Updated: Nov 11, 2020
Communication is the ability to effectively convey information, thoughts, and feelings to others. Communication is a two-way process that involves how we send and receive messages. Receiving includes both how we take in the message, reading or listening, and decoding the message. Communication is an essential life skill because it impacts so many areas of our life.
Although communication seems simple, often, there is a chance for lack of understanding that might cause conflicts, frustrations, and stress in a person’s personal or professional life. When a person feels stressed or frustrated, they can have trouble choosing their words carefully, negatively affecting communication.
On the other hand, effective communication helps us better understand people and situations. It helps us overcome diversities, build trust, and respect, create conditions for sharing creative ideas, resolve conflict, and reduce stress. Improving communication skills involves either or both elements. However, most people need improvement in receiving rather than sending messages.
Why is Effective Communication Important?
Today we are receiving, sending, and processing large amounts of information and messages every day. One thing I teach my clients is that effective communication is far more than just the process of sharing information. Effective communication includes gaining an understanding of the feelings behind the information shared. Effective communication can deepen relations, help us better understand people and situations that we encounter in our personal or professional life. By acquiring strong communication skills, we can better connect with our family, friends, and colleagues, avoid conflicts, compromise, and engage in better decision making.
Even though effective communication is an important life skill and seems to be instinctive, often when people communicate things can go amiss. We say one thing, but the other person hears something different which causes misunderstandings and conflicts. When we are misunderstood internal conflict can be created leading to stress, resentment, anger, victimization, and a desire to exact revenge. However, developing effective communications skill can help us avoid stressful misunderstandings, false assumptions, and communication mistakes. Effective communication can also reduce resentments and tension in our personal and professional relationships.
Conveying a message effectively is an art as well as a skill developed after continuous practice and experience. To communicate more clearly and effectively requires learning some important skills. Learning these skills can deepen connections to others, build greater trust and respect, and improve teamwork, problem solving, and your overall social and emotional health.
Verbal, Nonverbal, and Paraverbal Communication
It is important to note that a large percentage of effective communication involves more than just the use of words. Effective communication requires adequate implementation of a specific set of skills: verbal, non-verbal, and paraverbal communication, listening and emotional regulation skills.
Dr. Albert Mehrabian, a psychology professor, conducted several studies on the importance of nonverbal communication and devised the following formula: interpretation of a message is 7% verbal, 38% paraverbal, and 55% nonverbal. Overall, Dr. Mehrabian deducted that nonverbal communication, which included paraverbal components, comprises approximately 93% of communication.
Verbal communication is the use of sounds, words, and content to express yourself. For example, saying "No" when someone asks you to do something you do not want to do. Nonverbal communication is the transfer of information using body language, including eye contact, facial expressions, gestures, body positions, and more, for example, smiling when you meet someone to convey friendliness and openness. Several studies on nonverbal communication with varying results that indicate 70-93% of communication is nonverbal.
Paraverbal communication refers to the messages that we transmit through our voices' tone, pitch, and pacing. It is how we say something, not what we say; paraverbal message accounts for approximately 38% of what is communicated to someone. Listening is more than just hearing understanding spoken or written information but about active listening. Effective communication involves listening to the words, tone, and emotion communicated to interpret the message.
Emotional regulation refers to paying attention to the essential role feelings play in communication. Nonverbal behavior and decision-making, which affects others' understanding and how others understand you, are guided by emotions. Awareness of feelings helps a person express their needs and thoughts while minimizing frustration, misunderstanding, and conflict. Managing emotions is a powerful tool for understanding others, yourself, and the messages you send.
Key Areas of Improvement
There are certain barriers which can hinder the process of communication, making it less useful for the sender as well as the receiver. Some common barriers to effective communication include stress and out-of-control emotions, lack of focus, absorption of information and processing, inconsistent body language and avoiding the concerns of the other individual. Four ways to become a more effective communicator include, become an engaged listener, pay attention to nonverbal and paraverbal communication, manage stress, and assert yourself. The purpose of communication is to pass on information to the receiver in such a manner that it does not lose its significance. Growing better communication habits means practicing effective skills. What are examples of effective communication? Join us for the next blog in this series where we will discuss the various communication styles and tips for effective communication.
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