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Improving communication skills in your work and personal relationships

Effective communication is the fundamental tool that helps deepen your connections to others and improve teamwork, problem solving, and your social and emotional health. However,  too often, what we try to communicate goes astray. We say one thing, the other person hears something else, then misunderstanding, frustration, and conflict ensues. Whether you’re trying to improve communication with your spouse, kids, boss, or co-workers, you can learn the skills to interact more effectively, improve your relationships, and build greater trust and respect with others.

More than just the words you use, effective communication combines a set of 4 skills:

  1. Engaged listening
  2. Non-verbal communication
  3. Managing stress in the moment
  4. Asserting yourself in a respectful way

While these are learned skills, communication is more effective when it’s spontaneous - cliched responses can create seriously differing thoughts about what was said. This could lead to an untenable situation. A speech that is read, for example, rarely has the same impact as a speech that’s delivered (or appears to be delivered) spontaneously. Of course, it takes time and effort to develop these skills and become an effective communicator. The more effort and practice you put in, the more instinctive and natural your communication skills will become.

What is effective communication?

Effective communication is about more than just exchanging information. It's about understanding the emotion and intentions behind the information. As well as being able to clearly convey a message, you need to also listen in a way that gains the full meaning of what’s being said, builds trust, and makes the other person feel heard and understood.