This blog will talk about communication skills that are relevant to everyone’s lives in all contexts. Readers will first learn about what communication is so important. Then, we will take a closer look at seven essential communication skills.
What are Communication Skills?
Communication skills are techniques to make any social interaction more successful, whether it is in a formal or informal context. Here is a list of some important communication skills that you need to acquire:
- Active Listening
- Reflective Listening
- Assertive Communication
- Reading Body Language
- Avoiding Unsolicited Advice
- Clarity and Precision
Why is Communication so Important?
Humans are social animals. We exist in groups, whether it is our family, colleagues, or our friends and acquaintances. Even the loneliest person has to interact with others at some point to get through the day. These interactions are only possible through communication.
Whether it is verbal or non-verbal, communication allows us to pass on information to the people around us. That’s why communicating is probably one of the most useful skills we possess. Without it, we’d never be able to co-exist.
Now, though everyone learns the basics of communicating as they grow and explore, there’s always room for improvement. A lot of people struggle to communicate freely and authentically. They sometimes end up saying things they don’t really mean.
Hence, while communication is important, it’s also imperative for one to keep working on their communication skills to become more effective at it.
7 Communication Skills Everyone Should Have
In this section, we will describe seven communication skills that can make all social interactions a lot more smooth, easy, and effective for you. Let’s begin.
One of the most basic communication skills is the ability to listen actively. Unfortunately, not many people are aware of it so they don’t practice it. Active listening basically means that you listen to someone with attunement, without interrupting them or getting distracted, and respond in ways that elicit more information from the speaker.
This technique also needs one to listen and observe carefully in order to pick up both verbal and non-verbal cues. Through active listening, you ensure that your understanding of the speaker is accurate and free of any assumptions or confusion.
Some of the methods used in active listening are summarising, paraphrasing, leaning in, asking follow-up questions, and appropriate silences.
It’s important to understand that communication isn’t all about speaking. A major portion of it involves staying quiet and listening to others. Many people don’t listen to understand but rather wait to respond.
Practising reflective listening is a way to overcome that unnecessary urge and to communicate more effectively. It’s pretty easy to execute. All you have to do is listen attentively without interrupting the speaker.
Whenever they pause after making a point, repeat what they said in your own words and ask clarification questions. This lets them feel heard and understood. Besides, even if you get it wrong, the speaker will appreciate your efforts and feel comfortable revealing more information.
Here are some examples of what to say when listening reflectively:
- So you’re saying that ____, did I get it right?
- Correct me if I’m wrong, but is this what you mean?
- Oh, I see why you feel that way. This seems quite a hurtful thing to experience.
A lot of times, communication is ineffective because of the lack of assertiveness. People tend to suppress their own needs passively to avoid conflict or they come off as too aggressive.
Assertiveness is the perfect balance between communicating passively and aggressively. In this style of communicating, you stand up for your own needs and beliefs, while also respecting the needs of others. It features mutual respect, diplomacy, and directness.
Here are some pointers to keep in mind when communicating assertively:
- Keep an even tone and volume
- Maintain eye contact
- Show a confident and open body language
- Start by talking about the listener’s needs
- Then mention your needs
- End with a potential solution or an offer to help
The following are some examples of assertive statements:
- I know you don’t enjoy doing paperwork but we’re supposed to do this project together and equally. I feel like I’m doing more than my share of the boring stuff. How can we split the tasks so that we both get a chance to do the fieldwork?
- I can see that you’re angry but I don’t appreciate being spoken to in this tone. Why don’t we calm down and solve this matter respectfully?
- Hey, I get that you’re quite busy on most days and it’s inspiring to see you work so hard. Nevertheless, you did give me your word that we’ll get this job done two weeks ago. How can I help you carve out some time for this?
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Reading Body Language
Not all communication will be verbal. There’s a lot more to express and understand from your body language. This includes facial expressions, posture, gestures, and movement.
Someone calm and confident will be still, with an open body, and strong eye contact. However, someone scared or worried about something will have a slouching posture, restless limbs, and a furrowed brow.
Similarly, when one is angry, they have defensive body language, an expression of anger, and visible agitation in their movements.
Under the heading of active listening, we mentioned asking questions as one of the methods to elicit more information. However, questioning is a huge part of any conversation. Not only must one ask the right questions, but also time them in a way that allows the development of insight.
There are many different types of questions you can try. Some of these are described below.
These are asked when you want to get more information about the situation the speaker was talking about. Follow-up questions are more focused on facts and events that have occurred. A few examples of follow-up questions are:
- What happened after that?
- What did you do next?
- Did the thing you were worried about happen?
Counsellors use open-ended questions to avoid making any assumptions and to focus on the speaker’s unique experience. An open-ended question is one that requires one to answer with at least a few sentences instead of just a yes or no. These generally ask about thoughts and feelings. Here are some examples:
- How did you feel when that happened?
- What was going on in your mind in that situation?
- What do you feel like doing next?
These are asked after summarising or paraphrasing to confirm whether your understanding of the speaker’s words is accurate. Such questions are very important as they allow room for error and reflect a genuine interest in what the speaker is saying. Some examples of clarification questions are:
- Am I getting this right?
- Did I understand correctly?
- Is this what you are trying to say?
Empathy is a crucial ingredient for any conversation to be successful. After all, the idea behind communication is to understand what someone is saying. Empathy is a skill that reflects on the emotion behind an exchange.
Your brain has mirror neurons that help you put yourself in someone else’s shoes. You’re able to feel what they are feeling so not only do you understand the meaning of their words but also their experience.
To practice more empathy, one must use all the skills mentioned before this item on our list.
Clarity and Precision
Often, when we speak, we tend to use fillers like um, so, you know, like etc. These don’t really add value to what we’re talking about but serve as a filler when we pause to think about what to say next.
Although harmless, these can be a bit distracting and take away the attention from the point we’re trying to make. It’s ideal to think before we speak and only use words we mean to. It may be slower, but it’s a lot more impactful.
Saying the same thing in fewer words is a powerful way to reflect confidence, intelligence, and to make it easier for others to understand your point of view.
This blog talked about communication skills that are relevant to everyone’s lives in all contexts. Readers first learned about what communication is so important. Then, we took a closer look at seven essential communication skills.
The communication skills mentioned here included Active Listening, Reflective Listening, Assertive Communication, Reading Body Language, Questioning, Empathy, and Clarity and Precision.
What we recommend for Counselling
If you are suffering from depression or any other mental disorders then ongoing professional counselling could be your ideal first point of call. Counselling will utilize theories such as Cognitive behavioural therapy which will help you live a more fulfilling life.
FAQs (Communication Skills)
What are the 8 types of communication?
The eight types of communication are listed below:
- Formal Communication
- Informal Communication
- Verbal Communication
- Non-Verbal Communication
- Upward Communication
- Horizontal Communication
- Diagonal Communication
- Downward Communication
What are examples of passive-aggressive communication?
Below are a few examples of verbal and non-verbal passive-aggressive communication:
- Rolling of eyes
- Speaking politely but handling objects aggressively
- Emotionally-loaded comments
- Loud sighs
What are some communication activities?
Here is a list of some communication icebreaker activities:
- Adjective + Name
- Two Truths & One Lie
- Introduction Bingo
- Listen & Draw
- The Memory Test
- Eye to Eye
- 10 Things in Common
- Body Language Game