How To Communicate Effectively In Any Situation
Effective communication is the key to building better relationships.
Your professional and personal relationships with others rely on your ability to express yourself so you’re understood. Developing the skill of active listening allows you to understand others too.
Clear communication will help you avoid misunderstandings, deepen existing connections, and attract more opportunities to you.
Today I want to share with you what effective communication is, its benefits, and valuable tips on how to communicate effectively in any situation.
What Is Effective Communication?
Effective communication happens when both the sender and receiver of a message feel satisfied and the message itself has been conveyed and received as intended.
Communication always involves a sender and receiver, and often both parties play both roles, like in a conversation.
When you communicate with another person, this is what happens:
- You send a message in the form of words, body language, facial expressions, pictures, or sounds.
- The message is then received by another person who interprets them in their own mind based on their own thoughts, feelings, and so on.
- In most cases, to continue the communication, the other person formulates a response and sends the response back. If your message is in the form of a book you wrote or a piece of artwork you created, the person will not likely respond back. But usually, communication is a two-way street of back-and-forth sharing of language or nonverbal communication.
- You then receive their response and translate that into meaning and significance.
- To continue the communication, you send back your response.
- This pattern continues until the conversation has come to a close.
Effective communication starts with being clear in your own mind about what you want to convey.
Then, be clear when you deliver the message, and make sure the other person hears and understands the message you sent. Practice active listening and effective communication skills as you continue to converse.
How to Express Yourself Effectively
Effective communicators are clear and concise about what they want to say, write, or convey.
They care about the person they are communicating with in that they not only want to be understood but want to understand the other person too. Good communicators are confident and courteous and give correct information.
My favorite word in communication is clarity.
Many problems in life come because of a lack of clarity. We hear things but may not get all of the information or pay attention, so we do not fully understand the topic. We also say things but they may not come out clearly.
To be clear, stop and think, and then proceed slowly.
Another great way to improve communication is to rephrase or repeat something when it is clear the person you are speaking to didn’t get the message.
I speak French, German, and Spanish, and I’m busy working on learning Russian and Chinese. One of the things I’ve learned is if you say something in your limited language and someone doesn’t seem to understand it, rephrase it and say it again.
If they still don’t understand, rephrase it, say it again, and use nonverbal communication until that person says, “Ha! Now I understand.”
Ways People Communicate
Communication takes on many forms. You communicate informally when you chat with friends or close family members, but you communicate more formally when you are in a job interview, speaking to a large audience, or writing for an international journal of academia.
You communicate online and in person. A blog post is a form of communication as is a book, poem, painting, sculpture, and social media post. A conversation between two people is communication as is a group meeting at work.
When you are exchanging your thoughts, knowledge, opinion, or feelings with others, you are communicating.
Verbal communication involves talking out loud with another person or multiple people. You can communicate verbally face to face or even when you cannot see the person, such as over the phone or across the house.
Face-to-face conversations can even happen when you are on different sides of the planet than the person you are speaking to, such as in a FaceTime call or Zoom meeting. As long as you’re using the spoken word, you’re communicating verbally.
Good verbal communication skills rely on the language you choose and how well you pronounce and enunciate your words.
You will, of course, want to communicate in a language the listener understands and speak clearly so there is less chance of misunderstandings.
When you’re speaking, clear communication is also influenced by your tone of voice, how quickly or slowly you speak, and the pitch of your voice. Good communicators vary these qualities when speaking to provide emphasis, create atmosphere, or encourage a response.
For example, when you ask a question, the pitch of your voice rises at the end of the sentence. Your voice might get louder when expressing surprise or excitement but quieter when you’re speaking about a sensitive topic.
Your listener will know the difference between an angry tone and a calm or supportive one. And you may speak quickly and concisely in an emergency situation, but more slowly when teaching someone step-by-step instructions.
Instead of using words, nonverbal communication involves using body language, facial expressions, nonverbal signals, hand gestures, and other cues to get a message across without using the spoken or written word.
