How To Communicate Better: 11 Communication Skills And Techniques That Work

Medically reviewed by April Justice
Updated February 27, 2024by BetterHelp Editorial Team

Without our ability to communicate, we would likely be unrecognizable as a species. In addition to being vital for survival, visual communication through writing, symbols, and mass media is a trademark characteristic of modern civilization. But for most of us, communication is so ever-present that we may only notice it when something goes wrong. 

An argument with a loved one, for example, may result in a meta-conversation about a communication breakdown, while a misunderstanding at work can highlight the need for clearer written communication. In both personal and professional contexts, it is essential to understand how to communicate in ways that facilitate productive, respectful conversation. 

Here, we’ll explore several ways to improve your communication skills by learning how to connect with others and articulate your thoughts clearly and effectively. With empathy, mindfulness, and self-awareness, you can build strong relationships and diverse social networks while contributing to a friendly, cohesive community.

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Learn effective communication in therapy

11 ways to improve communication skills

Becoming a better communicator involves a high degree of situational awareness, empathy, and continued effort. Try implementing these skills in your everyday life as you navigate its diversity of social situations. Good communication can benefit closer relationships, family dynamics, professional prospects, and even simple daily interactions. By prioritizing productive, respectful conversations, you can gain a richer understanding of and compassion for others.

1. Think before you speak

Before you begin speaking, take a moment to consider your message and delivery. If you are in a heightened emotional state, it may help to calm down with a few breaths before engaging in conversation. By checking in with yourself before you articulate your thoughts, you may prevent misunderstandings and lead a more thoughtful conversation.

2. Offer empathy and understanding

Empathy is crucial for building trust and connecting with others. Approach conversation with genuine curiosity and empathy for the other person, considering their feelings and perspective. By remaining aware of any social cues or circumstances that may be influencing the other person, you can tailor your communication to resonate with them better.

3. Ask questions

Questions are often necessary for gaining a well-rounded understanding of other perspectives, fostering a deeper understanding of the situation. They can also stimulate dialogue, convey interest, and move the conversation toward resolution. Use open-ended questions to give others an opportunity to contribute their thoughts.

4. Use examples

Examples can be a helpful tool for explaining yourself to others. Examples can help you translate abstract ideas into more available concepts that others can grasp more easily. Examples are valuable in situations when you are trying to illustrate a point, inform or educate others, or persuade someone to understand your perspective. 

5. Keep the conversation productive

It can be frustrating to engage in an unproductive dialogue, meaning a conversation or situation in which there does not seem to be any active exchange of ideas. If you feel a conversation isn’t moving forward, it may help to take a moment and assess why. If you are navigating a tense situation, try addressing any underlying issues that may be hindering progress. It can also help to proactively elicit solutions, redirect the conversation, or seek common ground. 

6. Show respect

It can help to approach communication with respect for others. Insulting others, using offensive language, and interrupting are some of the many disrespectful communication patterns that can pose an obstacle to effective communication. Instead, make a good-faith effort to build trust and understanding, even during a challenging conversation.

7. Communicate clearly and concisely

Clear, precise language is vital to effective communication. Use simple language and avoid ambiguity, giving others the chance to actively engage. Avoid being long-winded or overly complex, focusing instead on being concise and to the point. By making it easy for others to listen to and understand you, you can have more efficient and effective conversations.

8. Employ active listening

Active listening is a way to show others that you understand and value their contribution, and can be especially helpful for navigating challenging conversations. It involves focusing on the conversation, tracking what the other person is saying, and incorporating their point into your response. This helps convey empathy and interest, facilitating meaningful dialogue.

9. Use “I” statements

When engaging in difficult conversations, you can avoid accusatory language by using “I” statements. In this way, you address your feelings and perspective rather than the other person’s words or actions. For example, you might use “I’m feeling,” “I’m thinking,” or “I’m telling myself that” to help discuss your thoughts without blaming others.

10. Be aware of body language

Body language is vital to effective face-to-face communication. Try to remain aware and in control of non-verbal cues like facial expressions, gestures, posture, and eye contact. It may be just as important to tune into others’ body language, noticing if they seem open and receptive or closed and defensive.

11. Practice

Practice communication each day by remaining aware of your everyday interactions with others and constantly adapting your approach. You can work on specific skills through public speaking clubs, classes, and even therapy. Studying rhetoric, interpersonal communication, and human psychology can help you learn more about effective communication.

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Becoming a better communicator in therapy

Your ability to communicate effectively can be affected by factors such as stress, social anxiety, emotional state, and more. In some cases, individuals may lack effective communication skills due to their upbringing. If you frequently find yourself in tense or awkward situations with others, it may be worth connecting with a therapist.

A therapist can help you understand what may be hindering your ability to express yourself and offer strategies and skills for improving communication and emotional intelligence. They can also provide a neutral perspective, helping you learn to broaden your awareness and reframe situations in a more adaptive way.

Interpersonal therapy is one type of therapy that may be worth considering. Research has found it to be effective for treating interpersonal issues related to depression, social anxiety, and mood disorders, though it may benefit anyone who struggles to communicate effectively with others. 

Through online platforms like BetterHelp, you may connect with a therapist trained to deliver interpersonal therapy and similar approaches that target communication issues. Online therapy is known to be just as effective as in-person therapy, and may offer additional ways to develop communication skills, such as group therapy, webinars, and interactive journaling.

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Learn effective communication in therapy

Takeaway

Becoming a better communicator is a lifelong process that involves a high degree of situational and self-awareness. Certain communication techniques, such as asking questions, active listening, and redirection can help you learn how to navigate social situations with confidence. Speaking clubs, reflection and self-study, and interpersonal therapy can benefit those who wish to improve their communication skills. You can get started by connecting with an online interpersonal therapist through BetterHelp.

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