Effective Communication Skills

Effective communication skills start with three key areas for growth. They are:

Respecting Differences
Seeking to Understand
Connecting with Others

Let’s explore each of these.

Respecting Differences

Although we all listen to each other when we communicate it can be difficult to view situations and circumstances from the perspective of others. Our individual frame of reference is frequently so strongly ingrained that we are unable to see the world as others do.

Dale Carnegie was an insightful man with effective communication skills who wrote a great book first published in 1937 called How to Win Friends and Influence People. Mr. Carnegie addressed how differently we view ourselves in comparison to how others view us.

In one example he explains how almost every good citizen at the time (the 1930s) felt Al Capone was a notorious criminal. On the other side, Al Capone couldn’t figure out why everyone hated him so much.

Capone said: “I have spent the best years of my life giving people the lighter pleasures, helping them to have a good time and all I get is abuse, the existence of a hunted man.” Interesting difference of perceptions isn’t it?

People frequently have different perceptions of themselves than others have of them. Sometimes these differences of reality are dramatic.

The lesson of Carnegie’s book is that we all see the world differently and to interact with others it is important to respect and validate them. This simple but powerful concept gives us invaluable insight on how to interact with others to connect and communicate effectively.


Seeking to Understand

Seeking to understand others is another powerful communication skills. Life’s classroom is always open for the willing and motivated.

To learn about another person, ask many probing but respectful questions and listen carefully to the answers.

Ask about a person’s family, upbringing, beliefs, culture, experiences and so forth to really get to know that individual.

Asking these questions helps understanding of many of the reasons this individual acts, reacts and manages situations and circumstances in a certain way.

Try to minimize judgment, rejection or criticizing by listening and putting personal prejudices in check as much as possible. This encourages others to be open and honest and helps them feel comfortable and safe.

The benefits of understanding others are significant.

First, the more we learn about others the more our own frame of reference of the world expands. We become better equipped to manage a myriad of relationship issues.

When we make the shift to understanding there is no “one right way” to see or do anything we open up limitless possibilities for doing things in creative new ways. Life is more interesting and fun.

And second, understanding others leads to better relationships. People relate best to those who empathize with them. We all feel more comfortable with others who can see our point of view even if there are differences of opinion.

Connecting with Others

There are an infinite opportunities to connect with others. Connecting is another of the effective communication skills. One way we connect with others (including complete strangers) is through a common interest. We connect well with people who we relate to.

There are many signals of common interests. It may be a shirt logo of an organization like the Sierra Club, or a bumper sticker of a school that your child attends.

It might be seeing a unique car that you have (or would like to have), or other subtle signals that say: “Hey, I have a passion for…, if you have the same interest, please talk to me.”

I have enjoyed diving a great deal. When I see someone with a dive logo on his or her car, or t-shirt, or has some other diving identifier I feel an immediate connection.

When time permits, I enjoy striking up a conversation about where he or she has dived, what his or her greatest diving adventures have been, and so forth.

One pleasant Saturday I walked around my neighborhood and stopped by the local pool. I saw a dive suit hanging over a chair. Someone in the pool was trying out his dive gear.

I introduced myself and we talked for about 20 minutes about diving. The visual signal told me I would probably be welcome if I tried to strike up a conversation.

People are continually reaching out consciously and subconsciously to connect with others. They wear these flags in a wide array of forms to reflect their enjoyment and pride in their passions. Also, exploring these connections is a way for you to let others know more about yourself.


Moving Forward - Effective Communication Skills

Everyone has challenges with communication. Effective communication skills don’t come easy. As a matter of fact, they are quite challenging.

Reaching out to others to connect becomes less and less common as our population grows and the pressures of life increase.

The enormous number of interactions we have coupled with increasingly busy schedules and a concern of being rejected, misunderstood or manipulated can be daunting. These fears constantly hold us back from reaching out to others.

Becoming a student of people is key to improving effective communication skills.

It isn’t easy, but the rewards far exceed the labor put into the effort. This bold step has to start with a conscious effort.

Are you ready to take on the challenge?

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