Effective Communication Skills

The Three Rules of Communication

  • “I” messages
  • Stay on the Topic
  • Approach Conflicts from Win-Win Perspective

These three rules are simple enough but they are not easy to follow. If you follow these rules you will learn to talk so that others hear you and you will learn how to fight fair.

An “I” message is something like “I like the bathroom neat” as opposed to saying “You are a slob in the bathroom.” When you use an I message it helps insure that your partner won’t get defensive.

As far as staying on the topic, many people argue about many things all at once. Usually it escalates and nothing is solved. If person A says “You are a slob in the bathroom, person B may say “Oh, yeah, well you left a mess in the kitchen.” The person “B” retorts and communication is over.

Stay on the topic of the bathroom until you figure out a solution. There is no solution that is more right than another, just whatever works.

Rule 3 may be the hardest and it is against western culture. There always has to be a winner and a loser in any conflict. Since no one solution is right or wrong, you don’t have to convince your partner that you are right and they are wrong. Just put your heads together and figure out a solution that works for both of you.

The Three Level of Communication

  • Non-verbals
  • Tone of Voice
  • The Actual Words

You may be surprised to learn that nearly 90% of communication is non-verbal. 50% is your body language, 40% is your tone of voice and only 10% are the actual words. If a person tries to communicate, but rolls their eyes, folds their arms, glares or sighs they are saying a lot even though there are no words.

Some people are more aware of their non-verbal messages than others. You may want to watch yourself in a mirror or see yourself on videotape. If you tone of voice is angry, sarcastic, or exasperated that says more than your actual words.

Barriers to Communication

  • Withdrawing
  • Pursuing
  • Gender Differences
  • Cultural Differences

Some people tend to withdraw when there is conflict. The other person pursues, resulting in further withdrawal. It can get to be like a dance. I always encourage the withdrawer to withdraw less, and ask the pursuer to pursue less. Men and women tend to communicate differently. Men communicate to immediately solve problems. Women get to know each other first and share feelings before getting to the problem. Different cultures communicate differently. In some it is rude to make eye contact, in others it is rude not to.

Transaction Analysis, Eric Berne

  • Parent (Critical, Nurturing
  • Adult (Rational, Problem Solving)
  • Child (Free, Rebellious)

Eric Berne had a theory about ego states that develop in people as they grow up. Try to avoid talking to someone like you are a critical parent. If you are approached like that, try not to respond like a rebellious child. Following this rule helps keep things calm.


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