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Communication Skills

Communication is key in any relationship

Good communication skills are essential for any relationship, including in the workplace and among teams. It can help build stronger connections, resolve conflict, and promote collaboration. But communication isn’t just about talking, body language and other communication methods are also important.

By taking the time to truly communicate with others, you can learn much more than you imagined, and may even discover that you have more in common than you realized. 

In this article, we’ll review:

  • What miscommunication can mean, and how to avoid it
  • Verbal and written communication skills
  • Body language
  • Active listening techniques
  • Tips to improve your communication skills

Ways miscommunication can lead to misunderstandings and conflict

Misunderstanding is the root of most conflicts and is mainly based on assumptions and expectations. A misunderstanding occurs when you and another person do not have the same understanding of what is being communicated. When there is a conflict, there is a good chance those involved misunderstand one another.

Assumptions

One of the most common causes of miscommunication occurs when people make assumptions. It can start when someone believes another person is aware of their thoughts and feelings, or they automatically default to the belief that they know what the other person is feeling. In either scenario, assuming or jumping to conclusions is counterproductive and can result in excessive stress and anxiety. 

Perhaps you spent the entire day convincing yourself why the other person is upset with you, but you never thought to ask them if they were. There’s a possibility that the other person isn’t thinking about the incident at all, but rather is having a difficult day in general. Transparent communication will always win over assumptions. 

Talking too much

Miscommunication can also occur when people try to convey too much information at once. The other person may find this overwhelming and difficult to process all of the details. Nobody likes drinking from a firehose—and we’ve all experienced “conversations” when someone doesn’t allow us to speak. 

Not communicating clearly

Unclear, vague, or confusing language can lead to miscommunication. Each person in the conversation has the right to ask questions to gain clarity. Providing unclear instructions or talking over someone’s head is never a good idea. Additionally, if you’re in a conversation and have questions, take advantage of the opportunity to ask them.

Verbal and written communication skills

Typically when communication skills are discussed, the emphasis is on examples or ways to improve verbal abilities. However, written communication is essential since many conversations occur via email, text, or team message boards. It’s not uncommon to have trouble expressing your thoughts in words. You may feel this is not an easy skill to develop, but with practice, it becomes easier. Here are six ways to improve your written messaging:

  1. Think before you write
  2. Put yourself in the reader’s shoes
  3. Be concise and to the point
  4. Read your message out loud
  5. Edit, edit, edit 
  6. Read and write often

Body language

In addition to words, body language also plays a vital role in communicating. Our bodies convey a lot of information without uttering a word. This form of nonverbal communication includes facial expressions, body posture, gestures, eye contact, and the use of space. Body language can reveal what someone is thinking or feeling. It can also affect how others react to that person. There’s a lot of power in a handshake, a smile, or a nod. These three simple gestures can have a considerable impact on others as opposed to fidgeting, looking away, yawning, crossing the arms, or slouching.

Active listening techniques – are you hearing or listening?

Listening and speaking are important components of effective communication. But there’s a big difference between being an active listener and a passive listener. 

As an active listener, you give your full attention to the person speaking and try to understand what they are saying. 

Active listeners

  • Ask questions if they don’t fully understand what was said to them
  • Are fully engaged and concentrate during the conversation
  • Recall and summarize what they heard
  • Aren’t thinking of their response while the other person is speaking
  • Avoid interrupting the person speaking
  • Observe body language

Passive listening means you’re hearing the speaker’s words without really paying attention. 

Passive listeners

  • May assume they know what the other person meant and move on with the conversation
  • Check texts and emails during the conversation
  • Focus on how they are going to respond rather than what the other person is saying
  • Aren’t paying attention, so the conversation feels one-sided and uninteresting

This difference? Active listening demonstrates that you RESPECT the person speaking, that what they are saying is valuable, and increases your capacity for teamwork and leadership.

Tips for improving your communication skills

  • Understand your communication style
  • Be aware of body language and what it’s saying 
  • Use effective listening techniques such as paraphrasing and reflecting on what the other person has said 
  • Recognize that everyone has something valuable to contribute
  • Be patient and take the time to understand the other person’s point of view 
  • Avoid assumptions and jumping to conclusions 
  • Be mindful of time zones, no one enjoys a 4:00 a.m. meeting
  • Allow enough room in the conversation for someone to speak
  • Provide constructive criticism rather than insults

By being aware of the potential pitfalls, anyone can help minimize miscommunication and foster a more positive atmosphere in their personal and professional lives. Have you ever encountered any of these problems in your own communication? If so, which solutions did you find to be most beneficial?

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