Humans are not only species to have some form of communication. Yet we do have most complex forms of communication extant. Hundreds of differing spoken languages and dialects, several visual languages, and several different alphabets, not to mention various codes based on tones, beats etc, exist all of which are there for purpose of communicating with other people. Human beings are social creatures - communication amongst ourselves is part and parcel of everyday life. Yet many people have "poor communication skills". Why is this so, when we seem to have developed an extraordinarily complex system able to convey a multitude of different purposes?
The Purpose of each Communication - Differences in Style
All communication has a purpose, be that talking to clients over phone, chatting with friends or presenting a report. What are purposes here? In all cases there are a variety at work: maintaining or building relationships, answering specific questions, giving an expert opinion, reframing events in light of previous experience to make them seem more normal, exchanging news to satisfy curiosity, teaching others by grouping seemingly separate pieces of information into a cohesive whole, list could go on for a very long time from just three different situations in which communication is main part. The important thing to realise here is differing variables of communication depending on situation. The main variables are: amount and mode of information received (voice, body language etc), role being played, number of people being communicated with at once (and thus amount of differing sets of information being received), vocabulary set being used.
This all seems very complicated: so how are we meant to learn this so subtle skill of communicating effectively? In actuality there are a few separate skills, all of which can improve your communication abilities and that are relevant to all situations you can possibly face. It is not some strange and unintelligible science that is out of reach of most people, but rather it is accepting that to be an effective communicator you must change your communicating style to match that of person you are communicating with: it is no use expecting them to change for you.
Communication Part 1: Listening/Observing
Communication can be separated into two parts: first part is being able to listen and observe. People speak at 100 to 175 words per minute (wpm), but they can listen intelligently at 600 to 800 wpm. Since only a part of mind is paying attention, it is easy to let mind drift. The cure for this is active and effective listening - which involves listening with a purpose such as to gain information, obtain directions, understand others, solve problems, share interest, show support, etc. By defining your purpose in listening you can moderate your responses to accomplish your purpose.
Active & Effective Listening
So how do you listen actively? First of all, you must be able to yank your mind back from wherever it might drift during a conversation: being able to concentrate exclusively on someone else can be quite difficult for any length of time. With practice you can listen to others without having random thoughts intrude - many people find that meditation helps with this skill as it trains mind in exactly this fashion. The second way people are distracted during a conversation is by thinking up reply while other person is still speaking - a really easy way to miss point of what another person is saying! Thirdly, you can focus on many different things to make this more interesting so as to prevent your mind from wandering. Concentrating on body language can do this: see how your correspondent is sitting/standing - is it closed or open (closed is turned away or blocked by another part of body, such as crossing arms, open is facing you and arms and legs not blocking body). Are they looking at you or are they avoiding eye contact? If it is latter, they may not be interested in conversation, they may be lying, and they may be uncomfortable. Are they acting nervously by tapping, twitching or fiddling with something? Are they appearing happy/sad/emotionless? Are their facial behaviours matching or contradicting their bodily behaviours (e.g. nervous tapping of foot yet open body language and happy appearance)?
Build Rapport through Mirroring
Building rapport is vital in ensuring effective communication and while you are listening you are able to do this by mirroring or matching what your correspondent is doing. For example you cross your legs in same way as them, and put your arms in a similar way, this puts you on same wavelength as your correspondent and will make them be more receptive to what you have to say when you do get around to saying it. Mirroring can also be done through use of specific NLP type vocabulary. Notice any clues for NLP type, for later use in responding. An abbreviated explanation of NLP types: visual type uses words "I see what you mean" and similar, while auditory type uses words "I hear what you’re saying", and kinaesthetic will use words "I feel I understand this". If you note down what kind of vocabulary is being used, and then use this with them you are more likely to be understood, as well as being more able to be in rapport with them. Try noting down what types your colleagues or your family are: then try deliberately using wrong type of vocabulary in what you are saying and seeing (visual vocab) what difference can be to when you use correct type for person you are talking to, it flows (kinaesthetic vocab) very differently and you can hear (auditory vocab) discord.