By Laura Hegeman

Communicating is something all of us do every day. It’s not only what we say, but it is also how we silently react through body language, as well as listening to another as they speak. The Webster dictionary defines communication as “information transmitted or conveyed.” Although this sounds simple, it is a skill that takes practice.

People learn to communicate in different ways depending on how, where, and with whom they are raised. Communication, however, is most effective when it is clear and concise. Verbally it’s best to avoid long winding stories that lose peoples interest or tangential speeches that might relate somehow, but confuse the listener. People stop listening when the information being given is lengthy and doesn’t make sense. Instead, stick to the facts of what you are trying to convey. How you relate your message through tone of voice is also very important. When my kids were little a common phrase used at our house was “it’s not what you say, it’s how you say it.” Where you put the emphasis in your message makes a huge difference.

You are constantly in the state of communication even if you are saying nothing. Non-verbal cues come through our body language. Posture, gestures, and facial expression are a large part of communication. Body language is the emotional side of the conversation. Just by how you stand or look at another while they speak can exude warmth, acceptance, and understanding or it can communicate total disinterest, boredom, or confusion. Generally you can tell when speaking to someone else if they are unhappy or happy even if they haven’t said a word. Being aware of body language when speaking to others is important because it accounts for substantial amount of what is perceived in a conversation.

Finally actively listening is a key factor in communication. There really is no point in having a conversation with someone if they are unwilling to listen. Listening requires being present in the conversation. Think about how you would like someone else to listen to you. Try looking at the person as you speak, showing interest in what they are saying, staying focused on the speaker without interruption, and avoid being judgmental. Listening carefully to another person makes them feel heard and understood. It is a way we connect to another human being.

Communicating effectively is a skill that will allow you to build healthy relationships with others. Improving your skills take patience and dedication. Mistakes will be made but if you are aware of them and take responsibility for them, the mistakes will help you learn. Make communicating clearly a priority in your life and you will be surprised at what a difference it can make.