Effective Communication With Adults

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Data from the University of Missouri suggest that we spend over 80 per cent of our day engaged in some form of communication. Communication functions as the cornerstone of our lives, allowing us to convey needs, desires and information in our personal and professional lives.

However, cultivating effective communication can be difficult. When communicating with adults, there are several aspects of the engagement that should be considered.


The University of Missouri found that of the 80 per cent of our day where we are communicating, 45 per cent of that time is spent listening. Listening is an important aspect of effectively communicating with adults as it helps to foster productive interactions. Bad listening habits can lead to misunderstandings and frustration. Effective listening is active listening and requires a conscious effort on the part of the recipient of a message to be put into practice. Active listening includes mentally summarising the information being presented, maintaining eye contact and blocking out environmental distractions during the communication process.

Nonverbal Behaviors

Communication researcher John Borg found that 93 per cent of our communication is nonverbal, indicating that the manner in which something is communicated may play a more important role in the reception of the message than the content itself. Nonverbal communication may include posture, facial expressions, gestures, appearance, eye contact, proximity, touch, rate of speech, tone, pitch and volume. Effective communication with adults requires conscious, nonverbal behaviours that will complement the communication taking place. Awareness of how nonverbal behaviour is interpreted is the key to successful implementation of this strategy. For example, crossing the arms, lack of eye contact and a large amount of distance between you and the speaker communicate disinterest. Pointing, placing your hands on your hips, and high pitch or volume can communicate anger. On the other hand, smiling, maintaining eye contact, gesturing when appropriate and nodding can communicate acceptance, openness and support.


Effective adult communication requires structure. Communicative structure refers to the manner in which the information contained in a message is organised and presented. For example, an individual giving a presentation on the benefits of a healthy diet may organise the information based on physical, social and emotional advantages. Having a well structured message can benefit adult communication in a couple of ways. Initially, structured information helps to better keep a listener's attention and aids in his comprehension due to its logical nature. Moreover, because the information is organised, it is easier to recall later on.


In a world of rapidly expanding globalisation, sensitivity is increasingly important. People are communicating more frequently with people from different cultural backgrounds, and with that diversity comes the potential for misunderstandings due to differences in communication expectations. Intercultural communication expert Geert Hofstede explains that different cultures view the significance of individualism, risk avoidance, time, assertiveness and positions of power differently. Effective adult communication takes these differences into account to ensure that no one is unduly offended.


Effective communication between adults should be honest and open. Transparency in communication is important for a couple of reasons. First, if you're willing to be honest in an adult relationship, you are better able to foster a sense of trust and will be granted the same honesty in return over time. Moreover, honesty helps to prevent unnecessary conflict associated with lies.