Many of the barriers to effective communication are not a matter of choice. Adolescents growing up with the Internet and personal technology devices, for instance, have a different perspective on communication than adults who learnt to communicate before such technology existed. Those who understand their own barriers to effective communication, and the barriers of others, have a better chance of overcoming them to achieve personal and professional growth.
Communication involves more than just speaking or writing words, which is verbal communication. Nonverbal communication involves the way a person dresses, sits, walks and stands. Facial expressions, hand gestures and habitual behaviours such as foot-tapping are also forms of nonverbal communication. Active listening is another important aspect of communication that can be expressed verbally and nonverbally. The University of Maine describes it as a form of "relaxed attention." Maintaining eye contact and repeating the other person's points in your own words are few expressions of active listening that put the listener and the speaker more at ease with each other.
Adolescents have a better chance of being treated like adults by their parents and teachers if they develop verbal and nonverbal communication skills that reflect maturity. Adults who communicate effectively with other adults have an advantage in the workplace as well as in their personal lives.
Clinical social worker and therapist Donna Bellafiore notes that many interpersonal conflicts arise because people aren't aware of the ways their behaviour communicates negative messages to people around them. (See Reference 2.) Effective communication with adults is a learning process in which a person evaluates her own verbal and nonverbal cues to others and refines them to create harmonious relationships with other adults.
Women and men have different communication styles which can cause problems. For instance, Susan Krauss Whitborne, a psychology professor at the University of Massachusetts, notes that women are more likely than men to raise their tonal inflections at the end of sentences, making statements sound like questions. In the workplace, this can send a signal of uncertainty or insecurity.
Men, on the other hand, may unwittingly communicate aggression or resistance when taking orders from a female superior. Effective communication among adults sometimes means modulating the natural or learnt communication habits particular to a person's gender in order to facilitate a harmonious, professional environment.
Young people fresh out of college may face difficulties in the work world if they don't learn to communicate effectively with adults. Professors at York College's Center for Professional Excellence told NPR in 2010 that human resources and other business leaders were put off by many recent college graduates applying for jobs, largely because they communicated a lack of professionalism in the ways they dressed and spoke during interviews.
Bellafiore suggests certain techniques for effective communication that can clear up conflicts and lead to harmonious relationships. The defusing technique involves listening to an angry person's complaints and finding ways to agree with points of complaint, making it more difficult for the other person to continue a rant. Expressions of empathy--communicating an understanding of how the other person feels--has a similar effect. Asking questions instead of responding with pronouncements encourages the other person to open up and look at a situation with deeper clarity, while giving the other person positive "strokes"--showing respect and admiration for the other--will have a soothing effect.