People are “social” beings in the sense that we spend most of our lives with other people. Therefore, it is important to learn to get along with others and to function properly in social situations. Certain communication skills help us to improve interpersonal relationships. Communication is the act by which a person establishes with another a contact that allows him to transmit information.
That’s why it’s important to learn to communicate optimally, positively, and clearly. In this article, we are going to discover the best techniques for effective communication that will help you to establish much more positive and error-free bridges of understanding.
6 elements for effective communication
Effective communication between two people is produced when the receiver interprets the message in the sense intended by the sender.
- Sender: the person (or persons) who issues a message;
- Receiver: the person (or persons) who receives the message;
- Message: the content of the information sent;
- Channel: means by which the message is sent;
- Code: signals and rules used to send the message;
- Context: the situation in which communication takes place.
Types of communication: verbal and non-verbal
The forms of human communication can be grouped into two broad categories: verbal communication and non-verbal communication:
- Verbal communication refers to the words we use and the inflections of our voice (tones of voice).
- Non-verbal communication refers to a large number of channels, among which the most important are eye contact, facial gestures, arm and hand movements, or posture and body distance.
- Words (what we say);
- Tone of our voice.
Non verbal comunication:
- Visual contact
- Facial expression (facial gestures)
- Arm and hand movements
- Posture and body distance
Despite the importance, we normally place on verbal communication, between 65% and 80% of our total communication with others is through non-verbal channels. To communicate effectively, verbal and non-verbal messages must coincide. Many communication difficulties occur when our words contradict our non-verbal behavior. Example:
- A son gives his father a birthday present and the father, with a disappointed expression, says, “Thanks, that’s exactly what I wanted.”
- One boy meets his best friend on the street and, as he greets him, the other returns the greeting with a cold, dry “hello” and looks away.
Effective and effective communication techniques: active listening
But let’s get down to business and find out what are the techniques for effective communication. We all know and could theoretically cite the basic principles to achieve correct communication, but, perhaps because it seems simple, we often forget about them. Some of the strategies we can employ are as simple as the following.
One of the most important and difficult principles of the entire communicative process is knowing how to listen. The lack of communication that we suffer today is largely due to not knowing how to listen to others. We are more concerned with our own emissions, and in this very need to communicate, the essence of communication, that is, of sharing with others, is lost.
There is the mistaken belief that one hears automatically, but this is not so. Listening requires a greater effort than what you do when talking and also what you do when listening without interpreting what you hear. But what is active listening really?
Active listening means listening and understanding communication from the speaker’s point of view. What is the difference between hearing and listening? There are big differences. Hearing is simply perceiving sound vibrations. While listening is to understand, understand or give meaning to what is heard. Effective listening must necessarily be active and not passive.
Active listening refers to the ability to listen not only to what the person is expressing directly, but also to the feelings, ideas, or thoughts behind what is being said. In order to understand someone, it is also necessary to have some empathy, that is, to know how to put yourself in the other person’s shoes.
Elements that facilitate active listening
- Psychological disposition: prepare yourself internally to listen. Observe the other: identify the content of what he says, goals and feelings.
- Expressing to the other that you are listening to him/her with verbal (I understand, uhm, uh, etc.) and non-verbal communication (eye contact, gestures, leaning of the body, etc.).
Elements to avoid in active listening
- Don’t get distracted, because getting distracted is easy at certain times. The attention curve starts at a very high point, decreases as the message continues, and increases again at the end of the message. Try to combat this tendency by making a special effort towards the middle of the message so that our attention does not diminish.
- Do not interrupt the speaker.
Do not judge.
- Do not offer premature help or solutions.
- Don’t dismiss what the other person is feeling, for example, “don’t worry, it’s nothing”.
- Don’t tell “your story” when the other needs to talk to you.
- Don’t argue with him. For example, the other says “I feel bad” and you respond “and so do I”.
- Avoid the “expert syndrome”: you already have the answers to the other person’s problem before they even tell you the rest.
Active listening skills
As we saw earlier, active listening is an essential pillar to be able to correctly develop our communication skills. It is defined as the ability to understand at all levels what we are being told.
Communication techniques: elements of active listening
- Show empathy: Actively listening to others’ emotions is trying to “be in their shoes” and understand their motives. It’s listening to their feelings and letting them know that we “take care”, trying to understand what that person feels. It’s not about showing joy, it’s about being nice. We are simply able to put ourselves in his shoes. However, it does not mean accepting or agreeing with the position of the other. To demonstrate this attitude, we will use phrases such as: “I understand what you feel”, “I perceive that…”.
