Communicating effectively is fundamental, not only in a leadership position, but also in various other areas of life. Communication is what separates the average from the extraordinary. Communicating effectively is one of the most important skills in life. It can make all the difference! When you’re able to skillfully communicate, you can avoid time-consuming misunderstandings. In doing so, you can greatly reduce the amount of conflicts in your day-to-day life. Effective communication skills can also aid you in resolving conflicts and in establishing harmony between conflicting parties. By learning to communicate in an effective manner, you’ll get more of what you want out of life. Not only will it help you to encourage people to adopt your ideas, but it also allows you to build stronger relationships with them. The following guide presents 19 truly effective communication strategies to maximize the effectiveness of your communication.
Even though communication seemingly seems to be the simple act of transferring information from one person to another, it’s obstacle-ridden and comes with many pitfalls. The central problem of communication arises when we’re not able to effectively convey the ideas we have in mind. Therefore, the quality in which information is transmitted and received greatly depends on our communication skills.
“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”
George Bernard Shaw
By making use of effective communication techniques we can transmit information more accurately and in a concise manner. What is even more important, it helps us to aid others in receiving the message as intended.
Let’s have a look at the different communication strategies you can utilize to maximize the effectiveness of your communication.
The most effective communication techniques
Table of contents
The term ‘communication’ is rather vague. It can mean all kinds of different things to different people. Some strictly limit their idea of communication to the spoken word. Others have a much broader understanding of the concept and also include aspects such as body language. To clarify the existing ambiguities and inaccuracies it’s helpful to define the word ‘communication’ first.
The noun ‘communication’ refers to the following:
- the process of expressing, exchanging or conveying information; for example by means of speaking, writing, gesturing.
- a message containing information such as statements, news, announcements and reports.
- the act of conveying information and ideas.
- the act of expressing thoughts, feelings and motivations.
Adapted from the definition of the Merriam-Webster dictionary.
Based on this definition, communication is all about transmitting information through various behaviors. Therefore, communication is not only limited to speech, but also includes writing and even the use of sounds or gestures. It can occur directly (e.g. speaking), but also in a very subtle manner (e.g. hinting by the use of sounds).
Often times, there’s a great discrepancy between what we intend to communicate and what we actually say. Another essential problem arises when our messages are not decoded/received by the listener as intended.
When communicating, the speaker must deliver the message clearly, while the listener has to listen carefully. Effective communication occurs only when the intended message of the speaker is clearly understood by the listener.
Therefore, as speakers we must make sure to transmit the message in a clear manner. But we also have to take into account that the message is delivered in an understandable fashion. Even further, to communicate effectively, we have to take great care to fully articulate what we intend to say. If we do not fully articulate our ideas, the recipient would have great difficulties to fully understand the message. Mistakes and misunderstandings are the likely result.
The ability to communicate effectively is a key factor for success. Having access to a set of effective verbal and nonverbal communication skills can prove to be a valuable asset in many areas of life. For one, the individual that is able to effectively convey information is less confronted with misunderstandings. Not only does this help to avoid frictions, but it also reduces mistakes. By means of communicating effectively, we can also express our ideas and wishes more clearly. Poor communication, on the other hand, causes friction between people and usually results in problems.
In order to accomplish our aims, we need communicate in a clear manner. The following communication techniques and strategies will help you to effectively convey the intended message.
1. Utilize the power of silence
Remember that daunting conversation when the silence of your counterpart led you to say more than you intended to say? Anybody who’s ever been in a similar situation experienced firsthand how effective silence can be. The power of silence can only be utilized in specific situations, but when applied, it’s incredibly effective.
Crafty communicators make use of silence when they feel that their subject is holding back. By utilizing the power of silence, they encourage their dialogue partner to pick up the thread of the conversation. The reason for this response is simple: We can’t stand silence in a conversation. Therefore, excellent communicators obtain essential information by making a pause. They are able to resist the temptation to immediately respond to the answer given. Instead, they use (in certain circumstances) the power of silence to encourage the other person to expand the response. And often times, silence can lead people to say much more than intended.
2. Mirror your partner (body language, tone and energy level)
Great communicators establish comfort and trust by meeting listeners on their level. To accomplish this, they subtly match their conversational partner’s language style, body language, facial expression, mood and energy level. By means of calibrating their tone and body language, proficient communicators are able to skillfully establish an evenly matched conversation. This does not only help to ease the dialogue partner, but it also builds the necessary fundament to accomplish the intended outcome.