Nonverbal communication almost always accompanies verbal communication.
For example, it would be difficult to talk about your new raise without having a smile on your face that accentuates your happiness. When giving someone directions, communicating effectively includes pointing and using other hand gestures.
Eye contact is an important element of effective communication. When you maintain eye contact with someone you’re having a conversation with, you let them know you are interested in what they’re saying. You’re engaged and present instead of distracted.
Evading eye contact is often perceived as having something to hide, not being honest, or being uninterested in the conversation or the person you are talking to.
Other forms of nonverbal communication include your posture and how you hold your head, sit, stand, and walk. You also communicate through how much personal space you are comfortable with. And you communicate with others through a gentle touch on the arm or shoulder versus a shove, tap, or tug.
Written communication includes just that: anything that is written down with words, numbers, or other symbols that have meaning.
It includes writing a letter, an email, a text, a quick note, social media comments, your first novel, a billboard, a report for work, blog posts and other articles, and many other forms of the written word.
Good spelling, grammar, and sentence structure are important skills to have when you want to communicate effectively in written form.
When writing, an effective communicator does not rely on tone since it can be misinterpreted. For example, something that may come across as funny to one person may seem sarcastic, confusing, or inappropriate to other people.
Using words and phrases that are concise and to the point will enhance communication as well as giving detailed examples to back up what you have said to avoid misunderstandings.
While emojis and excessive exclamation points may help convey your point in an informal text message, take care to let your words do the talking in other types of written communication and avoid these aids.
This type of communication involves images, like the emojis I mentioned that we use in texts or social media posts. Memes, photos, videos, drawings, and illustrations are other types of visual communication.
A slide presentation is a good communication tool for a seminar or meeting. Diagrams, charts, and graphs can help simplify data by arranging it in picture form.
A physical model of an architect’s new building design or a drawing of the way you would like to rearrange the office space can greatly improve communication of a concept that is more complicated to talk or write about.
While we often think of effective communication as involving two people or a group of people talking to each other, mass communication goes a step further.
This involves communicating with a large group of people and perhaps even an audience you never see.
When you write a book, for example, you are creating it for a large audience that you hope will grow and grow. Conducting a webinar or speaking publicly in an arena are two more types of mass communication. Additional channels include television, radio, and social media.
Good communication in these environments requires identifying who your target audience is — or the people you want to reach — and understanding what is important to them and will be most helpful to them.
Common types of group communication include meetings and discussion groups. In group communication, a conversation is happening within a group of coworkers, family members, friends, or strangers on the street, for example.
Eye contact and other nonverbal cues can be very important in these situations when several people may be talking at one time or the conversation is moving quickly from one person to the next.
Group communication can take place over digital means as well, such as conference calls, Slack discussions, group emails, and company-wide memos. Clear communication involves giving everyone a chance to speak, listening to others, striving to be helpful, and expressing yourself clearly.
Listening is an essential component of effective communication. Being a good listener is just as important as being able to express yourself and can make a big difference in building both personal and professional relationships.
By listening to the person you are talking with — or reading their response to your email, text, or comment — you become aware of what is important to them.
This is essential in a negotiation, problem-solving session, settling of a disagreement, or any other moment when the feelings and ideas of both parties are involved.
Through listening, you are also able to assess if you are being understood or if you need to further clarify your points.
How to Be a Good Listener
Being a good listener is more than just hearing what the other person is saying. It is actively listening to their words as well as paying attention to their feelings and emotions, watching their body language, and patiently waiting until it is your turn to speak.
When you genuinely care about the other person and the outcome of the communication, active listening comes more naturally. Here are some additional tips to enhance your listening communication skills and practice active listening.
Be present and focus on what the other person is saying and the nonverbal signals they are sharing. Minimize external distractions by finding a setting conducive to a positive conversation.
