No matter your age, background, or experience, effective communication is a skill you can learn.
With a little self-confidence and knowledge of the basics, you'll be able to get your point across.
Here's how to do it.
Creating The Right Environment For Communication
Choose the right time. As the cliché states, there is a time and a place for everything, and
communicating is no different.
o Avoid leaving discussions about heavy topics such as finances or weekly planning
until late evening. Few people will be thrilled to be faced with sorting out major
issues when they're at their most tired. Instead, leave heavy topics for mornings
and afternoons when people are alert, available, and more likely to be able to
respond with clarity.
An intimate conversation Choose the right place. If you need to tell someone something
that isn't going to be well received (such as news of a death or a breakup), don't do it in
public, around colleagues or near other people. Be respectful and mindful of the person
receiving the communication and communicate to them in a private place. This will also
enable you to provide space to open dialog with them about the communication, and helps
to ensure that the two-way process is occurring properly.
o If you are presenting to a group of people, be sure to check the acoustics
beforehand and practice projecting your voice clearly. Use a microphone if needed
to ensure that your audience can hear you.
Remove distractions. Turn off ALL electronics that could go off during the conversation.
If the phone rings, laugh it off the first time, then turn it off immediately and continue
talking. Do not allow external distractions to act as crutches that keep sidetracking your
concentration. They will distract both you and your listener, and effectively kill the
Organizing Your Communications
Organize and clarify ideas in your mind. This should be done before you attempt to
communicate these ideas. If you are feeling passionate about a topic, you may become
garbled if you haven't already thought of some key points to stick to when communicating
o A good rule of thumb is to choose three main points and keep your
communication focused on those. That way, if the topic wanders off course, you
will be able to return to one or more of these three key points without feeling
flustered. Writing these key points down (if it's appropriate) can also help.
Be clear. Make it clear what you're wishing to convey from the outset. For example, your
purpose could be to inform others, obtain information or initiate action. People need to
know in advance what you expect from your communication.
Stay on topic. Once you start addressing your three main points, make sure everything
you're saying adds to the conversation or debate. If you have already thought through the
issues and the essence of the ideas that you wish to put across, it is likely that some
pertinent phrases will stick in your mind. Do not be afraid to use these to underline your
points. Even very confident and well-known speakers reuse their key lines again and again
for major effect.
Thank your listener(s). Thank the person or group for the time taken to listen and
respond. No matter what the outcome of your communication, even if the response to your
talk or discussion has been negative, it is good manners to end it politely and with respect
for everyone's input and time.
Communicating Through Speech
Set the listener at ease. You want to do this before launching into your conversation or
presentation. It can help sometimes to begin with a favorite anecdote. This helps the
listener identify with you as someone like them.
Be articulate. It is important to speak clearly so that the message comes across in a way
that every listener can understand. Your words are remembered because people instantly
understand what it is that you are saying. It means uttering your words distinctly, preferring
simpler words over more complex ones and speaking at a level guaranteed to be heard, but
without coming across as too quiet or disengaged.
Avoid mumbling. Take special care to enunciate highlighted points you need to make in
order to avoid any kind of misunderstanding. If mumbling is a defensive habit that you
have fallen into out of fear of communicating, practice your message at home in front of
the mirror. Discuss what you want to communicate with those you feel comfortable around
first in order to better develop the message in your own mind. Both the practice and the
development of your words for the messaging will build your confidence.
Be attentive when listening and ensure that your facial expressions reflect your
interest.]] Listen actively. Communication is a two-way street. Remember that while you
are talking, you are not learning. In listening, you will be able to gauge how much of your
message is getting through to your listeners and whether or not it is being received
correctly. It can be helpful to ask listeners to rephrase some of what you have said in their
own words if they appear to be returning confused or mistaken views to you.
Be vocally interesting. A monotone is not pleasing to the ear. A good communicator will
use "vocal color" to enhance communication. Norma Michael recommends raising the
pitch and volume of your voice when you transition from one topic or point to another, and
to increase your volume and slow down your voice whenever you are raising a special
point or summing up.
She also recommends speaking briskly, but pausing to emphasize
keywords when you are requesting action.
