More than just the words you use, effective communication combines a set of skills including nonverbal communication, engaged listening, managing stress in the moment, the ability to communicate assertively, and the capacity to recognize and understand your own emotions and those of the person you’re communicating with.
Effective communication is the glue that helps you deepen your connections to others and improve teamwork, decision making, and problem solving. While effective communication is a learned skill, it is more effective when it’s spontaneous rather than formulaic. People often focus on what they should say, but effective communication is less about talking and more about listening.
By communicating in this way, you’ll also experience a process that lowers stress and supports physical and emotional well-being. If your goal is to fully understand and connect with the other person, listening in an engaged way will often come naturally. Focus fully on the speaker, his or her body language, tone of voice, and other nonverbal cues. By increasing the muscle tone of the tiny middle ear muscles (the smallest in the body), you’ll be able to detect the higher frequencies of human speech that impart emotion and be better able to understand what others are really saying. Developing the ability to understand and use nonverbal communication can help you connect with others, express what you really mean, navigate challenging situations, and build better relationships at home and work. You can enhance effective communication by using open body language—arms uncrossed, standing with an open stance or sitting on the edge of your seat, and maintaining eye contact with the person you’re talking to. You can also use body language to emphasize or enhance your verbal message—patting a friend on the back while complimenting him on his success, for example, or pounding your fists to underline your message. Use body language to convey positive feelings even when you're not actually experiencing them.
How many times have you felt stressed during a disagreement with your spouse, kids, boss, friends, or coworkers and then said or done something you later regretted? When things start to get heated in the middle of a conversation, you need something quick and immediate to bring down the emotional intensity.
Agree to disagree, if necessary, and take time away from the situation so everyone can calm down.
Direct, assertive expression makes for clear communication and can help boost self-esteem and decision-making. Practice assertiveness in lower risk situations to start with to help build up your confidence. If you want your relationships to be more satisfying, fulfilling, and supportive, FEELING LOVED can help. Effective Communication: Improving Your Social Skills – Learn how to communicate more effectively, improve your conversation skills, and be more assertive. Core Listening Skills – Find tips on how to be a better listener and identify and improve the things that are getting in your way. Effective Communication (PDF) – How to effectively communicate in groups using nonverbal communication and active listening techniques.
Some Common Communication Mistakes – Overview of common mistakes that get in the way of effective communication and how you can avoid them. Active Listening: Hear What People are Really Saying – Understanding active listening, particularly as it applies to the workplace, and the steps you can take to become an active listener.
But all too often, what we try to communicate gets lost in translation despite our best intentions.


Whether you’re trying to improve communication with your spouse, kids, boss, or coworkers, you can improve the communication skills that enable you to effectively connect with others, build trust and respect, and feel heard and understood.
It enables you to communicate even negative or difficult messages without creating conflict or destroying trust. A speech that is read, for example, rarely has the same impact as a speech that’s delivered (or appears to be delivered) spontaneously. Listening well means not just understanding the words or the information being communicated, but also understanding the emotions the speaker is trying to communicate. If the person you’re talking to is calm, for example, listening in an engaged way will help to calm you, too. The left side of the brain contains the primary processing centers for both speech comprehension and emotions.
In order to communicate effectively with someone, you don’t have to like them or agree with their ideas, values, or opinions. As well as by focusing fully on what someone is saying, you can exercise these tiny muscles by singing, playing a wind instrument, and listening to certain types of music (high-frequency Mozart violin concertos and symphonies, for example, rather than low-frequency rock or rap music). Nonverbal communication, or body language, includes facial expressions, body movement and gestures, eye contact, posture, the tone of your voice, and even your muscle tension and breathing. An American teen, a grieving widow, and an Asian businessman, for example, are likely to use nonverbal signals differently. Consider all of the nonverbal signals you receive, from eye contact to tone of voice to body language.
If you say one thing, but your body language says something else, your listener will likely feel you’re being dishonest. Similarly, take into account the emotional state and cultural background of the person you’re interacting with.
Silence isn’t necessarily a bad thing—pausing can make you seem more in control than rushing your response. If your response is too long or you waffle about a number of points, you risk losing the listener’s interest. By learning to quickly reduce stress in the moment, though, you can safely face any strong emotions you’re experiencing, regulate your feelings, and behave appropriately. The best way to rapidly and reliably relieve stress is through the senses: sight, sound, touch, taste, and smell.
When you or those around you start taking things too seriously, find a way to lighten the mood by sharing a joke or amusing story. If you realize that the other person cares much more about something than you do, compromise may be easier for you and a good investment in the future of the relationship.
Being assertive means expressing your thoughts, feelings, and needs in an open and honest way, while standing up for yourself and respecting others.
First, recognize the other person's situation or feelings, then state your needs or opinion.
You become increasingly firm as time progresses, which may include outlining consequences if your needs are not met. We say one thing, the other person hears something else, and misunderstandings, frustration, and conflicts ensue.
Of course, it takes time and effort to develop these skills and become an effective communicator.


Similarly, if the person is agitated, you can help calm them by listening in an attentive way and making the person feel understood. The more you practice them, the more satisfying and rewarding your interactions with others will become. And if the person talking is similarly distracted, you’ll be able to quickly pick up on it. Since the left side of the brain is connected to the right side of the body, favoring your right ear can help you better detect the emotional nuances of what someone is saying. Often, the speaker can read your facial expressions and know that your mind’s elsewhere.
However, you do need to set aside your judgment and withhold blame and criticism in order to fully understand a person. The way you look, listen, move, and react to another person tells them more about how you’re feeling than words alone ever can.
Anyone can slip up occasionally and let eye contact slip, for example, or briefly cross their arms without meaning to.
Instead of tentatively entering a room with your head down, eyes averted, and sliding into a chair, try standing tall with your shoulders back, smiling and maintaining eye contact, and delivering a firm handshake. Follow one point with an example and then gauge the listener’s reaction to tell if you should make a second point.
When you know how to maintain a relaxed, energized state of awareness—even when something upsetting happens—you can remain emotionally available and engaged.
But each person responds differently to sensory input, so you need to find things that are soothing to you. The Polyvagal Theory: Neurophysiological Foundations of Emotions, Attachment, Communication, and Self-regulation. This site is for information only and NOT a substitute for professional diagnosis and treatment. This reprint is for information only and NOT a substitute for professional diagnosis and treatment. The more effort and practice you put in, the more instinctive and spontaneous your communication skills will become. If you find it hard to concentrate on some speakers, try repeating their words over in your head—it’ll reinforce their message and help you stay focused. Try keeping your posture straight, your chin down, and tilting your right ear towards the speaker—this will make it easier to pick up on the higher frequencies of human speech that contain the emotional content of what’s being said. The most difficult communication, when successfully executed, can lead to the most unlikely and profound connection with someone. Physical movement or finding a quiet place to regain your balance can quickly reduce stress. Effective communication is always about understanding the other person, not about winning an argument or forcing your opinions on others. Helpguide.org is an ad-free non-profit resource for supporting better mental health and lifestyle choices for adults and children.



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