Effective Communication

A couple smiling at each other.

Effective communication is essential in creating and maintaining strong relationships with coworkers, family members, friends, and loved ones. With globalization and technology changing the way people communicate with one another, it is now more important than ever to be adaptable. Learning to communicate through verbal and nonverbal means, as well as becoming a thoughtful listener are key ways to maintain healthy and intimate relationships.

Why Is Effective Communication Important?

Communicating effectively is important in all relationships as it enables people to better understand and connect with each other. Effective communication fosters respect, trust, and a positive environment that allows people to share their honest feelings with one another. Poor communication or miscommunication often lead to dissatisfaction, resentment, arguments, and other barriers than can hinder the quality of relationships. Having the ability to openly share one’s feelings and concerns is essential for happy and healthy relationships.

How to Communicate

Effective communication combines many different skills. Every conversation and relationship is unique, so it is essential to be adaptive in every situation. Learning how to successfully communicate with another person may take a great deal of time and effort. During this process, it is vital to be patient and optimistic. Learning to better communicate and understand someone can be a very rewarding experience, and it will strengthen one’s relationship.

Bringing a Positive Attitude

The first step to effective communication is to approach the conversation with a positive attitude.  Without an optimistic outlook, it will be difficult to have an open and productive conversation. In order to maintain a positive attitude, it can be helpful to analyze the situation internally. Doing so means taking a step back and organizing the specific information or message you want to share. It can also be productive to think about what the best way to communicate one’s feelings could be. Being prepared will enable the person to stay calculated and maintain a relaxed composure, creating a more welcoming and comfortable environment. By keeping a positive rather than a negative attitude, one can encourage openness and honesty and create a safer space for communication. When communicating during a major disagreement or argument, staying calm, not raising one’s voice, and having a positive attitude can be very helpful as it will make solving the problem much easier. If all parties in the conversation maintain a positive attitude, then everyone will be more willing to have an open and honest dialogue, which will foster compromise and success.

Communicating Verbally

Examples of verbal communication include face to face conversations, phone calls, or video conferencing. This kind of communication is essential in everyday life. Learning effective verbal communication skills will be helpful in nearly all social interactions. When attempting to have a constructive, important conversation, try to express one’s beliefs in a concise and straightforward manner. Getting off topic can make one’s message confusing and difficult to grasp, which can prevent one from reaching the conclusion the person wanted to reach. Articulating and speaking loudly enough for the other person to hear will help one deliver their message successfully.

Tone of voice is also an important component of verbal communication. For example, speaking in a monotonous voice may lead others to become bored and quickly lose attention. Tone of voice can also alter the meaning of a message. For example, saying the phrase, “I am really excited to see you” can be interpreted differently depending on the tone of voice that is used. If one speaks in an energetic and upbeat manner, the message will sound authentic and will be received positively. However, if one uses a sarcastic or negative tone, the message may be perceived poorly and could be hurtful. Being aware of one’s tone can help the person get your point across more effectively and avoid miscommunication. Additionally, learning to pay special attention to the other person’s tone of voice can help the person understand how they are feeling, which can help one determine whether or not it is an appropriate time to bring up certain topics in a conversation.

Having conversations face to face can also be challenging because there is the possibility of being interrupted or interrupting the other person and not having an equal amount of participation and power. To combat these potential issues, it is essential to not only let the other person finish speaking, but also to be assertive. Make sure that other people in the conversation have an equal opportunity to speak their mind and that everyone is being treated with respect. ​

Nonverbal Communication 

A person in a dress sitting on top of a person in a suit.

Nonverbal communication is communication that doesn’t involve speech. This can include text messages, e-mails, books, magazines, facial expressions, body language, letters, and many other forms. Nonverbal communication can be difficult for a number of reasons. It can be challenging to understand what the sender meant in a text message or email, because a typed message can be interpreted in many different ways. The lack of tone of voice and physical gestures, both of which usually express emotion, can make proper interpretation difficult.1 In fact, a recent study found that email recipients only correctly identified an email as being serious or sarcastic 56% of the time.1 However, when the same message was heard via a voice recording, the participants understood the correct emotion 73% of the time.1 This study demonstrates that the odds of miscommunication, during nonverbal interactions are high, which can lead to ineffective communication. Researchers have found that when digital miscommunication occurs, it takes two distinct forms: “neutral” or “negative.”2 During a neutral communication, there is no positive or negative intent. A neutral communication is usually factual in nature.2 During a negative miscommunication, the receiver intercepts the sender’s message as negative. In order to overcome the difficulties of nonverbal digital communication, it is helpful use words and phrases that clearly express one’s feelings. It is also recommended to ask people to clarify their message if one are unsure of what they are trying to say. 

