Even when you’re not trying to communicate, you are still sending messages to the world around you. As an individual, you’re able to be a contributing factor to society, build relationships and express your individuality through methods of communicating effectively.
Direct Vs. Indirect
The style of communication used is important in determining the effectiveness of a message. Communicators tend to fall under two categories: direct and indirect. An indirect communicator, also known as passive, will not be able to effectively communicate a message as clearly as someone who is assertive. An indirect communicator will often be shy, quiet, follow orders and avoid confrontation. In a workplace setting, a person who is passive will rarely be promoted to a management position because their verbal and nonverbal communication do not portray confidence or the ability to give orders.
Direct communicators, also known as being assertive, have clear advantages in the effectiveness of their communication styles. They are comfortable discussing differences and are able to express what’s on their mind without feeling intimidated by the risk of confrontation. They often portray confidence in their abilities, so you will often see assertive communicators in management type positions. Direct communicators are typically respectful of others, so being direct or assertive should not be confused with being aggressive.
According to MayoClinic.com, assertiveness is a learned skill, so it is possible for an indirect communicator to become more direct.
Active listening is important in communicating effectively because it shows respect, builds trust and strengthens relationships. If a person is thinking about how to reply to a person who is talking, he is not actively listening.
Active listening also allows parties involved in conflict to release their emotions while also providing an environment suited for problem solving, according to the Beyond Intractability Knowledge Base Project at the University of Colorado at Boulder. This is because active listening allows all parties to be fully heard while another party listens without distractions.
To listen actively, a person would focus entirely on what the speaker is saying without reacting or interrupting. Once the speaker has completed talking, the listener will briefly summarize the conversation before replying to ensure everything is understood correctly.
Body language is considered nonverbal communication and for it to be effective, it must support verbal messages. According to Group Work, regardless of what you are saying verbally, body language can negatively effect your communication if you point your index finger, cross your arms in front of your body or give sideway glances.
Insufficient or excessive eye contact can create barriers in communication, according to the Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute. If somebody is staring unnaturally, this may cause the receiver to feel uncomfortable. If a person has difficulty maintaining eye contact, this may be interpreted as someone showing signs of disinterest or distrust.
Without effective communication, showing your unique sense of individuality would be difficult. Self-expression can be verbal and nonverbal. Some of the ways self-expression allows you to choose how you want to be portrayed to the world is through the clothes you wear, music you listen to and past times that you participate.
In addition, self-expression can be changed to accommodate different scenarios. For example, if a college student lives a heavy metal lifestyle, but they are interviewing for a job as a teacher—they have the ability to change the message they want to communicate to the potential employer.
The customs you have developed verbally and non-verbally in your home country may vary greatly from those in another country, so effective communication is not universal.
Because effective communication is a learned skill, it’s possible for people to research and discover cultures different from their own to prevent misunderstandings. Many companies that do businesses with different countries will often offer cross-cultural training and diversity training to employees. According to Intercultural Communication in Contexts, these trainings allow others to become familiar with customs and appropriate communication techniques. It also keeps employees from becoming unnecessarily offended.
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- MayoClinic.com: Being Assertive: Reduce Stress, Communicate Better
- Beyond Intractability Knowledge Base Project: University of Colorado at Boulder: Empathic Listening
- Rensselear Polytechnic Institute: Nonverbal Communication
- Group Works: University of Maine: Effective Communication
- "Intercultural Communication in Contexts"; Martin J.N. & Nakayama T.K.; 2007
Melissa McNamara is a certified personal trainer who holds a Bachelor of Arts in journalism and communication studies from the University of Iowa. She writes for various health and fitness publications while working toward a Bachelor of Science in nursing.