12 Simple But Effective Communication Techniques And Strategies
Do you struggle to communicate effectively with others — either verbally or in writing? Maybe you're in need of some effective communication techniques.
Your words come out easily enough, but the actual consequences of those words are far from what you intended. What went wrong? And how do you avoid those mistakes the next time you talk to someone?
Communication sounds so easy. Words come out of your mouth. Someone hears them and reacts with more words, and boom: you’ve had a conversation.
You’re not giving yourself a medal or anything for that. It just happened. You exchanged words. But how much of your intended meaning went with them?
Maybe one of these word exchanges didn’t go as well as you’d hoped — either because one (or both) of you didn’t understand the other’s message or because something else got in the way.
So, how do you make sure to communicate your meaning more effectively next time?
What types of communication techniques do you need to learn to make your next conversation more fruitful and enjoyable?
What is Effective Communication?
For communication to be effective, both parties need to clearly understand the other’s meaning.
Each participant to the conversation needs also to communicate meaning with clarity — both with words and nonverbal cues — so that the other person will understand it. This is impossible when the words convey one meaning, while nonverbal cues convey another, sometimes contrary message.
Strategies for effective communication take into account all meaningful contributions to it. Everything that communicates something needs to reinforce the central message.
Three Types of Communication
An effective communicator consciously develops fluency in all three types of communication:
- Verbal — using the spoken word (face to face or over the phone)
- Nonverbal – using body language and facial expressions
- Written — using the written word
12 Effective Communication Techniques and Strategies
The presence or absence of a smile isn’t the only thing that matters here.
While a genuine smile can immediately convey warmth and openness, another smile might communicate arrogance and contempt.
Smiles that don’t reach the eyes look either forced (to be polite) or manipulative. A genuine smile is felt as well as seen, and so is a fake one.
To communicate effectively, it’s important that you respect the other person enough to be real with him or her. If they detect falsity in your smile, that lie speaks louder than anything that comes out of your mouth.
If you want to earn the other’s trust, better not to smile than to lie with one.
2. Ask Questions
To better understand the other’s thoughts and their meaning, ask questions — either to learn something new about that person or to clarify something the other has said.
Closed-ended questions are those that can be answered with a simple yes or no. Think of the questions asked in a courtroom: “Is it true that…?” We ask these to get the information we need quickly and with minimal word padding.
Open-ended questions are those the other person can’t answer with a simple yes or no. Answers to these questions take longer and provide more detailed information.
We ask questions out of curiosity and to engage the other person. We also ask to keep a conversation going and to give us another opportunity to pick up on both verbal and nonverbal cues — which leads us to the next communication technique.
Effective communicators practice active listening: they attend to everything the other is saying and doing during the conversation.
They pay close attention to how the other person is saying the words and what the other’s body language might also be saying.
They do this so they can then respond in a way that shows they understand what the person is saying or that shows the desire to understand it more fully.
How better to learn effective communication skills than to observe skillful communicators and note how they succeed in conveying their message?
If you can place yourself near a group of people engrossed in a conversation, pay attention to what they say and do that conveys meaning and strengthens their connection with the others.
Learn from the best of them the tactics they use to communicate effectively. And practice using those tactics yourself.
5. Give (and Receive) Feedback
Respond in a way that shows the speaker that you’ve been listening and that you understand what they’re saying — whether you agree or not.
Your feedback should tell them you take their words seriously and consider them worthy of a thoughtful answer.
It works both ways, too. It’s just as important to thoughtfully consider the feedback from others and ask direct questions to ensure you understand their message.
Once you decide to take something personally (whether it’s intended to be taken so or not), you stop listening, and communication becomes more difficult.
If necessary — and if possible — walk away and take a moment to breathe and recollect yourself. Better to do this than to vent your anxiety and frustration on others.
If you’re in danger of losing your temper or falling apart emotionally, it’s best to remove yourself from the situation and give yourself (and others) the time to recover.
This is just as important when communicating online with someone whose words have offended you. And it’s generally easier to step away from the computer than to leave a stage or escape from a crowded room.
Give yourself and the other parties to a heated conversation a chance to step away from the conflict. If they don’t return the favor, it’s probably best to delete whatever they write in your absence without reading it.
In some cases, depending on whom you’re talking to, it’s perfectly all right to tell them what you’re feeling and to ask their patience as you take a deep breath and calm yourself.
