There are as many ways to communicate as there are individuals in the world, it seems. Everyone has his own communication style and preferred methods and techniques for transferring information to another person. However, despite differences in approach, there are actually communication methods and techniques that are proven effective for everyone. Try incorporating some of them into your daily interactions and see if communication improves.
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Most people jump right over listening as a communication technique because they associate communication with speaking or writing; in other words, being the giver of information. Listening, however, is half the battle when it comes to good communication. Listening techniques include repeating or summarising what you've heard in order to clarify; responding with commentary that tests your conclusion about the speaker's feelings ("It sounds like you're angry about that"); asking speakers to expound upon points they made ("You said the company could either do X or Y. Do you think there might be other options?"); and asking open-ended questions ("How will X affect the marketing department?") to gain a broader understanding.
Words alone often don't tell the whole story. Gestures, facial expressions, eye contact (or lack of) and tone of voice can all communicate something dramatically different than what is actually said. For example, a person might say "I'm well; how are you?"; but if they say it while looking away and in an angry tone, it's immediately obvious that they are communicating something much different than what their words mean. In difficult or tense situations, use nonverbal communication to help defuse tempers and put people at ease. Speak with a pleasant tone. Smile or look as friendly as possible. Make eye contact. Remain in your personal space, but don't shrink away. All of these things communicate ease and reassurance.
Communication techniques that are popular in therapists' offices are also useful for everyday life. For example, silence can be useful to encourage the speaker to continue elaborating on a point, while simple observations ("You seem tense") can help reassure the speaker that someone has taken notice of him. Accepting -- simply verbally acknowledging that someone has spoken and been understood -- can foster feelings of value in the speaker and make the speaker feel as though what he is saying matters. General leads, such as "Tell me about it" and "Go on," said in an interested tone, also can greatly improve the quality of communication.
Communication is particularly effective when at least one of the communicators has prior knowledge of any extenuating circumstances, personality issues, personal problems and natural barriers to communication (such as culture or language). Though this isn't always possible, preparing as much as possible for an exchange is likely to have a positive effect on both the communication and the communicators. For example, just as checking for your own understanding is important, so is the other person's. Watch for cues that hint at incomprehension. When communicating about sensitive topics, keep your communication strictly fact based and neutral, particularly with people you don't know well. Above all, speak for your audience. Children and seniors communicate differently, as do uneducated and well-educated people.
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