Communication is more than just speaking: It’s also about our voice, posture, tone, facial expression, and other nonverbal cues. Considering how little attention most of us pay to these factors and how greatly communication influences our day-to-day relationships, it’s never too late to hone the skill and use it to our best advantage.
What exactly is a communication skill?
Simply put, communication skills refer to our ability to effectively give and receive information. It’s easy to forget that communication is a two-way street in which the speaker and the listener are active participants. And it isn’t just about how we talk; it involves listening, interpreting, and observing with empathy.
How we communicate determines the quality of our relationships at work and at home. An excellent communicator accepts constructive criticism in a conversation, exercises listening skills, and practices empathy by accepting different points of view, even those that are different from their own.
Benefits of effective communication
Effective communication skills reduce misunderstandings and build empathy and understanding between people, especially in formal relationships, where interactions are often brief and impersonal. Here’re a few major ways in which effective communication helps:
1. Creates better relationships
Relationships built on the solid ground of good communication tend to be stronger and can even help participants find opportunities for personal growth.
At a fundamental level, better communication builds trust and is particularly effective in improving teamwork. When multiple people work toward the same goal, a clear and straightforward communication strategy boosts productivity and speeds up problem-solving by reducing misunderstanding and confusion.
2. Helps handle conflicts better
As we work our team-building muscles and strive for strong communication, we understand all sides of a conflict to provide better resolution. Many disagreements happen due to miscommunications or individuals not being heard. Giving everyone the chance to speak and explain their point of view makes it easier to prevent conflict and misunderstandings.
For example, in the workplace, effective communication handles conflicts better and strengthens the company’s culture. This ensures better business success and looks great to recruiters looking for work environments with high job satisfaction and employee engagement.
3. Builds empathy
Understanding why people feel the way they do is the basis of empathy. When we become active listeners, we boost our personal and professional relationships through a greater understanding of the people around us and their points of view.
Maintain eye contact (without staring) when talking face-to-face and look for nonverbal clues from facial expressions and body language. Paying attention this way helps us get a fuller picture of our conversation partner’s emotional state and helps us respond thoughtfully.
4. Increases self-awareness
We develop our soft skills and awareness as we continue to be attentive and understanding. We recognize our own emotions and notice how they change in certain circumstances. Being self-aware is one of the most important factors in effectively interacting with others.
For example, we might notice that our body language is “closed” or unfriendly if our arms are crossed and we’re not smiling. Knowing this, we can begin to understand the importance of different forms of communication (verbal or nonverbal) and how they affect all parties in a conversation. Focusing on sitting with open posture and a friendly face will put both parties at ease.
5. Builds trust
The benefits of effective communication include encouraging trust in other people. If our conversation partners know that we value truth and authenticity, they’re more likely to trust and build stronger relationships with us. When we have conversations with other great communicators, we reinforce this skill in each other through attention and feedback.
Examples of communication skills in everyday life
Now that we understand the benefits of good communication, let’s see how this skill is best incorporated into our daily lives:
- Focus on clarity: A speaker's goal is to make their message as clear and concise as possible. We want to inform, not confuse. When communicating complex ideas, provide the necessary context and say what’s important. Speak clearly, and avoid mumbling.
- Practice active listening: Active listening dictates that we listen, understand, respond, and reflect when our conversation partner is speaking. Instead of zoning out and becoming distracted during a conversation, show the other person that they have our attention by asking clarifying questions, maintaining eye contact, or even taking notes — whatever works best to keep us in the moment.
- Pay attention to body language: During a conversation, we need to be aware of our body language. When someone is talking to us, we need to read their body language and other nonverbal cues to better understand their thoughts and feelings.
- Practice empathy: Communication can be difficult or aggressive, especially when there’s criticism or conflict. In such cases, listen openly and demonstrate empathy by considering the other person’s point of view. Such a conversation focuses on helping rather than winning or losing an argument.
- Ask for feedback: Sometimes, it’s difficult to understand how others perceive us. So ask friends and colleagues for feedback on how we’re doing and offer the same in return if they’re interested. This way, we get to practice and refine our skills every time we have a conversation.
Poor communication skills take a toll on our relationships without us realizing it. By identifying examples of open communication and learning how to implement them in daily and professional life, we can build better trust and improve our everyday interactions.
How to improve your communication skills
Here’s the good news: Great communication skills come with practice, and the more we exercise these skills, the better we become. Here are some more tips to get you on your way:
- Create opportunities to communicate: Meetings, hanging out with friends, calling instead of texting, and joining seminars — these are all opportunities to fine-tune our skills. Take them when they come. In fact, the more variety in situations and contexts, the more well-rounded communicators we become. For example, we might communicate one way in a business or professional context and another way at social gatherings. We use different nonverbal cues when talking to our colleagues and supervisors than our families.
- Practice your tone before communicating: It’s hard to pay attention to ourselves and the speaker during a conversation. So practice self-awareness in your own time. Think about the tone of your voice in the context of what you’re saying. Are you striking the right emotional chord with your audience?
- Exercise emotional intelligence: Self-awareness and empathy are the two pillars in good communication. For effective communication, it’s important to consider these factors and give each other the benefit of the doubt. Focus on what’s important about the message being delivered.
- Go wide on feedback: Feedback helps us improve and hone our skills. Getting a wide range of feedback helps even more because we interact with a variety of people in different contexts daily. And what’s appropriate in one environment (say, a team leader at work) may be less effective in another (at a party with old friends). So a great way to refine our communication skills is to get frequent feedback from different people and contexts.
The advantages of developing communication skills are many, and everyone is capable of doing this. When we improve our communication skills, our relationships become stronger and more meaningful, and our collaboration and teamwork become more efficient.
Effective communication is crucial to developing trust with our clients and building long-term relationships as coaches. Try Practice’s all-in-one client management system today to better connect with your clients.