We tend to run into trouble when our lines of communication get crossed. Misunderstandings arise as a result of miscommunications. Before you know it, what was once a harmless disagreement turns into all out he-said she-said warfare.
Wouldn’t it be better if we could navigate around the dangerous pitfalls of poor communication and just say what we mean?
That’s where effective communication skills come into play. Our ability to relate with others on an interpersonal level is determined by our communication skills. Like any other skill, these communicative abilities can be learned.
What Are Interpersonal Communication Skills?
Interpersonal communication is the way in which we exchange information, ideas, and emotions with others. It’s comprised of both verbal and nonverbal cues, and can take quite a variety of forms.
Here are some examples of interpersonal communication:
- Verbal speech
- Body language
- Facial expression
- Hand gestures
- Written text
Communication takes place anytime there is a sender, a message, and a receiver. The form of the message can take many forms, which is likely why we sometimes have difficulty interpreting what others are trying to communicate.
Now that we understand what interpersonal communication is, we now must ask:
What are interpersonal communication skills?
Well, simply put — interpersonal communication skills are methods of facilitating the interpersonal communication process. They are learned traits we can cultivate and hone to become better, more effective communicators.
Why Are Effective Communication Skills Important?
Effective communication skills increase our ability to be heard and understood. They bolster our confidence and self esteem by empowering us to speak out.
When we take time to nurture and practice effective communication skills, we’re investing in ourselves. Plus, being a powerful communicator doesn’t just help us — it helps all those we attempt to communicate with.
When we know how to deliver our message clearly, succinctly, and directly, we’re eliminating the opportunity for miscommunication to occur (and less miscommunication means fewer misunderstandings).
Bad Communication Habits to Avoid
If you’d like to increase the power of your effective communication skills, you’ll need to first root out the bad habits.
Everyone is guilty of a few conversation faux pas now and again. However, those who allow their relations with others to be dominated by bad communication habits may find themselves struggling to connect.
Here are a few indicators of poor communication to be on the lookout for:
- Interrupting others
- Looking at your phone while others are speaking
- Rambling without a clear point
- Avoiding eye contact
- Closed body language
These are manifestations of poor conversation etiquette, and will definitely harm your ability to get your point across.
Learning better, more effective communication skills will help you become a confident, skilled, adaptive conversationalist. Plus, it will help you better navigate your relationships with others!
3 Effective Communication Skills for Personal Growth and Empowerment
Being aware of bad communication habits to avoid is beneficial, but so too is taking the time and effort to cultivate newer, better communication habits for the future.
If you find yourself struggling to converse with others, or have difficulty voicing your opinion, don’t worry. Add a few of these positive habits to your repertoire and you’ll be well on your way to confident, productive communication in no time!
Here are 3 effective communication skills to work on:
1. Be Aware of Your Body
Did you know that most experts in the field agree that more than half of what you’re saying isn’t coming from your mouth?
That’s right. Body language accounts for a staggering percentage of our communication, and most of the time, we’re not aware of the messages we’re sending.
Your body, your posture, and your facial expressions all play a role in the way you communicate. So, to begin mastering the first of these effective communication skills, you’ll need to become more aware of your body, and how you occupy the space you’re in when you communicate with others.
Can body language contradict our vocal communication? Absolutely, it can. And that’s how miscommunications occur.
Here are some examples of common body language signals and what they communicate:
- Crossed or folded arms - Defensiveness, insecurity
- Hands clasped behind the body - Authority, confidence
- Adjusting clothes, watch, jewelry - Nervousness
- Finger pointing - Aggression
- Clenched fists - Anger, resolve, anxiety
- Clasping or squeezing hands - Self-soothing
- Hands on the hips - Authority, assertiveness
Without realizing it, we’re telling a story with our bodies. The next time you’re speaking to another person, perform a quick body scan to find out how your body is positioned.
Are you closed off? Are your arms folded? Or do you have a relaxed, open posture, with your arms at ease by your sides?
Be aware of the power of body language and the role it plays in effective communication.
2. Active Listening
Have you ever had a conversation with someone in which you could later barely recall what it is they said to you? Were you perhaps too busy thinking about what you were about to say next, rather than actually listening?
Many of us are guilty of this one. Sometimes it stems from an inherent attitude of competition instilled in us at a young age. Other times, it’s merely a symptom of feeling unheard or undervalued.
Some of us even go so far as to interrupt what others are saying in mid-sentence, just to interject our own thoughts and opinions.
We have to learn to practice active listening to be better communications. This is but one of many effective communication skills, but could be one of the most important.
Active listening means being fully present and aware of what the speaker is attempting to impart. It means offering the speaker your full and undivided attention. That means no cell phones, no laptop screens, no half hearted listening over your shoulder as you poke through the fridge looking for leftovers.
We demonstrate active listening by making eye contact with the speaker. We nod our heads to affirm that we’re paying attention. We may even interject periodic mhmm’s and yes’s to encourage the speaker onward.
Of course, active listening isn’t always possible. Sometimes we’re in a rush and need to do several things at once, so having a conversation with our partner while we do the dishes becomes a necessity.
When you can, try to practice active listening. Effective communication skills aren’t just about cultivating a powerful message. They’re also about being a careful and considerate listener.
3. Deliver With Confidence
Many people have a fear of public speaking. It’s not easy to get up and speak in front of those you don’t know well. Sometimes, it’s even more challenging to get up and speak in front of those you do know well!
If you want to make your voice heard, you’ll need to cultivate a strong and confident delivery.
Becoming a more confident speaker takes time and practice. It’s a skill that must be curated over time, so don’t expect too much from yourself right off the bat. Be patient, be kind to yourself, and work at it, bit by bit, day by day.
Here are the do’s and don’t’s of confident communication:
- Don’t speak before you think. Take time to decide what you’d like to say.
- Don’t ramble. The key to confident communication is to be succinct.
- Don’t yell. Bold communication is about much more than simply raising the volume of your voice. You want to be clear and concise, but you don’t need to be loud.
- Do slow down. One tip-off of nervous communication is high pitched, quick pace speech. Take a deep breath. Slow down. Take your time.
- Do stay present. One way we trip ourselves up when speaking is trying to conjure up what we’re going to say next. Trust in yourself. Trust that the words will come. You can only say one thing at a time. Stay present.
- Do be aware of your body. Confidence is about much more than just your voice. Your body language says a lot too. Relax your shoulders, ease your jaw, stand tall, and take a deep breath. When you’re ready, begin to speak.
Here are some additional tips by the lovely Deborah Torres Patel on how to speak with confidence:
Which of these effective communication skills would you most like to master? Let us know in the comments below!