- Paraphrasing: this concept means verifying or saying in one’s own words what it seems the sender has just said. It is very important in the listening process, as it helps to understand what the other is saying and allows you to verify that you are really understanding and not misinterpreting what is being said. An example of paraphrasing might be: “So, I think what happened was…”, “Do you mean you felt…?”.
- Emitting words of reinforcement or praise: can be defined as verbalizations that flatter the other person or reinforce their speech by conveying that someone approves, agrees, or understands what they have just said. Some examples of this communication technique would be: “This is so much fun”; “I love talking to you” or “You must be really good at tennis.” Other types of less direct phrases also serve to convey interest in the conversation: “Fine,” “umm,” or “Fine!”
- Summarize: Through this communication skill, we let the other person know our degree of understanding or the need for further clarification.
Communication skills and their techniques
But in addition to active listening, there are other techniques for effective communication. Here, we discover some examples and communication skills that will help you achieve good listening and understanding.
Effective communication techniques: skills
- Avoid labels: when criticizing the other person, talk about what they do, not what they are. Labels do not help a person to change, but they reinforce their defenses. To speak of what a person is would be: “you forgot to take out the trash again. You are a disaster”; while talking about what you do would be: “you forgot to take out the trash again. Lately you’ve been forgetting a lot of things”.
- Discuss the issues one at a time, not “take advantage” of what is being discussed, for example about the spouse’s unpunctuality, to blame him in passing for being absent, forgetful, and not affectionate.
Do not accumulate negative emotions without communicating them, as they will produce an outburst that leads to destructive hostility.
- Not talking about the past: remembering old advantages, or bringing up the “dirty laundry” of the past, not only brings nothing useful but also arouses bad feelings. The past should only be brought to the surface in a constructive way, to use it as a model when it has been good and we are trying to reconstitute positive behaviors, perhaps a little forgotten. But of course, the past cannot be changed; therefore, it is necessary to direct energies to the present and the future.
- Be specific: being specific, concrete, precise, is one of the techniques for effective communication. After a specific communication, there are changes; it is a concrete way forward. When you are unspecific, you rarely mobilize anything. If, for example, we feel lonely and want more time to spend with our spouse, don’t just say something like, “You ignore me,” “I feel lonely,” “You’re always busy.” Although such a formulation expresses a feeling, if we do not make a specific proposal, things will probably not change. It would be appropriate to add something else. For example: “What do you think if we both commit to dropping everything we have at 9 pm so we can have dinner together and talk?”
- Avoid generalizations: the terms “always” and “never” are rarely true and tend to form labels. It’s different to say, “I’ve seen you a little absent lately” than “you’re always on cloud nine”. To be fair and honest, to reach agreements, to produce changes, expressions like: “Most of the time”, “Sometimes”, “Sometimes”, “Often” are more effective. They are forms of expression that allow the other to feel properly valued.
- Be brief: repeating the same thing several times with different words, or prolonging the approach excessively, is not pleasant for the listener. It produces the feeling of being treated like someone with low light or like a child. In any case, you run the risk of being shunned as a nuisance when you start talking. It is necessary to remember that: “The good, if brief, is twice as good”.
The importance of non-verbal communication
To take care of non-verbal communication, we will consider the following:
- Non-verbal communication must go hand in hand with verbal communication. Saying “you know I love you” with an angry face will make the other person worse off than saying nothing at all.
- Eye contact: This is the percentage of time you look into the other person’s eyes. Eye contact should be frequent, but not exaggerated.
- Affect: This is the appropriate emotional tone for the situation in which you are interacting. It is based on indices such as tone of voice, facial expression, and voice volume (neither too high nor too low).
Choose the right place and time
Sometimes a good communicative style, a coherent model, or adequate content can be ruined if we don’t choose the right moment to convey it or to establish a relationship. It is important to take care of some aspects that refer to the moment when you want to establish communication:
- The atmosphere: the place, the noise that exists, the level of intimacy…
- If we are going to criticize or ask for explanations, we must wait to be alone with our interlocutor.
- If we are going to praise him, it will be good for him to be with his group or other important people.
- If an argument has started and we see that it is getting out of hand or that it is not the appropriate time, we will use phrases such as: “if you don’t mind, we can continue to discuss this at… later”.
This article is merely informative, we do not have the ability to make a diagnosis or indicate a treatment. We recommend that you consult a psychologist so that he can advise you on your particular case.
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