They say that communication is the most important factor in any work or romantic relationship… and they’re right!
Communication problems account for 65% of divorces in America.
But don’t fret.
What Are Communication Skills?
Communication skills help us share our ideas, thoughts, and feelings with others. Great communicators are able to give and receive different forms of information via verbal communication, nonverbal communication, and body language signs. Communication skills help us relay instructions, messages, new ideas, or emotions.
Why Are Communication Skills Important?
Whether it be verbal, nonverbal, or physical, we communicate with people every day!
Communication skills help us clearly relay our thoughts and ideas to others.
In 1952, Scott Cutlip introduced the 7 C’s of communication to help people create more sound points of interest while talking with another person.
These 7 C’s include
- Clarity: What is your purpose in communicating with this person?
- Conciseness: Keep it short and stick to the point.
- Concreteness: Create a vivid picture of what you’re speaking about with facts and imagery.
- Correctness: Is what you’re saying error-free, and does it fit your audience’s level of comprehension?
- Coherence: Your topic and points are easily understood and logical.
- Completeness: Your audience has all the information that you spoke of and can act upon it.
- Courtesy: Practice open, honest, and friendly conversation.
With the 7 C’s, you can ensure that your audience can listen easily to your words and employ them directly and peacefully. With that, you’ll become a credible and reliable source of information simply because you can communicate it for the masses to comprehend.
Also, keeping the conversation creative helps listeners to keep the spark alive and devise a colorful picture of what you’re saying in their head, which will keep them from finding excuses to leave the conversation.
Just know that the more you effectively communicate, the better you become at it and the more people will listen and adhere to what you’re saying!
Types of Communication Skills
By now, you’re probably wondering, What are some different types of communication skills that I can use to make people listen!?
We’ll briefly cover the key types of communication from a Drexel University study so that you get the main points:
- Visual Communication: Physical or mental imagery that conveys your main points and explanations
- Written Communication: Using various forms of written communication to inform in a clear and concise manner
- Listening: Actively hearing words and phrases to connect points and comprehend the overall message
- Verbal Communication: Speaking your words or message directly to your audience
- Nonverbal Communication: Using your body to relay your point (e.g., facial expressions, pointing, eye contact, etc.)
These communication terms may seem familiar to you, but are you sure about how to use them?
If not, here’s how!
Visual communication is said to be the easiest form of communication because our brains automatically create images of words and sounds that we hear.
Between social media, ads, television, and our phones, our society has transformed into pictures with short and witty captions. These images convey a specific message that we want viewers to comprehend without thinking about it.
As the saying goes, “A picture is worth a thousand words,” and that’s because of the various interpretations that we can conjure just by seeing some shapes, lines, and colors.
Remember being in school passing notes to your friends so that the teacher wouldn’t hear you? That was probably one of your first forms of written communication, and, as you can see, it works!
If you’re in the workforce, did you know that 73% of employers seek workers with top-notch written communication skills?
Why? Because memos, social media posts, and those pesky emails you send every day are a part of business and help us to effectively communicate by slowing down and expressing ourselves concisely without the hassle of being interrupted.
Also, think about it: How cool is it that written communication saves you from having to speak?!
This is a major help, especially for introverts, in getting your point across without having to say a single word.
Attentive listening tends to be one of the most important types of communication because, according to a listening study, a whopping 40% of communication involves listening!
40% of all communication happens through listening.
Without listening to the words that are spoken, you literally lose out on almost half of what was communicated; therefore, you can’t effectively engage in the conversation with the person speaking unless you’re hearing them.
Thankfully, there are four types of listening that we engage in daily.
Peruse the list of effective listening styles and determine which kind of listener you are:
- Full Listening: Paying close attention to the words and tones of the speaker
- Therapeutic Listening: Allowing close friends and loved ones to express themselves
- Deep Listening: Focusing on learning the speaker’s core points and perspectives
- Critical Listening: Using reasoning, facts, and logic to analyze a message
Luckily, these listening styles can be developed and enhanced with practice and consistent communication.