Body language is another major component of nonverbal communication. Body language includes eye contact, posture, and physical gestures. When communicating with others, maintaining steady eye contact demonstrates confidence, comfort, and focus. In a recent study, it was found that in person eye contact helps the brain process feelings and intentions.3 This study shows that it may be more difficult to understand a person’s emotions when they are communicating through writing. In turn, when one has the opportunity to communicate in person, one should take full advantage of this because it means that your chances of miscommunicating are low. When having a conversation, having good posture standing straight, maintaining eye contact, and sitting or standing still will express confidence, and attentiveness. However, slouching or hunching over during a conversation will have detrimental effects, because it demonstrates a lack of focus and apathy. Having poor posture will tell your audience that one is not interested and does not care about the conversation. This can agitate and upset others in the conversation, leading to poor communication. For example, if the conversation turns to sensitive topic, placing one’s hand on the other person’s shoulder can convey a sense of comfort and safety, possibly encouraging them to share more.


When effectively communicating, listening is just as important as speaking. Communication requires that both parties always be engaged and focused on each other. There are a number of ways to be an active and attentive listener. First, the listener should keep a positive outlook and give their full attention to the conversation. Doing so demonstrates respect, keeps one focused, and helps one to identify important nonverbal cues. Next, listeners should not hesitate to ask questions to help them fully comprehend the message and its intent. Not only does this promote better understanding, but it will also demonstrate that the listener is engaged in the conversation and is paying attention. In certain situations, like a meeting, taking notes or jotting down ideas while listening can make it easier to remember what others were saying and what a person was thinking. Additionally, staying relaxed and being patient will take some of the pressure off the speaker, allowing them to share their honest feelings and beliefs more comfortably. Being an effective listener also requires one to keep an open mind. If the listener enters a conversation with predetermined beliefs and an unwillingness to learn, they may not pay full attention or be respectful. It is crucial to not interrupt when listening. Interrupting others can make the speaker feel attacked or unimportant, thereby derailing effective communication. Finally, a listener should also pay attention to what was not verbally said during the conversation.4 Nonverbal cues are just as important as what is said. Picking up on these cues will help the listener understand what the speaker meant and what their intentions were, ultimately leading to more effective communication.

Communicating With Respect to Different Cultures and Preferences

With rapid globalization and the growth of technology, people from different cultures are beginning to communicate more frequently. It is therefore very important to know how to be respectful while communicating. Pay special attention to their cultural preferences. If one knows that they are going to communicate with someone from another country or culture, one can learn more about their cultural preferences by looking it up online. Researching their culture and customs before communicating with them can make communication smoother. Understanding different cultural preferences beforehand will eliminate some potential barriers, allowing for more open communication. People from other cultural backgrounds will respect those who take the time to try to become more welcoming to them.


A couple sitting down, facing each other. They are looking at each other and smiling.

Compromising is a very important aspect of effective communication. One will encounter many situations in which you do not agree with others. Being able to comprise in those situations can help avoid tensions or arguments. Compromising calls for all parties to concede on some part of their wishes, in order come to a middle point that all parties involved can be comfortable with and agree on. This can allow all parties to successfully move forward in the conversation or relationship. If both parties are at a point of disagreement, it is important that one steps forward to offer a compromise. By offering to compromise, one will be sending a clear signal that they are willing to work together to create the best situation possible and maintain a positive relationship.

Communicating in Different Situations

Learning to communicate in different situations is crucial to foster successful communication. One can find themselves in a wide variety of situations where they will have to adjust their communication style to best fit the environment they are in. To do so, one must be flexible as well as receptive and responsive to the environments and situations they find themselves in.

Communicating in the Social Media Age

Today, social media plays a major part in many people’s daily lives. However, communicating on social media is much different than communicating in more traditional ways. Communicating on social media platforms requires one to adjust their communication style accordingly. Social media usually involves written communication, which can often include shorthand or emoticons. Shorthand includes abbreviations such as“kk,” “ttyl,” and many others. Brief responses on social media are normal and typically do not indicate any negativity. While the slang and shorthand can be convenient, they create a greater chance of miscommunication, as they make it challenging to discern people’s emotions. One can use emoticons, which are small images that can help describe a person’s emotions, to assist them in getting their true intentions across on a social media platform. Just as in other forms of communication, one should always ask for a clarification if they are not certain of the meaning or intention of the message they received. Similarly, when writing a message on social media, one can try to explain their feelings by making sure to be explicit and clear. It is also important to know that almost all communication via social media can be stored online, even if one believes it has been deleted. Therefore, one should be careful of what they post, share, and communicate on social media platforms.

How to Communicate in New Relationships

Communicating in new relationships is an important aspect to make the relationship successful and healthy, regardless of how serious and committed the relationship is. In any new relationship, it is crucial that both parties begin the relationship with open and honest communication. Patience is key in short-term relationships, because it takes a great deal of time to learn a partner’s communication style and preferences, so it may be difficult to communicate very effectively. Having open and upfront communication from the start of the relationship will help set the tone and routine for the rest of the relationship. Conversations that include phrases such as, “I like when,” “I dislike when,” and “I prefer” can help both parties get to know each other and communicate more clearly. While it can be easy to get frustrated when communication is not as clear as one would like it to be, voicing one’s concerns can be productive and allow for corrections to be made. Make sure to encourage one’s partner to open up about their concerns, preferences and desires. Part of the joy of a new relationship is discovering how to work together and compromise to build the best possible relationship.