Mirroring the partner’s body language and tone can also assist in easing arguments in challenging conversations.
3. Be a flexible listener
Listening often proves to be the trickiest part of a conversation. Not only do many people lack sufficient listening skills, but they also prefer a one-sided communication (meaning they seek to speak all the time). But also those who are good listeners often struggle with the difficulty of comprehending what is said and maintaining the conversation.
Skillful communicators are not just listening to the spoken words. They also carefully seek to read between the lines of what is spoken. Even more so, they pay great attention to subtle nuances of the conversation, such as the tone in which words are spoken and nonverbal indicators.
Listening attentively helps proficient communicators to identify the (hidden and) underlying motifs of a person. In many cases, to fully understand what a person is communicating, we need to carefully note how they transmit certain messages.
The skill of being a flexible listener also comes in handy, because it allows communicators to know the right time to address sensitive subjects and when to better avoid them.
4. Request feedback
The simple act of confirming the mutual understanding of the message is a powerful tool well-known to proficient communicators. It doesn’t take much time and effort to request feedback from the people you’ve spoken with. But time and time again, it can greatly help you to confirm that the message was delivered clearly. Good communicators also ask for confirmation in order to avoid misunderstandings and the resulting problems. This can easily be done by letting the listener summarize the intended course of actions.
Additionally to simply asking for confirmation, those who excel at communication also seek the input and feedback of their peers. Doing so allows them to get their listeners involved and makes them feel valued and heard.
5. Cultivate curiosity
There are many tried and tested communication techniques, but none of them are as simple and effective as the unique quality of being curious. By developing a natural interest in the people you communicate with, you’ll quickly build up mutual trust and respect. Not only this, but curiosity will also help you to better understand the motivations of other people. Something that is crucial when it comes to convincing others of your ideas.
The willingness to learn more about the people around you can also help you to form deep bonds with them. Even more importantly, it switches our focus from continuously trying to dominate a conversation back to actually listening. More on this point in the following:
6. Try to forget yourself (ego suspension)
The pattern of most conversations is surprisingly similar. We always have a certain amount of individuals who engage in exchanging information. While one person speaks, the others wait (more or less) patiently for the speaker to finish. Next, another person will step to the foreground and starts talking about something related. In most cases, the second person will attempt to portray a (more exciting) story of their own life. Therefore, many conversations consist of people switching from one subject to another, without ever getting into great detail. The self-centeredness of each speaker simply does not allow a harmonious conversation.
Excellent communicators are people who are able to resist the urge to follow this standardized pattern. Instead of trying to dominate the conversation, they encourage others to talk more about themselves and their story. They’re genuinely interested in all the details and everything that happened to the other person. In doing so, these communicators easy connect with others and quickly gain their trust.
These skillful communicators have understood that people have a natural tendency to tell their stories and they know how to effectively make use of it.
7. Stay positive
Another important communication technique lies in the maintenance of a positive attitude during conversations. A positive attitude sets the stage for productive conversations. Good communicators know that being constructive is crucial for every kind of conversation. They understand that harsh criticism or negativity only causes their counterpart to build up defenses. And when this happens, people shut down. It is therefore even more difficult to convey the intended message.
8. Communicate with enthusiasm
Enthusiasm truly is contagious. You can make use of it not only to communicate more effectively, but also to communicate in a more powerful and engaging manner.
“Knowledge is power and enthusiasm pulls the switch.”
Enthusiasm greatly aids powerful communication. Effective communication consists of using well-timed doses of enthusiasm to make the spoken message a lot more powerful. People are more likely to respond positively to enthusiastic speakers that are able to address their feelings.
9. Use the compelling power of humor
When used correctly, humor can be an effective tool in your communication arsenal. It can help you to quickly get your point across. But humor is even more powerful when it comes to lightening the mood. Proficient communicators are often in positions of leadership. With this also comes the responsibility to reprove subordinates occasionally. Especially in situations when leaders are confronted with hard-working and disciplined subordinates, humor can be effectively used to release the tension. It can be applied as a tool to skillfully communicate that the communicator is not angry about the subordinate, but has to address some critical issues.
Humor can also be used to effectively communicate negative messages without being offensive. This can be especially helpful in a person’s non-professional life, when they simply want to convey their discontent about something in a playful manner.
