Human beings are social creatures, and all of our interactions involve communication on some level. Even if we are not speaking, we communicate with others through our clothes, the jewelry we wear, and even our posture and facial expressions. Linguists and other communication experts often break communication down into three components--verbal, paraverbal (how we say things), and nonverbal (posture and facial expressions). And effective communicators know how to use all three components in different contexts to get their messages across, whether it is a raised eyebrow or reinforcing a verbal messages with supporting paraverbal and nonverbal cues.
Active or Reflective Listening
Active or reflective listening is an important communication skill. The best communicators are good listeners who desire to understand what their interlocutors are saying so they make the effort to make psychological, intellectual and emotional connections. And that connection enables them to fully understand the meaning and intent of their interlocutors, and therefore be able to produce a more communicatively effective response.
Communication is a Two-Way Process
Always remember that communication is a two-way street. Trying to force your message down the throat of your interlocutor is almost always met with resistance, and is therefore not an effective communication technique. Understanding that communication is interactive by its very nature is an essential first step in becoming an effective communicator.
Be Concise in Your Verbal Communication
While it is natural to express yourself as fully as possible (share as much meaning as you can with your interlocutors), it is a well-known conundrum of the human condition that less is more when it comes to communication. Trying to communicate too much at once muddles the message, so try to make short, clear points in your communications. If you have to communicate a complex idea, start with the basics and gradually build the complexity one nuance at a time. It is much easier for the human psyche to grasp new ideas and complexities if they are grafted onto an existing intellectual framework.
Avoid Creating Barriers
Many different behaviors can act as barriers to communication. Simply not appearing receptive to another is a barrier. Whether this lack of receptivity is refusing eye contact, fidgeting or an accusing tone of voice, the effect is to create a barrier to communication. Be aware that we are all constantly communicating whether we realize it or not, and just being perceived as a pleasant and receptive interlocutor helps break down barriers.
Clayton Browne has been writing professionally since 1994. He has written and edited everything from science fiction to semiconductor patents to dissertations in linguistics, having worked for Holt, Rinehart & Winston, Steck-Vaughn and The Psychological Corp. Browne has a Master of Science in linguistic anthropology from the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee.