Have you ever considered how effective your communication is?  We can always improve our ability to communicate, so here are 21 ways to communicate effectively.

Here are some tips to improve communication to help reduce misunderstandings or conflicts and to increase positive and helpful interactions:

1. Learn the basics of nonverbal communication.

One study found that nonverbal communication accounted for 55 percent of how an audience perceived a presenter. That means that the majority of what you say is communicated not through words, but through physical cues.

2. Take time to think before speaking.

Saying the wrong thing, even at the right time, can seriously injure a person. Think, for example, of a doctor misspeaking an order for medication that turns out to be wrong and hurts her patient. Saying the wrong thing in a court of law could send an innocent person to jail for a long, long time.  Since words have such power, it is very important how we communicate.  Therefore, take time to listen, be careful how you answer, and take time before speaking.

3. Speak with straightforwardness.

We often tend to play games with people by not being open and honest.  This is a practice for those who have learned to be passive-aggressive. However, the people we admire the most are those who are honest and truthful. Men or women considered to be leaders, or have charisma, or are given high respect are those who can speak with candor.

Speak with straightforwardness.

4. Make good use of questions.

The person who asks the questions is often the person in control of the conversation.  However, control isn’t necessarily the objective.  Rather, using good questions will get to the heart of the issue and help engage people in the process of dialog and communication.  Ask until there is clarification by using the “who-what-when-where-how” and sometimes “why” questions.

5. Facilitate an open, intimate conversation. 

Choose the right place, one that provides freedom for the communication to open, flower, and come to maturity. If you need to tell someone something that isn’t going to sit well (such as news of a death or a breakup), don’t do it in public, around colleagues, or near other people. Be respectful and mindful of the person by communicating with them in a private place. 

6. Organize and clarify ideas in your mind. 

This should be done before you attempt to communicate any ideas. If you are feeling passionate about a topic, your ideas may become garbled if you haven’t already targeted some key points to stick to when communicating. Key points will act as anchors, bringing focus and clarity to your communication.

7. Engage the audience in discussion.

Regardless of how compelling the speaker is, all audiences have limited attention spans. To become a more effective communicator, make presentations and discussions interactive.

Ask the audience a question, encourage people to call out their thoughts during a brainstorming session, or at the very least ask hypothetical questions to stimulate the audience.

Engage the audience in discussion

8. Master the art of timing.

While some of their jokes might not be appropriate for the workplace, standup comedians are certainly effective communicators. Comedians including Chris Rock and Dave Chappelle are able to host compelling 90-minute comedy shows, in part because they have mastered the art of timing.

9. Focus on earning respect instead of laughs.

It can be tempting to communicate with others in a lighthearted way; after all, this can be a good way to make friends in a professional setting. But remember that the most successful communicators are those who have earned respect, rather than laughs. While telling a joke or two to warm up an audience can be effective, avoid ending a presentation with a laugh.

10. Be a listener.

“Listen more than you talk.” This is what Richard Branson tells business people who want to connect with others. To communicate effectively, first listen to what others have to say. Then you can provide a thoughtful answer that shows you have taken those ideas into account. 

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