You can be speaking to a coworker via Zoom or hanging out with your friends discussing the latest in the celebrity world. Either way, you’re engaging in verbal communication.
Being verbal is a great form of communication that allows others to hear and connect the points you’re trying to make via your words.
Sure, some people, like Kanye West, are said to be “full of themselves” when they speak and could use a moment to simply zip it, but where’s the fun in that?
Like Kanye, many people use complexity and intonations (cadence, tone, pitch) to connect their surface words to their core message, which helps the audience understand their point.
Interestingly, while face to face, you can’t help but also take into consideration your audience’s nonverbal communication.
Speaking of which…
Have you ever received the “death stare” from someone? You knew exactly what that meant, and that, my friends, is a form of nonverbal communication.
Simply put, nonverbal communication consists of using any part of your body—except your voice—to get your audience’s attention and the results that you desire.
You’ve most likely engaged in these nonverbal cues before:
- hand gestures
- eye contact
According to a Darioly and Mast study, “Nonverbal plays an important role in interpersonal communication in general and accounts for a majority (about 65 to 90%) of the meaning conveyed in social interaction.”
However, a recent study made a valid point that if this is true, it’s because people aren’t paying attention to the words or are simply not listening.
This is exactly why knowing the different styles of nonverbal cues is necessary, and why nonverbal communication will never go out of style.
Top 10 Effective Communication Skills
To become a better communicator, you have to have the tools and skills to create the right message for the right audience, right?
Here are the top 10 communication skills that will enhance the way you speak and listen.
1. Clear Signaling
“Communication—the human connection—is the key to personal and career success.” – Paul J. Meyer
In the realm of communication skills, clear signaling is the art of relaying your words directly and concisely to your listener.
It seems like an easy skill, doesn’t it?
However, it can be misconstrued based on interpretation, which leads to signal amplification bias.
Based on a study in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology, signal amplification bias is also believing that a communication cue is worth more than its surface intention.
For example, many people aren’t sure others like them because they’re playing cool and undersignaling. In other words, many people are afraid others don’t like them. If you enjoy working with someone, tell them!
Signal amplification bias also stems from the misconception that you provided enough information to your listener when in fact you did not.
You can tell this bias is in effect when you hear statements like
- “It should have been obvious.”
- “This goes without saying.”
- “I shouldn’t have to tell you this.”
Overcoming the bias requires initiating straightforward clear signaling.
- If you like working with someone, tell them.
- If someone did a great job on a project, tell them.
- If someone is making you uncomfortable, tell them!
Bottom line: Be honest with your intentions.
2. Highlight Uniqueness
Uniqueness is the quality of being remarkable, special, or one-of-a-kind, and everyone has a special communicative trait that sets them apart from others.
Whether it’s the inflection of your voice, an entertaining stature and body posture, or incredible clarity while speaking, you can improve your communication traits by highlighting your unique communication skills either verbally, physically, or nonverbally.
You can even show appreciation for others! Try highlighting other people’s uniqueness:
- Compliment them on their unique style of clothing.
- Send a message of appreciation about their orderliness or creativity.
- Show appreciation for their specific personality traits.
3. Reading Faces
Reading faces is a vital communication skill that allows you to understand a person’s feelings through their face instead of their voice. In fact, humans have 7 universal microexpressions, or facial expressions, that signal different emotions.
The 7 different microexpressions are
In accordance, the facial feedback hypothesis states that one’s facial expressions are directly related to their emotional and behavioral experience toward others and themselves.
A study was conducted to test this hypothesis with humor. The results show us that under the right conditions, people feel free to express their emotions through their face, which influences their emotional and physical demeanor.
In short, changing your facial expression can literally influence the way you think and feel—and the message you’re getting across!
This communication skill of reading faces is so powerful that facial reading training is available for people who want to increase their know-how of guessing how people feel based on their emotional facial expressions.
4. Still-Face Experiment
If you’re like Rihanna and have been consistently told that you have RBF, then you’ll want to pay attention to this communication skill.
Have you ever heard of the still-face experiment? In a nutshell, it was a study done to show how stressful behaviors affect facial expressions and, thus, the emotional development of infants and children.
