lack of focus, inconsistent body language and negative body language.
Improving communication skills #1: Pay attention to non-verbal signals
When we communicate things that we care about, we do so mainly using non-verbal signals. Non-verbal communication, or body language, includes facial expressions, body movement and gestures, eye contact, posture, the tone of your voice, and even your muscle tension and breathing. The way you look, listen, move and react to another person tells them more about how you’re feeling than words alone ever can.
Improving communication skills #2: Become an engaged listener
People often focus on what they should say, but effective communication is less about talking and more about listening. Listening well means not just understanding the words or the information being communicated, but also understanding the emotions the speaker is trying to communicate.
Improving communication skills #3: Assert yourself
Direct, assertive expression makes for clear communication and can help boost self-esteem and decision-making. Being assertive means expressing your thoughts, feelings, and needs in an open and honest way while standing up for yourself and respecting others. It does NOT mean being hostile, aggressive, or demanding. Effective communication is always about understanding the other person not about winning an argument or forcing your opinions on others.
To improve assertiveness:
Improving communication skills #4: Keep stress in check
To communicate effectively, you need to be aware of and in control of your emotions. And that means learning how to manage stress. When you’re stressed, you’re more likely to misread other people, send confusing or off-putting non-verbal signals and lapse into unhealthy knee-jerk patterns of behavior.
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