Communication is an essential part of everyday life. People communicate with one another to share ideas, express thoughts and feelings, and resolve problems. Errors occur when a communicated message is not given or received as it was intended. You can increase your ability to communicate effectively by developing verbal and nonverbal communication skills.
Nonverbal communication is also known as body language. Nonverbal communication shows others that you are ready to communicate effectively when you maintain eye contact, sit attentively and position your body to face the person who is speaking. Folding your arms across your chest, clenching your fists and looking downward signify that you are guarded and consequently, can hinder communication.
Facilitate effective communication by maintaining an "open mind." Avoid passing judgment on or expressing criticism of communicated messages. You do not have to agree entirely with the other person’s thoughts and opinions, but it is important that you respect them. Demonstrate empathy by trying to understand the situation from the other person’s perspective.
Active listening allows you to increase your understanding of another person’s thoughts and feelings. To demonstrate this communication skill, show that you are listening by focusing intently on the person speaking; nod your head and make verbal indications of agreement such as “uh-huh.” Do not interrupt when someone else is speaking; this can disturb the flow of conversation and may cause a power struggle.
Validate the thoughts and feelings of the person speaking by reflecting back what he has communicated. This can be accomplished by summarizing the main idea of the speaker’s message. For example, "You feel like you have tried several options and are not sure about what step to take next." This communication skill helps the speaker feel like she is being understood and gives her the opportunity to clarify and add more detail if necessary.
An "I" statement is a component of assertive communication that allows an individual to take responsibility for her thoughts and emotions. This communication skill discourages the speaker from placing blame on an outside person or event. An article on effective communication published by the University of Main gives the example "you know that's not right" and replaces it with "I see it differently than you do."
Effective communication is a necessary component of compromise. When a problem exists, both individuals must work collaboratively to formulate a list of potential solutions as well as trade-offs that they will agree to. For example, a child asks his parent if he can go out on a school night with friends even though he has not completed his homework. The parent and child compromise that the child can go out, but the parent will pick him up at a designated time so he can complete his homework before bedtime.
- Effective Communication: Getting Things Done in Group
- “Communicating in Relationships: A Guide for Couples and Professionals”; Frank D. Fincham, Leyan O.L. Fernandes, & Keith Humphreys; 1993