Quiet internal distractions, such as thinking about other things or what you are going to say next. Sometimes the most important aspect of good communication is to listen and let the speaker be heard.
Your ability to refrain from interrupting the person will help them feel you care about what they are saying and that their thoughts and feelings are valid. It allows the speaker to finish their point before you can make or express judgments as well.
When they feel heard, they will be less likely to interrupt you as well, so the process of communicating can be balanced and a resolution reached.
Be aware of your nonverbal signals too. If your mind has wandered or the speaker thinks you are growing impatient, you will interrupt their thoughts and they may shut down.
Maintain Eye Contact
Maintaining eye contact is key to active listening. It shows that you are interested and engaged. Avoid checking your watch or your phone as this sends a clear signal you are not fully invested in the talk.
Offer nonverbal cues to show you are listening, such as nodding your head or saying “yes,” “uh huh,” or “tell me more.” To ensure you are understanding correctly, occasionally summarize what they have said in your own words and ask if you are correct.
Have Open Body Language
Let your body language express your interest in the conversation. Open body language includes facing the person directly, having your torso and feet turned toward them, and maintaining eye contact.
Keep your arms at your sides instead of crossing them over your chest. Try to maintain a calm and relaxed demeanor, which can help keep the speaker calm. Monitor your emotions so that you can minimize your reactions should you start to become frustrated, angry, impatient, or have other distracting emotions.
Ask Clarifying Questions
If you do not understand, ask. You might say, “I want to make sure I’m understanding correctly, what did you mean when you said…” Or you could ask for an example or more details. When you ask questions, you facilitate understanding as well as show you are listening.
Barriers to Communication
The process of effective communication can suffer from a variety of roadblocks that can interfere with your personal and professional relationships with others.
Poor communication in the workplace can lead to failed projects and lost revenue, while poor communication in your personal life can lead to failed or faltering relationships.
Avoid these unnecessary losses by recognizing and overcoming barriers to communication, such as cultural and language differences and noise.
Noise can be physical noise like trucks, a TV, people talking, mechanics, and so on, but it can also be internal noise.
One or both of you could be hungry or distracted. It can be emotional noise. The person could be unhappy or excited. One of you could have noise influencing you that causes you to interpret what the other is saying in a different way. Mental health issues can impede one’s ability to listen and develop a healthy relationship.
Closed body language can indicate you are not listening and bring communication to a halt. Unhealthy communication habits, such as arguing, blaming, trying to avoid conflict instead of resolving it, and having negative thoughts impede effective communication.
Communication requires sending a message and having it received. It is checked and sent back. That is then received and checked as well. It’s better to be sure at every stage of the transaction that people are sending and receiving with clarity and without barriers.
Effective Online Communication Skills
Communicating online is the norm in business and in every aspect of our lives. We make business transactions over video calls, make sales contacts via email, promote our services and products on websites, podcasts, and social media, and send over 18 billion texts across the world every day.
Online communication has the aspect of anonymity in many cases and the ability to “hide” behind a screen in many situations. It is essential to be aware that another human being is on the other side of your keyboard and focus on building relationships and communicating effectively.
Bear in mind that most information you offer online is permanent, so you want it to be a complementary representation of yourself and avoid embarrassing or unfortunate situations.
Follow these tips to develop skills that lead to effective communication with others online.
The Golden Rule of relationships applies to online communication as equally as it does to in-person contact. Treat others with respect when you are composing an email reply to a frustrated customer or a confrontational colleague. Be mindful of how your responses, facial expressions, and body language come across in video conferences.
Really Listen to Others
Pay attention to nonverbal signals others give during an online meeting. If they appear bored, confused, or uncomfortable, ask questions or engage them in conversation to set them at ease.
Listen to written responses by their choice of words, how long or short their response is, and the tone that is being conveyed. Focus on responding in ways that will build a relationship, resolve conflicts, and prevent misunderstandings.