By the end of the experiment, it showcased that if you are still and emotionless in the face, it becomes challenging for people to communicate with you simply because they can’t tell if you’re paying attention or not.
If you have RBF or “Still Face,” there’s hope for you yet!
There are some solutions that you can use to gauge a deeper understanding of what is being communicated so that you can have some movement in those stale muscles.
Check them out:
- Listen with empathy and verbally respond.
- Help people to label their feelings so that you can physically empathize.
- Recognize the speaker’s main point to connect on a deeper level.
You may get mad—heck, you may even chuckle at what’s being said—but the point is to stray from the Still Face and engage in facial reactions to show attentive listening and improved communication.
But if you’re REALLY struggling to fix that RBF, there may be hope. Check out our guide here: Resting Bitch Face: How to Fix Your RBF Forever (With Science).
Let’s move on to the next skill.
5. Facial Absorption
Facial absorption is the face-to-face communication skill of taking in information and using your face to show your reaction. That’s it!
Here’s the secret sauce to enacting this communication skill with other people: eye contact!
When you are focused on the person’s face while they are speaking, there is a chance that your mirror neurons will copy the speaker’s face and make you react in the same way.
Facial absorption automatically shows coherent listening and courtesy, even if you don’t catch every single word that floods out of their mouth.
And the best part?
Facial absorption comes automatically. All you need to do is really pay attention to the other person during a conversation.
Here’s another tip: Use facial absorption during your next meeting, as it is one of the most impactful communication skills in the workplace.
6. Use Powerful Words
Words are very powerful, depending on how we say them and the specific words that we say.
In fact, using powerful words is one of the most valuable communication skills in the workplace because of the digital world we live in that simply requires us to look down and use our thumbs.
Social and corporate jargon can be a serious hindrance to effective communication, which is why words used should be powerful and easy to understand.
Here are some that you can try out:
You also use powerful words to increase your influence toward others and reveal the same communicative traits in others that you have within yourself, which is referred to as spontaneous trait transference.
We’ll put it this way: The way you describe others is the way people will see you—that’s the transference. And the fact that it happens instantly is what makes it spontaneous!
In the workplace, examples of this can be seen when your boss gives you a compliment or when you hear someone gossiping about another person.
They can be positive or negative, but the point is to use strong words to convey your message with positive assertion and tact and improve your oral communication skills.
7. Embodied Cognition
You know when you go to the doctor’s office for a checkup and you see them set up the tools to give you a shot? Your body starts to tense and your heart starts to race a bit, doesn’t it?
There’s a reason for that, and it’s called embodied cognition.
It’s the latest sexy topic in social psychology, theorized as behavior emerging from the real-time interaction between our nervous system and our environment, which persuades our mind to think a certain way.
So what does this have to do with communication?
Through strategic messaging, certain sounds, imagery, or voice inflections can make your body react, which may convince your mind to think a particular thought.
Other examples can be as simple as seeing a chair and thinking, I should sit, or, even if you aren’t hungry, smelling food and having the thought of eating pop into your mind.
Embodied cognition has been described as “internal suggestive communication.” It’s simply saying that the body can influence the mind as much as the mind can influence the body.
For example, there used to be a student who told her team, “Let’s not be a sinking ship” or “Let’s not rip the bandaid off,” until she noticed that her team members visibly winced when she said it. Even though she said NOT, the metaphor was still physically painful. Be careful with your words and err on the side of positive.
You can even hang up photos around your cubicle in the workplace and listen to audiobooks of your favorite public speakers to persuade your mind.
8. Sharing Feedback
Sharing feedback is responding to a message or activity.
No one likes to feel like they are wasting their time speaking, which is why sharing feedback is a HUGE communication skill that proves you paid attention.
It’s also one of the safest and most effective oral communication skills and business communication skills to create an engaging dialogue about the topic at hand.
