Crucial Communication: Effective Communication

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Communication is something all living beings have in common…dogs barking, horses whinnying, elephants trumpeting, and humans talking. Most animal communication is on a rudimentary level…blunt, instinctual, and not at all flowery. Humans are unique in that regard. Humans practice complex communication, in real life, literature, and other productions. Humans speak in multiple languages, dialects, and accents. Understanding what goes into communicating effectively can help one understand how to communicate with others as a whole. 


The key to proper communication is listening. There is a key difference, though, between “listening” and “hearing.” When a person is talking to you and you are spacing out and focusing on something entirely different, you are just hearing the words that they are saying. You may give a neutral response so that you won’t have to ask them to repeat what they have said and you may even parrot back what they have said to you, but that does not mean you truly listened to what they had to say. Listening means digesting what they are saying, responding to what they said that adds to the conversation, and asking meaningful questions. Listening is not only the golden rule of communication, but it is also courteous and polite. 


Non-verbal communication is often exemplified by body language. The key to appropriate body language is to have an engaging tone, a relaxed posture, and proper eye contact. By using an engaging tone, you are letting the other person know that you are not only listening to what they have to say, but that you value what they are saying. Having open arms and relaxed legs easily means that you are feeling comfortable in the other person’s presence.A relaxed posture shows that you are not poised for flight…in other words, you do not want to immediately leave the situation. Finally, eye contact…this can be tricky for some, as there is a fine line between eye contact and staring. Nobody likes to be stared at and that is a vital difference. Holding eye contact is important, but it is natural for your eyes to move and drift a bit when having a discussion. As long as you maintain eye contact and actively listen, there is no shame in looking away or down for a moment. Staring is uncomfortable and that is when you gaze directly at the other person for far too long. There are three things that are key to appropriate non-verbal communication:

  1. Engaging tone
  2. Relaxed posture
  3. Proper eye contact


Some people are not natural conversationalists and that is perfectly fine. Not everyone is going to be loquacious and over the top. These communication differences are what make the world go round, but there will always be times when you’re conversing with someone different from you. If you are polite, personable, confident in your own abilities, and empathetic, you can master any discussion. Politeness is another word for good manners and proper etiquette…which translates to giving the other person time to speak, waiting for them to finish before jumping in with your reply, and asking questions that allow them to open up (such as, “how was your weekend?”). By appearing confident, you can feel more comfortable in what you have to say. You can do this by feeling comfortable in your tone, your communication style, and using proper body language in a conversation. Finally, empathy is a trickier concept…it is all about understanding a person’s feelings and why they feel the way they do. You are not expected to completely understand everything that is happening to everyone (that is frankly, impossible), but when speaking one-on-one, empathy is more important than anything else…especially if that person is unloading on you. Some people need to share what they’re feeling with other people and that is where empathy comes in handy. Active listening, engaging body language, and an encouraging tone can make a world of difference.


Speaking clearly and concisely is as important as being personable, confident, and empathetic. Everyone is capable of mumbling and trailing off in a conversation, but it is important to avoid doing that. When you speak to a person and can barely hear them, it becomes awkward to say “excuse me” or “can you repeat that” over and over again. In order to speak clearly and concisely, though, you must enunciate. Enunciate means to speak and pronounce words and phrases correctly. Speaking concisely is another word for “getting to the point.” Sometimes, in a conversation, a person will talk and talk because they just aren’t sure how to finish their sentence. Knowing what to say in advance is a great way to be concise. It is also important to use words of which you know the definition…it can be a blunder to say one word that means something else (such as the difference between “elegant” and “eloquent”; “elegant” means fancy and graceful, while “eloquent” means expressive and poetic speech). Your own knowledge of communication will come in handy and help you become a more straightforward communicator. 


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