By Heather White,
Whether at work, at home or in a social capacity, the ability to communicate effectively is useful in any relationship. Communication difficulty occurs when thoughts, emotions and behaviors interfere with our ability to send and receive messages accurately. Through learning and practicing communication skills, you can increase your ability to communicate effectively with others. Effective communication supports mutual understanding, allows for open expression of thoughts and feelings, and facilitates problem solving.
Be an Active Listener
Active listening is an effective communication skill that increases understanding. As an active listener you must be willing to see things from the other person’s perspective and keep an open mind. Focus on the message that the other person is communicating by maintaining good eye contact to show that you are paying attention. In communication, it is important to remember that listening is just as important as speaking.
It is important to respect the thoughts and opinions of other people. Your message is more likely to be received clearly by others if you are polite and respectful. If you respond in a judgmental or critical manner, the other person is likely to become defensive.
Reflect and Summarize
Reflect back and summarize the main ideas of the message being communicated to you. This will validate the other person’s feelings and facilitate effective communication by showing that you are engaged in the conversation. For example, reflect “I hear that you are frustrated by the situation and are motivated to find a solution.” Be careful not to make assumptions by only reflecting back messages that were stated by the other person.
It is beneficial to ask questions related to the topic to gain useful information. Clarifying the message shows the other person that you are focused and want to increase your understanding. Try to keep questions open-ended so that the person responds with an explanation rather than just a “yes-or-no” answer.
Be Clear and Direct
When communicating your thoughts be clear and direct. Effective communication occurs when information is organized and logical. Make sure that you focus on the topic being discussed and avoid getting off track.
Use “I” Statements
Using “I” statements allows you to express how you are feeling without placing blame on the other person. By starting a sentence with “you” the statement is likely to be perceived by the other person as accusatory. An effective communication article published by the University of Maine gives the example “you are not listening to me” and replaces it with “I don’t feel heard.” Communication skills such as using “I” statements show that the speaker is taking responsibility for her thoughts and emotions.
In addition to sharing information, effective communication is also useful in problem solving. Once a problem has been identified, you can collaborate with another person or group to come up with potential solutions. It is important that you seek to compromise and choose a mutually agreeable solution to solve the problem successfully.