A 2017 study gives a list of the different types of feedback. Check to see if you’ve engaged in any of them:
- Informal Feedback: Basic verbal or nonverbal responses on performance or statements
- Formal Feedback: A structured assessment where people give direct critique or criticism to the speaker
- Summative Feedback: A detailed summary of the topic along with positive comments and solutions for enhancing shortcomings
Appropriate feedback is an important interpersonal skill because it contributes to development and confidence in receiving critique from people you know—and don’t know—while building your confidence in communication.
Action Step: Grab a “feedback buddy” and work on playing out imaginary scenarios, such as a job interview or giving a TED talk, while giving critiques and comments to each other.
9. Positive Body Language
Body language includes all communication through a physical channel and is a powerful form of communication—more powerful than words!
Why? Because the body does not lie!
Social anthropologist Edward T. Hall (1959) maintained that there are more than 700,000 forms of body language, and during a typical conversation, 65% of social meanings are portrayed directly through body language.
Yet in different parts of the world, this number and body language will vary.
Let’s break down what each body part could indicate while communicating (at least in Western cultures):
- Head: A subtle nod can mean agreement, while shaking the head no (even if someone says yes) can mean disagreement. How do you spot these subtle differences? Learn more about head behavior.
- Face: The face can give away subtle hints of anger, happiness, sadness, or even contempt! Cues can manifest in bared teeth or pursed lips. Learn more about facial expressions.
- Eyes: Depending on where the eyes are looking, a person can be feeling intimate or bored! How do you tell? Learn more about the eyes here.
- Mouth: Licking the lips draws attention through tongue movement. It also leaves the lips noticeably shinier and more attractive. What other mouth cues are there? Learn about mouth cues here.
- Hands: Greetings, farewell, or threat. Hiding your hands can signal a threat. Open palms, on the other hand, signal sincerity. Learn all the hand gestures you need to know: 60 Hand Gestures You Should Be Using.
- Legs/Feet: How do you know where someone wants to go? Simply look at their feet. Learn why in this article: 20 Leg Body Language Cues To Help You Analyze ANY Situation.
Learning how to improve communication skills by being sensitive to body language allows you to become aware of whether who you’re talking to is entertained or bored out of their spiritless mind.
It can help you spot contradictions between what is said and what is meant while also helping you to become more cognizant of your body language to determine what message you’re sending out to your audience.
And if you really want to master body language? Read our mega guide: The Ultimate Guide to Body Language.
Want to know how to improve communication skills at work, at home, or in society? Try the oldest form of communication that’s still used in many cultures around the world: storytelling!
Storytelling is a form of communication that creates colorful imagery backed by detailed words to both help your listeners understand your core message and keep them mentally entertained.
It’s also a solid way to increase your verbal communication skills and one of the greatest active listening exercises for your audience.
- using visual cues, such as pictures or objects
- practicing rephrasing if someone doesn’t get your message
- increasing nonverbal cues with bodily movement and gestures
If you want to learn more about how to improve communication skills through storytelling, read our amazing article: How to Tell a Great Story: Learn Science of Storytelling.
Communication Really IS Key!
Why are communication skills important? Because they’re what we use to survive. You can choose to wave a hand, make a face, or speak your mind. In any case, you have to use vital communication skills to effectively get your message across.
And I know—some of these theories may be new to you, but practicing new interpersonal communication skills and nonverbal communication skills is a sound form of communication training!
Check out this guide: 9 Conflict Resolution Tips to Win An Argument Like a Jedi
4 replies on “10 Effective Ways You Can Improve Your Communication Skills”
Micro-Expression: I have a few friends that I can read but other times it feels like a struggle. One “friend” in particular usually displays the disgust expression, hence I do not spend a lot of time with her. We are friends when I see her, but out of site out of mind…until now. What can I do to tune into the micro-expressions with others?
Great question. Some people have what is called a facial punctuator meaning they display a certain expression (surprise, contempt, disgust) as a way to emphasize a point or idea. Keep in mind that this does not necessarily mean that that this person feels this specific emotion more often, but instead, it’s part of their baseline. It may take a little getting used to!
Danielle | Science of People Team
Thank YOU for reading!
Danielle | Science of People Team
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