Ways to Communicate

Verbal communication is when you effectively convey a thought, image, feeling or idea to another person using words and the tone of your voice. Non-verbal communication is when facial expressions, body language and gestures convey a thought, image, feeling or idea to another person without using words. When using body language, be aware. There are two types of body language that are often used and each one can send a different message.


Body Language

Welcoming/Open Body Language shows that you are interested, open to new ideas, friendly and willing to communicate and listen to other people. Some examples of open body language include:

  • Making eye contact
  • Smiling
  • Holding your hand out to shake
  • Relaxed arms and legs
  • Leaning forward

Unapproachable/ Closed Body Language shows that you are not interested, aren’t trusting or are preoccupied. This often leads to misinformation. Some examples of closed body language include:

  • Closed arms
  • Legs crossed
  • No eye contact
  • Making sounds
  • Looking at your watch
  • Leaning back

Communication Barriers

There are many reasons why people have difficulty when communicating.
Some communication barriers include:

  • Use of slang
  • Body language that doesn’t match verbal message
  • Misinterpretation of words
  • Unclear and misunderstood intent

Active Listening

Active Listening means that you’re totally tuned-in to what the other person is saying.
Remember to focus on what the other person is actually saying, not what you think they are saying or might say. If you enter a conversation with an assumption about the other person or what they think, you’re not going to be able to uphold your part of the conversation. Don’t jump to conclusions. You can show empathy and interest even if you don’t agree with what’s being said by staying connected.

Nonverbal active listening

  • Make eye contact and respond to what you hear with the appropriate facial expression.
  • Keep your arms and legs relaxed. Let your posture show interest by leaning toward the speaker.
  • Don’t get so close that you make the speaker feel uncomfortable or threatened.
  • If you disagree with what’s being said, don’t make big gestures or sudden movements. They could be misinterpreted as aggression.
  • Stay focused on what the person is saying, verbally and non-verbally. Give the same respect to them that you expect to receive.

Verbal active listening

  • When someone makes a point, you can show you’re engaged in the conversation by restating what they said, to show that you understand. Phrases like, “So what you’re saying is…” can help.
  • If you don’t understand what you heard, let the other person know that you need more clarification. That also reflects that you care about what they’re saying.
  • Don’t interrupt or cut them off in mid-sentence. Stay in the flow of the conversation. Match your response to the speed and energy of the other person.
  • Be sensitive to what the other person is feeling, and let them know you understand.
  • Ask good questions.
  • Listen without judgment.

Practice communication skills

Practice #1
Practice using “I” statements because using “you” statements can sound argumentative. For example, you sound defensive if you say, “You make me upset because you are always asking me to clean my room.” Instead try: “I’m feeling overwhelmed right now, and I haven’t had time to clean my room. Is it OK of I do it in a few days?”

Practice #2
Practice your non-verbal skills by putting your hands behind your back and try to describe something without using your hands.