Effective Communication: A Key Life Skill Part 1

Have you developed your Life Skills?

Eff. comm #1 pic 1 -Couple talkingEffective communication starts out with knowing and understanding yourself. When you are aware of where you are coming from, you can articulate in a very clear fashion what you want to say. It sounds so simple to tell you just to say what you mean. But we often make lots of assumptions that the other person will just pick up what you are laying down. Despite our best intentions, our communication gets lost in translation. To better understand yourself and have a clear vision of who you are, try reading my articles on Values, Priorities and Personality Traits that will be coming up. Once you have defined yourself, you are more aware of how to communicate your intent to others. Without effective communication skills, we will say one thing, the other person misinterprets the message and then…misunderstandings, frustrations, and conflicts ensue. Our communication can turn into a game of childhood “Telephone” where we whisper a word into one person’s ear but by the time it makes it around the circle…..another word is pronounced the answer.

Fortunately, if you want to connect effectively with others and feel heard and understood, you can learn to implement effective communication skills. Talking with another is more than just exchanging information. It is a two-way street where both parties understand the emotion and intention behind the communication. These skills presented are so you learn to convey your message in a way, so it is understood. This set of skills includes, engaged listening, nonverbal communication, preventing emotions from warping your message, and stating what you need to say, assertively.

This skill will need to be practiced, so you can do it spontaneously rather than having to think out everything you say. The more you practice, the better you become.

Eff Comm #1 pic 2 Girls talkingInterpersonal Communication Barriers:

Distracted conversation: If it is important, focus. Set aside the multi-tasking, texting, distractions or daydreaming. Part of communicating is picking up on the non-verbal cues and showing you care by displaying engaged listening. Otherwise, you are endangered of being tuned out or not making sense.
Emotionally charged Messages: Strong sentiments tend to cause a knee-jerk reaction, emotionally charged words, negative connotations, or off-putting signals. If the communication is important, take the time to calm down and form a respectful response.
Body Language: reveals other Information: Did you know that over 80% of human communication is expressed through facial expressions, body language or tone of voice. If your nonverbal message is inconsistent, your listener will get the impression you are dishonest or misleading. To illustrate this concept, I say to people just the word, “Hello” in three ways. The first is happy, the second is gruff, and the third is sexy. But just from three different expressions, my client’s get three separate impressions and, therefore, understand this concept. Pay attention to the nonverbal messages you are communicating.
Adverse Body Language: Again, notice if you are displaying off-putting nonverbal messages. Body signs  like frowning, shaking your head “No”, arms crossed, tapping your feet/ fingers or looking away frequently sends a negative message. Also, your tone of voice. Are you sounding snappy, irritated, or bored? You may be sending the wrong message and wondering why others don’t get you. For example,I once had a client who found it hard to look people in the eye. I told him to tell people he knew that he is uncomfortable with eye contact so they would not misread his communications. This helped him to gain acceptance in relationships. Likewise, you can become aware so you send the right message.

You have spent years developing your communication mannerisms. It will take time and practice to change. But communication is an important skill to have in all aspects in life.  I have given you a few tips to help you begin the process to be an effective communicator. Practice these methods and you should begin to have more meaningful conversations and less misunderstanding and conflict. I will continue posting more about effective communication in the upcoming weeks. Look for articles on Effective Communication, part 2 & 3, to be posted in December of 2015.  

If you would like to read more about communication, try books like Effective Communication Skills by Daniel Jones and It’s the Way you Say it: Becoming Articulate, Well-spoken and Clear. By Carol A. Fleming.