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URMC / BHP / BHP Blog / May 2017 / Are You An Effective Communicator?

Are You An Effective Communicator?

By: Vanessa Mace

Communication skills are essential in many aspects of life.  But even with our best intentions, we often find ourselves in a situation where we try to say one thing and the other person hears something completely different.  This can be due to a lack of effective communication skills. 

Effective communication is when a message is delivered, received and understood in the way it was intended.  Communicating effectively combines a set of skills including appropriate body language, active listening, managing stress in the moment, the ability to communicate assertively, and the capacity to recognize and understand your own emotions and those of the person you’re communicating with. Learning to use these skills can improve communication with co-workers, friends, and family.

Five Communication Skills:

  1. Be Aware of Your Body language – Non-verbal communication is just as important as verbal communication.  Recall a time when you met someone and they had poor body language (limited eye contact, weak handshake, poor posture, arms crossed).  Did you leave the conversation feeling confident about that person’s message?  Probably not.  When communicating effectively, it helps to be aware of your nonverbal cues.  You can easily improve your body language by genuinely smiling, maintaining eye contact, sitting/standing up straight, not crossing your arms/legs, using appropriate hand gestures and not fidgeting.  We are constantly communicating even if we’re not saying a word. 
  2. Actively Listen – We often focus on what we want to say in a conversation instead of focusing on what the other person is saying.  When we actively listen to others we minimize the chance of misunderstandings.  To become a better listener you must pay attention.  Try to really understand what the person is telling you as opposed to just hearing the words.  To show you are actively listening to the speaker you can engage in the conversation by asking questions and maintaining eye contact.
  3. Keep Calm – Basic communication skills often break down when we become overwhelmed, anxious, upset, or angry.  It is important that you are able to recognize when you are becoming distressed.  When this occurs, it is especially important that you use good communication skills as well as healthy coping skills, such as deep breathing to help manage your emotions.
  4. Make Sure Your Message is Clear – The “Ask-Tell-Ask” model is encouraged in medical settings to promote collaboration between medical providers and their patients.  This process involves active listening, clear communication, and verification that the correct message was received.  Remember to speak clearly and concisely, avoid conversation fillers such as “um” or “like”, relax, pause, have a script, and tailor your message to your audience.  Try using the “Ask-Tell-Ask” model with your co-workers and family members. 
  5. Strive to Understand – Communication is about more than words or body language. It’s about understanding someone else’s perspective.  To understand someone is to know how they think and feel.  You don’t have to agree with how someone thinks or feels in order to relate to their experience. Yet being able to communicate that you do understand can help facilitate effective communication.

The ability to communicate is an essential life skill that supports the development and maintenance of healthy relationships.  The more you practice the skills and techniques listed above, the more likely you are to feel more confident in your relationships at work and at home. 

Behavioral Health Partners is brought to you by Well-U, providing eligible individuals with mental health services for stress, anxiety, and depression.


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