Every social and business interaction revolves around communication, whether you are involved in a discussion with your partner or conversing with your boss at work. Effective communication is a way of expressing one’s needs and desires without the use of manipulation or lying; it consists of both verbal and nonverbal forms of communication.
Say What You Mean
When you’re speaking with someone, whether in a relationship or in a business situation, be clear when communicating your needs, emotions and opinions. By speaking in a clear, coherent and empathic manner, you’ll help others relate to you better and facilitate the development of feelings of openness and intimacy. Be specific when you are speaking, and don’t assume others can read your mind. Relationship therapist Harville Hendrix’s theory of a “conscious marriage,” in which one of the top 10 characteristics is “taking responsibility for communicating your needs and desires to your partner,” is also applicable to family relationships and friendships, as well as in business settings. Even if you’re in a conversation with someone close to you, speak as clearly and precisely as you can, especially if you are talking about an important or delicate topic.
Learn to Be an Active Listener
When many people are involved in a conversation, they do not listen to what the other person is saying. Instead, they are usually thinking about what they are going to say next. Psychologist John Buri points out in Psychology Today that many people forget that communication involves both listening and speaking. The next time you are involved in a conversation, make a conscious effort to truly listen to what is being said. Techniques such as mirroring and reflective listening, in which you reflect back to another person what she has just said using clarifying statements, such as “If I am hearing you correctly, what you are saying is…,” are useful in avoiding miscommunication and show that you have genuine interest in the other person.
Become Attuned to Body Language
Being consciously attuned to another person’s body language during a conversation shows not only that you are on the same level, but that you are truly interested in what is being said. Likewise, you can often tell what kind of mood someone is in based on body language. If you are in a discussion with your spouse, for example, and she suddenly crosses her arms or legs, she is responding in a defensive or self-protective manner. Perhaps this can alert you to something you’ve said or can provide you with an opportunity to clarify a misperception. Similarly, subconscious actions such as leaning away from someone or looking around the room can be indications of disinterest. Learning to read body language can be a helpful skill in improving communication.