Proofread Written Communication
Typos give an unprofessional and unpolished impression and can lead to confusion. Develop the skill of taking the time to read what you have written before pressing “send” to give the right impression. Read what you have composed as if you are the recipient and make sure it conveys what you intended.
Provide Complete Information
If someone has asked multiple questions, answer all of them instead of avoiding those you do not want to address. Provide enough information to give the recipient what they need to make a decision or fill a need.
Use clear and direct language. If you need to write a long email, text, or comment, organize it into short paragraphs so that it is not visually overwhelming. A long online meeting can be fatiguing, so keep your presentations as brief as you can, following up with written communication when possible.
Develop Emotional Awareness
Effective communication requires being in tune with your feelings and others’ feelings. This is called emotional awareness or emotional intelligence. It is a key component of being able to understand others and yourself so you can build healthy, meaningful, and productive relationships.
When you are communicating with someone, consider the feelings they may be having at the moment. Often, someone’s emotions will affect how well they can concentrate on what you are saying and how they react.
If someone is struggling with a personal problem, they may be short with you, for example, regardless of how well you are expressing yourself.
Use empathy to build trust and correct misunderstandings. When you are empathetic, you are able to understand someone’s emotions and relate to what they are feeling or experiencing.
This leads to compassion, which will lower stress levels and give you the opportunity to provide encouragement, help solve a problem, or build trust.
Stay in touch with your own emotions as well. Gain a deeper understanding of the things that trigger your emotions so that you can better control your reactions. While it is normal to feel defensive or stressed when a supervisor confronts you with an issue, how you react to your feelings is under your control.
Practice mindfulness and being calm. Develop the skill of thinking before you speak or react to give yourself time to reflect.
Avoid making decisions when you are emotionally charged. Even positive emotions like excitement and excessive happiness can cause you to agree to things you might otherwise not agree to.
Recognize misunderstandings and seek to solve them with open and honest dialogue. Be aware of facial expressions like a frown, smile, furrowed brow, or rolling eyes that can indicate how someone is feeling. Ask them questions that can help them verbalize their feelings to clear the air.
How to Communicate in Difficult Situations
Sometimes you may have to deliver unpleasant news or deal with a difficult situation with someone or a group of people. The way you choose to use your speech, body language, and nonverbal cues can help diffuse tense situations and strong emotions.
facial expressions, mental health,
When emotions are high, remember to listen, observe, and wait to speak. Give eye contact to show you are invested in the conversation and use a calm voice ease tension. To calm your own nerves, take a few deep breaths and gather your thoughts.
In life-threatening situations or emergencies, be direct and calm. Take charge by giving clear, concise directions with a confident, composed voice. Showing that you are reliable and reassuring will help others to be calm and make good decisions.
In grief situations, your actions and silence can be more effective than what you say. Sometimes just sitting next to someone, touching their arm, holding their hand, or putting your arm around them while you listen is exactly what they need.
If you find yourself in a heated discussion, agree to put it on hold and come back to it when emotions have cooled down. Good decisions are rarely made in the heat of the moment. If someone needs to walk away, allow them to. They will be calmer when they return and you will both be able to converse more effectively.
Don’t underestimate the value of humor in diffusing a difficult situation as well. When appropriate, levity can take the stress out of the moment, help you connect with each other, and focus on solutions instead of the problem.
Develop Effective Communication Skills
As an effective communicator, you can build outstanding professional and personal relationships and attract more life-changing opportunities to yourself and your organization.
To help you apply these tips for success, download my free guide to Getting Your Ideas Across.
It will help you influence others positively and improve communication in even the most stressful situations.
About Brian Tracy — Brian is recognized as the top sales training and personal success authority in the world today. He has authored more than 60 books and has produced more than 500 audio and video learning programs on sales, management, business success and personal development, including worldwide bestseller The Psychology of Achievement. Brian's goal is to help you achieve your personal and business goals faster and easier than you ever imagined. You can follow him on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest, Linkedin and Youtube.