10. Make use of open-ended questions
In many situations, simply asking a question that can be easily answered with a ‘yes’ or ‘no’ is not enough. Especially when you’re confronted with introverts, open-ended questions are an important tool you can use. Asking open-ended questions communicates not only your interest in the person, but also encourages them to talk about themselves. In general, however, open-ended questions allow you to gain important insights about the person and their specific needs and dreams. This kind of information is crucial for communicators that want to effectively address their listeners. Otherwise they risk being at cross purposes.
11. Express your approval of others
People tend to respond very well to approval. Some even so much that they actively seek to get other people’s approval. Effective communication can also be established by opening other people for the conversation and lightning their mood by showing them approval. By telling your listeners in a subtle but forthright manner what you admire about them, you’ll be able to quickly connect with them. Giving other people approval in an honest fashion can be especially effective to win them over to your side.
12. Understand the importance of eye contact
Eye contact is an important aspect of one’s communication. Unfortunately, finding the right balance of eye contact during a conversation can be quite difficult. Skilled communicators are neither staring excessively nor do they avoid any kind of eye contact. Instead, they maintain a healthy balance. Especially when listening, they look their counterpart in the eyes (without staring) to communicate that they are attentively listening. But also when speaking, skillful communicators make sure that they keep the right amount of eye contact to maintain the attention of their listeners.
13. Eliminate filler words
Every once in a while, almost all of us involuntarily use certain filler words, such as:
- I mean
- you know
We especially use these kind of words when we’re nervous, for example when presenting in front of a large audience. In most cases, we simply use filler words to signal a thinking pause. The problem with these words is that they make us look incompetent. When it comes to effectively conveying your ideas to other people, competence and trustworthiness are essential. For this reason, try to avoid these words as best as you can.
14. Communicate openly and reveal things about yourself
Speaking to people who do not reveal anything about themselves can be a quite uncomfortable experience. This holds especially true when we get the feeling that our discussion partner only tries to spy on us.
Effective communication also consists of telling your own stories and revealing things about yourself. This does not have to mean that you have to talk about your innermost secrets. Happenings from your regular life are just fine. By revealing things about yourself and your personality, you can effectively connect with others and build a relationship.
15. Avoid information overload
Whenever we communicate, we almost always focus on conveying the message in a clear manner. Effective communication, however, also requires that the flood of information can be properly processed by the recipient. Confronting listeners with too much information at once can overwhelm them quickly. In these cases, you can deliver the message as clearly and precisely as you want, but it will never fully reach the listener. Effective communicators make sure that they do not stimulate their peers with too much information. Instead, they focus on exchanging information in a concise manner and keep it to the point. Additionally, by using questions they keep their listeners engaged and attentive.
16. Communicate that you’re on the same team
By using words such as ‘we’, ‘our’ and ‘us’ you can skillfully communicate to your listeners that you’re on the same side. Applying this communication technique can help you to subtly build a bond with your peers. Good communicators also use these words to convert others to their column and to establish a sense of belonging.
17. Be empathetic
Empathy is a crucial asset of skilled communicators. By developing a good understanding about the circumstances and difficulties of their counterparts, they can communicate the intended message in a more appropriate manner. Without this kind of emotional awareness, one would risk falling prey to various kinds of communication mistakes and traps.
Another important dimension of empathy lies in the communicator’s ability to estimate other people’s reaction to their communicated messages. Effective communicators skillfully adapt their message based on the personality of the person they’re speaking with. This can be especially important when they are dealing with a counterpart who is likely to get emotional.
18. Mention the other person’s name
Addressing your listener by name can prove to be an excellent communication technique. Doing so will communicate your attentiveness and the fact that you have taken the time to memorize their name. Besides stating their name, the way you pronounce the name can be equally important. Skillful communicators are capable of saying the name of their listener in a manner that conveys respect and appreciation. And in doing so, they are able to elicit positive feelings in the person they speak to. After all, the name of a person is an incredibly important and powerful word to them.
19. Speak as an equal rather than a superior
There’s nothing that makes people disregard your ideas than talking down to them. Efficient communicators focus on delivering the message, not their status. And even in situations when they are in a position of authority, they speak to others as an equal to increase their commitment and establish trust.
“Think like a wise man but communicate in the language of the people.”
William Butler Yeats
I hope you enjoyed this article on effective communication techniques. Oh, and if you did enjoy this article you might also like “11 Important Tricks to Give Constructive Criticism.”