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Being able to communicate effectively with others is an essential skill for people of all ages. Most people can benefit from improving their communication skills, which include speaking, listening and writing. People who want to develop communication skills can learn how to do this from self-help books, seminars, and from the advice of other people. Some of the best tips for developing communication skills are to learn and practice effective listening, to use and solicit feedback for different types of communication, to learn how to communicate needs and feelings assertively, and to utilize appropriate body language and eye contact.
One step to developing and improving communication is to learn and practice effective active listening skills. Active listening involves a person listening carefully and attentively to the person speaking, restating what the other person has said — or what comes across — in a concise and nonjudgmental manner, and listening more than talking. This kind of listening has more of a focus on understanding and encouragement than on giving advice and solutions, unless they are requested. Becoming effective at active listening is one way to increase trust and understanding in a relationship, whether it is a personal or professional one.
Another tip to developing and improving interpersonal communication skills is to solicit and use feedback for different types of communication. Before sending out an important email to a boss or colleague, for example, it can be helpful to have another person to read the email for correctness, tone and effective conveyance of the intended message. Prior to having an important conversation with a child, spouse or boss, it might be useful for a person to go over what he or she plans to say and ask with a trusted third party. People giving speeches and presentations, likewise, are always well advised to practice them before an audience and to ask for feedback before giving the real speech or presentation. Practicing communication and seeking feedback in these ways can help to ensure that the messages people convey are easily understood and come across as intended.
In interpersonal communications, it is essential to learn how to communicate needs and feelings assertively. When people communicate assertively, they are explaining their thoughts in a straightforward manner that is direct and not belligerent or argumentative, because these latter two styles are used in aggressive communication. People usually respond better to assertive communication that is not too passive or self-deprecating and not too aggressive. In using assertive communication, it is sometimes helpful to use “I” statements, such as “I feel ...” rather than directing the statements at the other person, such as “You should ...” The goal of assertive communication is that it is firm and states clearly the needs of the person using that communication style.
It also is essential in developing communication skills to use appropriate body language and eye contact. These nonverbal cues can convey the feeling behind what people are saying and should match their words. When people say they are ready to listen, for example, but have their arms crossed and avoid making eye contact, they actually are conveying that they are not open to what the other person is saying. Instead, using direct eye contact and body language that indicates openness, such as uncrossed arms, can help to get across that a person is ready and willing to listen and to speak openly.