According to Merriman-Webster Dictionary, communication is "a process by which information is exchanged between individuals through a common system of symbols, signs, and behavior." Personally, I am not the best communicator. I tend to act and speak in ways that are sometimes completely opposite from what I am thinking and feeling. My sometimes poor communication skills have caused a lot of confusion, heartache, and pain for me in the past and, for that reason, I believe that communication -- that is, good, effective communication -- is absolutely essential for living a positive life.
One thing I often forget when I am communicating with others is the notion that there is a sender, a receiver, and a message. It is important that I, as a sender, recognize: 1) what message I am trying to send, and 2) the state and characteristics of the receiver. What do I mean by this? First and foremost, it is important to be 100% clear about the message I want to send. In many cases this is easy. In some (especially emotion-filled situations), it is not. Making sure I am certain of the message is a great start to clear and effective communication. Secondly, I need to give some thought to the person receiving the message. I might ask myself: In what ways might this message be interpreted? Am I being clear? What type of person is the receiver and how is s/he likely to receive the message? It is just as important to understand the person who will be receiving the message as it is to understand the message itself. Another very informative flyer provided by my company's health care provider lists three effective communication tips:
1. Know the language of the other person. To communicate effectively, you need to understand that there are three language processing styles -- visual, kinesthetic, and auditory. Visual people like to picture things, so if you know you are dealing with a visual person, use terms like "looked like" or visual descriptions. Kinesthetic people focus on feeling, so with this kind of person you would want to used terms like "felt like" or descriptions of how something felt. The third type, auditory, likes to listen and would be more responsive to terms such as "sounded like" and sound-based descriptions. In many cases, you may not know what another persons style is, but if you spend time with the person and pay attention to what s/he says, you probably can pick up on what style s/he uses. This can be very helpful in communicating since you will now know what types of phrases/descriptions to use.
2. Pay attention to mood. This one is absolutely critical. By listening to the tone and speed of someone's voice while paying atte ntion to their facial expression and body language, you can most likely pick up on what kind of mood they are in. If you sense that a boss/spouse/friend is in a negative state of mind, that might not be the best time to communication with him or her. Choose a time for communicating that will allow your message to be delivered without the distraction of outside negativity.
3. Pay attention to non-verbal cues. As I'm sure you've heard before, most of our communication is non-verbal, which makes #3 a very important point to consider when attempting to communicate effectively. Be very conscious not only of others' non-verbal cues, but of your own as well. If you are not conscious of this very important element of communication, you may miss out on a message someone else is trying to communicate or you may miscommunicate your own message. It is important to remember that different cultures/genders/ethnicities/societies have unique ways of communicating non-verbally so keep this in mind. Also, when reading written communication, remember that it is very hard to pick up non-verbal cues. If you are at all unsure of the message, call the sender or, if possible, speak with him or her in person. And don't forget that your written messages may be unclear too, so do your best to be very thoughtful about the words you choose when writing to others.
When communicating with others, it is important to be present. It is important to give the other person your full attention and to do the best you can to relate to him or her. Often when we are distracted or consumed with our own thoughts and words, we miss the messages that others are sending us. Be conscious of your communication and you are more likely to communicate effectively. Communication is such a basic thing, but if you are able to do it effectively, you can create a life that is free from a great deal of confusion and pain.