Factors that promote effective communication

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Whether conversing with a spouse, another family member, co-worker, friend or neighbour, we speak because we have an idea, feeling or thought we want to share with someone, according to the University of Maine Cooperative Extension.

If communication breaks down during the speaking or listening stage, you can learn some tips to promote effective communication.

Nonverbal Communication

According to the website Helpguide, most of our communication is nonverbal, also known as body language. A vital form of communication, body language includes facial expressions, eye contact, posture, gestures and tone of voice, by both the speaker and the listener. Helpguide teaches that learning body language communication skills can create trust by matching body language to words, responding with cues showing understanding and care, as well as assisting in the reading of the body language of others. The University of Maine Cooperative Extension indicates that body language that supports effective communication includes focusing your eyes on the other person, maintaining an open body stance and sitting on the edge of your chair.

To review and find room for improvement of your body language communication skills, Helpguide suggests videotaping a conversation you have with another person, having someone take digital photos during your conversation with someone else or making an audio recording of a conversation you have. When you review the visual or audio mediums, find areas that may need work, such as studying your stance, watching your eye contact and whether your body is turned toward the other person to indicate interest.

Active Listening

According to the University of Colorado, active listening is a skill that improves understanding through effectively listening and responding to another person. In a conflict, the listener can be busy formulating a response before the speaker is finished speaking. This behaviour can lead to misunderstandings, hurt feelings and a breakdown of communication.

One aspect of effective active listening skills involves listening carefully to what the speaker says, then the listener repeating back what the speaker just said, using the speaker's words, as indicated by the University of Colorado. This helps the speaker interpret whether the listener understood and, if not, the speaker can explain further. Additionally, the University of Maine Cooperative Extension teaches that while listening, the listener should nod and give verbal cues like "uh-huh" to signal listening and understanding to the speaker.

Assertive Communication

The Effective Communication Tips website states that assertive communication is the ability to speak in a manner that expresses wants and needs while respecting the opinions and rights of others. For example, using statements beginning with the word "I" focuses on the feelings of the speaker rather than casting blame on the listener. Relax and look the listener in the eye while speaking. The University of Maine Cooperative Extension adds not to exaggerate because exaggeration can shift the focus of the conversation to an argument rather than the issue at hand. Effective Communication Tips goes on to explain that the speaker needs to remember that the listener's point of view is important. Go into a discussion with an attitude of win-win and find a compromise to ensure the speaker and listener both understand and get their needs met.