Communicating Through Body Language
Recognize people. Sure, you don't necessarily know the people in your audience or that
new friend in your group, but they're nodding along with you and looking knowingly at
you all the same. This means that they are connecting with you. So reward them with your
Clarity of meaning can be expressed through your body language, too.|right]]Use
facial expressions consciously. Aim to reflect passion and generate empathy from the
listener by using soft, gentle, and aware facial expressions. Avoid negative facial
expressions, such as frowns or raised eyebrows. What is or isn't negative is dependent on
the context, including cultural context, so be guided by your situation.
o Be alert for unexpected behavior that suggests you're cross-culturally colliding,
such as a clenched fist, a slouched posture, or even silence.
If you don't know
the culture, ask questions about communication challenges before you start to
speak with people in their cultural context.
Communicate eye-to-eye. Eye contact establishes rapport, helps to convince people that
you're trustworthy, and displays interest. During a conversation or presentation, it is
important to look into the other person's eyes if possible and maintain contact for a
reasonable amount of time (but don't overdo it; just as much as feels natural, about 2-4
seconds at a time).
o Remember to take in all of your audience. If you're addressing a boardroom, look
every member of the board in the eye. Neglecting any single person can easily be
taken as a sign of offense and could lose you business, admission, success, or
whatever it is you are endeavoring to achieve.
o If you're addressing an audience, pause and make eye contact with a member of
audience for up to 2 seconds before breaking away and resuming your talk. This
helps to make individual members of the audience feel personally valued.
o Be aware that eye contact is culturally ordained. In some cultures it is considered
to be unsettling, or inappropriate. Ask or research in advance.
Use breathing and pauses to your advantage. There is power in pausing. Simon
Reynolds says that pausing causes an audience to lean in and listen. It helps you to
emphasize your points and allow the listener time to digest what has been said. It also helps
to make your communication come across as more compelling and it makes your speech
easier to listen to.
o Take deep breaths to steady yourself before you begin communicating.
o Get into the habit of solid, regular breathing during a conversation that will help
you to keep a steady, calm voice. It will also keep you more relaxed.
o Use pauses to take a breather in what you are saying.
How does this gesture come across?|right]]Use hand gestures carefully. Be conscious of
what your hands are saying as you speak. Some hand gestures can be very effective in
highlighting your points (open gestures), while others can be distracting or even offensive
to some listeners, and can lead to the conversation or listening being closed down (closed
gestures). It also helps to watch other people's hand gestures to see how they come across
Keep a check on other body language signals. Watch for wandering eyes, hands picking
at fluff on your clothing and constant sniffling. These small gestures add up and are all
guaranteed to dampen the effectiveness of your message.
Communicating Effectively In Conflict
Place yourself on even ground. Do not stand or hover over the other person. This creates
a power struggle and pushes the conflict to another level. If they are sitting, you should sit
Listen to the other party. Let them say how they feel. Wait until they are completely
finished talking before beginning to speak yourself.
Speak in a calm voice. Don't yell or make accusations at the other party. Let them know
you have heard their point and understand their side.
Don't try to finish the argument at all costs. If the person walks out of the room, do not
follow them. Allow them to do so and let them return when they are calmer and ready to
Don't try to get the last word in. Again, this could lead to a power struggle that may not
end. Sometimes, you have to agree to disagree and move on.
Use "I" messages. When you're phrasing your concerns, try to start your sentences with
"I...". This will make the other person more receptive to your complaints. For instance,
instead of saying "You're sloppy and it drives me crazy," try "I feel like messiness is a
problem in our relationship."
Sample Conversation Starters
Great Conversation Topic Examples
Sample List of Questions
This video shows you how to communicate effectively.
Don't ramble. This will lead to your message not being understood or taken seriously
Be careful with humor. While a little humor injected into what you are discussing can be
very effective, do not take it too far and do not rely on it as a crutch to cover up the hard-to-
say things. If you keep giggling and joking, your communication will not be taken
Do not whine or plead. Neither is guaranteed to instill respect or interest in the listener. If
you are very upset, excuse yourself and come back to the discussion later when you have
had a chance to think it through.
Look on the Internet for examples of great speakers in action. There are plenty of role
models instantly accessible through videos online. Treat them as your "personal
If you are giving a presentation to a group or audience, be prepared for difficult questions
so that you're not thrown off course and left feeling flustered. To remain in a position of
communicating effectively, Michael Brown recommends a golden rule for handling
difficult questions in the context of a group or audience. He suggests that you listen on
behalf of everyone present, including asking questions and repeating the issue. Share the
reply with everyone, which means moving your eyes off the questioner and onto all present
in order to have the whole group "wear the answer." Capitalize on this shared answer to
move on and change direction.