Basic Communication Skills

Basic communication skills, whether verbal or written, are an important part of relationship skills. This is true at home, in the workplace and in general interactions or relationships. Whether written or verbal, the message received is far more important than the message sent.

With good communication skills, the person receiving the message understands it exactly the way the sender intended it to be understood. With poor communication, the message can easily be misunderstood or misinterpreted. In that case, the interaction could become simply a waste of time, or in a worse case scenario, could result in severe unintended consequences if the message is acted upon incorrectly. Basic Communication Skills provide a foundation for good communication.

Effective communication skills include the proper use and expression of words, along with consideration of the "image" presented and a good understanding of how the message will most-likely be perceived.


Basic Communication Skills - General Communication

Communication can be either written or interpersonal. Many of the basic communication skills apply to both:

• Know your audience.

Choose your words appropriately. Using big words to impress an audience that doesn't understand any of them is probably a waste of time.

Engage your audience by including topics of particular interest to them - how are they affected. As "receivers" of a message, everyone wants to feel they have some connection to that message. If they don't feel connected, the message will most-likely be ignored.

• Show appropriate level of respect.

Everyone deserves basic respect. Profanity is rarely appreciated.

Communication with the president of the company or a supervisor should be more formal than communicating with a co-worker, even if the information given is the same.

Don't order people to do things. Even if compliance is mandatory, the request can be phrased in a way that conveys importance, but does not instill resentment that could result in a job poorly done.

• Image should be clean and neat.

Letters and emails should be easy to read with no misspelled words. This is particularly important when making an initial contact. (A resume would be a good example.)

Seeing someone for the first time immediately sparks a first impression. In most cases, being clean and neat plays a large part in forming a good impression. Dressing for Success is particularly important in preparing for an interview.

• Be clear and concise.

Don't ramble. Most people have a low tolerance for communication that is off-topic and seems never-ending.

With regard to written communication, read it over several times to be sure it is exactly what you want to say. The content of written material must be very clear because, unlike verbal communication, spontaneous questioning is not possible.

• Anticipate possible reactions and counter them.

Whether writing a letter / email or preparing to speak to a group, anticipate questions, comments and criticisms that might arise. You can alter or expand the information given to cover anticipated feedback. Or be prepared to counter this feedback at a later date.


Basic Communication Skills - Interpersonal Communication

Interpersonal communication is far more complicated than written in the sense that response and interaction is immediate. There is usually not time to compose the perfect response or explanation. Emotions also play a larger part in interpersonal communication. Therefore, in addition to the skills listed above, the following should also be considered basic communication skills.

Interpersonal Communication Skills Focus on Sight and Sound as well as Content:

• Body Language - the image projected by the speaker and the perception received by the listener - is the most important part of interpersonal communication.

In some cases, we don’t even have to speak. Sometimes we can see a person across the room and immediately decide whether we want to interact with them or avoid them. First impressions can be that strong. This is especially true in a job interview. If we make a bad first impression, we may have to work very hard to overcome it.

Being able to project a positive image is a relationship skill. Generally, if we have a positive self image, it is much easier to project a positive image to other people. And a positive image usually results in a more positive interaction. This is true in casual interactions (a store clerk), more formal interactions (boss or co-worker) and intimate relationships (family or close friends).

Understanding that perception is not always reality can also help us avoid jumping to conclusions. Sometimes our projected image is misperceived and sometimes we misperceive the projected image of another person.

Gestures and symbols are also important. Someone shaking their fist at us may rightly be interpreted as someone to stay away from. The same may be true of someone with a tattoo or wearing a t-shirt that promotes violence. Lack of eye contact may send a message of insincerity or disinterest. Although it could also indicate a cultural difference or low self esteem.

What is the best way to avoid a distorted image or perception?

As mentioned earlier, developing personal strengths may help us project a more positive image. And empathy (trying to put ourselves in someone else's position) can help us avoid jumping to conclusions. Asking questions to clarify what we are thinking will also help.

• Tone of Voice - a reflection of feelings - is the second-most important part of interpersonal communication.

Generally, we will not listen to someone who is yelling at us, putting us down or acting better than us. All of these feelings – anger, condescension, superiority – come through loud and clear in tone of voice.

In good communication, an even-toned delivery is encouraged. This is particularly true in customer service. Feelings and emotions should always be expressed in an appropriate manner, based on that specific interaction or relationship.

• Content – the words and message, although listed third in interpersonal communication, are still very important. As outlined in Basic Communication Skills -- General Communication, choose words carefully and be sure the message is clear and concise.