To empathize, you need to be aware of the other’s emotions — most likely from their body language and your own sensitivity to nonverbal cues — and to feel those emotions as if they were your own.
When they’re happy and excited, so are you; if they’re grieving (silently or otherwise), you grieve with them.
If they’re angry about something, your genuine empathy can help them feel less alone and defensive, making it easier for you both to understand and appreciate each other’s meaning.
Empathy doesn’t always involve a conscious awareness of those nonverbal cues. Just because you can’t identify the exact cues and what they mean, it doesn’t follow that you’re not able to empathize with them.
If you’re an empath, you might feel what the other person feels before you can even begin to explain how you picked that up.
Whether you want to specifically develop your written communication skills, or you’re interested in learning from books written by effective communicators, reading is a powerful way to cultivate your skills in this area.
Reading is also a good way to stay informed and to learn interesting news and facts that you can then work into a conversation.
Related: Do You Think Before You Speak?
Whatever your immediate goal, good reading is a potent catalyst for personal growth.
9. Choose Your Words Carefully
Your choice of words can convey empathy and solidarity or the lack of both.
Never underestimate the power of word choice in communication; one word, used in a particular context, can trigger a response that is the opposite of what you intended.12 Simple But Effective Communication Techniques And Strategies. Click To Tweet
The words you use to describe yourself and others can either foster a sense of fellow-feeling and camaraderie (“we,” “us”) or alienate others with a focus on yourself as one set apart from the rest of them (“I,” “me”).
In some situations, it makes sense to do the latter – particularly when you’re accepting responsibility for something.
10. Show Interest
Let your verbal and nonverbal (or written) communication convey an interest in the other’s words.
Active listening is part of this, but you also convey interest with your body language, with a comfortable degree of eye contact, and with relevant, thoughtful questions.
People want to be around those who share their enthusiasm for something. Showing positive interest in something that matters to someone else is essential to building a connection with them, and that connection makes effective communication between you more likely.
Your positive engagement creates an environment where every message you send has its own ambassador.
None of this guarantees you’ll get everything you want, but if your main intention when entering into a conversation is to get something from the other person, you’re not likely to make a convincing show of genuine interest in the other person’s concerns.
Make the connection and effective communication the primary goal rather than the means to something else.
11. Keep Your Sense of Humor
Humor can defuse a volatile situation and give the other person the space needed to see the situation from another perspective and to calm down.
Laughter isn’t always appropriate, though. And it’s never appropriate to use humor as a weapon to dehumanize others or to dismiss their words.
Humor is best used as a way to build (and maintain) rapport or to lighten the mood and encourage others to relax. Read the room, though. If it’s not a good time for laughter, avoid it. And leave the dirty jokes in the sewer (where they belong).
12. Remember the Golden Rule
And now, we come full circle. We already discussed your smile (or lack of it) and how others can often pick up from that whether you’re being honest with them. If you want honesty from others, you need to be upfront with them, too.
So, be authentic. And be kind. Treat others with the same respect you want for yourself.
Good communicators know the value of a real connection to the communication of their message. It’s the magic wormhole that speeds the transfer of ideas from one head to another.
Communicate for the good of others as well as for yourself. Communicate in the other’s love language to build or improve a relationship. Communicate great ideas to make the world better for more people.
Effective communication should be about building trust and strengthening relationships. Yes, sometimes, it’s about less elevated things like haggling over fish and buying movie tickets. And that’s okay. Even mundane conversations can build connections.
If you apply the strategies in this article, not only will you communicate your ideas and convictions more effectively, but you’ll also know how to help others do the same.
It’s all in a day’s work for an effective communicator.
To be an effective communicator, you need to do more than read good strategies — you must implement them. Like all skills, good communication requires practice and time.
But you can accelerate your skills by looking for opportunities to practice them. You don't have to wait for the perfect scenario at work or a social gathering. You have plenty of opportunities in everyday life.
- Practice active listening with your spouse.
- Show real interest in what your child is saying rather than multitasking.
- Seek to empathize when your friend is complaining.
- Ask your restaurant server a question to engage him or her.
Use the most ordinary interactions as your training ground to practice these new techniques so that when you really need them, they'll come more naturally.
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We hope the words in this article will help you in all your relationships, particularly the most important ones.
And may your creativity and thoughtfulness influence everything else you do today.