Communicating in Long-Term Relationships

Successful communication in long-term relationships is key for a healthy relationship. In a long-term relationship, both parties should already be used to communicating in a way that suits both people. However, it is possible for preferences to change over time. Therefore, it is important to keep asking one’s partner questions and to make sure that they feel heard and supported. While it is possible for communication in long-term relationships to become mundane and boring overtime, those in long-term relationships can combat this by finding new and fun ways to interact. This can include new forms of communication that have not been engaged in before. For example, if a couple in a long-term relationship relies mainly relies on text and email to communicate, a handwritten note can be a nice change and a surprise. Experimenting with new ways of communication can be an adventure in itself that those in the relationship can embark on.

Communicating in Sexual Relationships

Communication in sexual relationships is the most important factor in ensuring that all parties involved are safe and enjoy their time together. Before becoming a sexually intimate, it is imperative that consent is given by all parties who will be engaging in the sexual activity. When consent is not given, and sexual activity occurs, it is considered rape or sexual assault. Even when hugging or kissing another person, it is important that to them beforehand to make sure they are comfortable with it. One can do so by saying something along the lines of, “I had a great time tonight, can I give you a hug goodnight?” If the other person replies with a clear “yes”, then consent has been obtained. At any point during the sexual activity consent can be taken away. However, if the person says they are uncomfortable with the situation, or their body language is indicating that they are uncomfortable, then do not attempt to hug them or try to convince them to hug you. One may reply with, “well I am glad that I asked, I would not want to make you feel uncomfortable.”

A topless couple in a shower. One person is kissing the other's neck.

Once consent has been given, communication during the act also becomes essential. Communication can allow one to discover their partner’s likes and dislikes. Open communication can happen at three distinct times: prior to sex, during sex, and after sex. Statements such as “I like it when,” and “I am not a fan of,” can help guide the partner on what to focus on during sex and what to avoid. Prior to engaging in sex, partners can have a conversation about what they enjoy during sex. For example, a partner can explain that they enjoy oral and penile/vaginal sex, but dislike anal sex. This clear communication can help both partners get the most satisfaction out of the experience. Partners can also discuss their sexual fantasies and desires. If one partner is not comfortable fulfilling their partner’s fantasies, it is important to voice this concern. Being open and honest can lead to compromise and better sex.

Communication during sex should include both verbal and nonverbal communication. Verbal communication can include phrases such as “that feels so good,” “keep going,” and “I love when you do that.” If you are not enjoying something they are doing, phrases such as “try doing this,” “go back to what you were doing before,” and “I liked it better when,” can tell your partner to change what they are doing to make it more pleasurable for all involved.

Nonverbal communication during sex can also give you and your partner clues on how to pleasure one another. Nonverbal communication during sex can include a wide variety of acts such as guiding their partner with their hand, moaning, moving, and touching. For example, when a woman is receiving oral sex, she can guide her partner’s head to where it feels most pleasurable for her. It is important to note that if at any time during sexual activity, either partner no longer consents, that sexual activity must stop immediately and without questions.

Communication after sex can be helpful for future encounters.  In this post-sex conversation, the partners can discuss what they liked, disliked, and what they can try next time. This will help all partners to have better sex because partners can spend more time and effort on what their partner likes.

Concluding Remarks

No matter what situation one finds themselves in, it is important to be an effective communicator. Effective communication is the ability to clearly express one’s message and intent, regardless of the environment they are in. Effective communication can lead to stronger relationships, making those involved happier and healthier. Keep listening and respecting the other person, better relationships can form.


  1. Kruger, Justin, Nicholas Epley, Jason Parker, and Zhi-Wen Ng. “Egocentrism over E-mail: Can We Communicate as Well as We Think?” Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 89.6 (2005): 925-36. Web. 9 Oct. 2016.
  2. Bryon, Kristin. “Carrying Too Heavy a Load? The Communication and Miscommunication of Emotion by Email.” Academy of Management 33.2 (2008): 309-27. Web. 9 Oct. 2016.
  3. Pönkänen, Laura M., Annemari Alhoniemi, Jukka M. Leppänen, and Jari K. Hietanen. “Does It Make a Difference If I Have an Eye Contact with You or with Your Picture? An ERP Study.”Soc Cogn Affect Neurosci Social Cognitive and Affective Neuroscience 6.4 (2010): 486-94. Web. 9 Oct. 2016.
  4. “10 Steps To Effective Listening.” Forbes. Forbes Magazine, 9 Nov. 2012. Web. 9 Oct. 2016.

Last Updated: 24 October 2016.