How to Communicate Effectively

When it comes to communication, most of us tend to think that if we’ve been misunderstood, it is the receiver of the information that is at fault for not understanding. But in reality, the responsibility is on the communicator – that’s you – to acknowledge that if something isn’t understood properly by someone else, it is up to you to change and improve your communication.

This is due to the fact that every one of us, no matter how similar our experiences may be, has a unique perspective of life, a unique model of the world from which we receive and process information. We filter out, delete, and distort incoming information on a regular basis out of necessity.

how to communicate more effectively - 3 monkeys

People typically receive 2 million bits of information every second but are only consciously aware of 126 bits of information at a time. That’s a lot of information to delete and reduce down to digestible, process-able parts. Understanding this, and paying attention to others’ behavior, tone, language patterns, body language, and more can make you a very effective communicator.

How to Communicate Effectively in 5 Steps

Tip #1: Respect other people’s model of the world

Each of us filter, delete and distort incoming information according to our unique model of the world, which is developed over a lifetime of experiences, joys, traumas, memories, and associations. Be open and accepting of the other person’s model of the world, and you’ll soon become a more effective communicator.

Tip #2: Establish Rapport

Building good rapport is key to building trust in any relationship. Use your observation skills to sense whether or not you have established trust and rapport – both consciously and unconsciously – with whomever you are communicating with.

If they are relaxed, comfortable, and receptive, they’ll be more likely to receive your communication accurately. Do this by watching body language, hearing tone of voice, observing the pace of breathing, and watching eye movements. If you are out of rapport, adjust yourself, or adjust your timing.

Related Article: 5 Ways to Look Credible When it Matters Most

Tip #3:  Learn and observe representations systems

Each of us has a preferred representational system for communicating. These rep systems are Kinesthetic (“I feel that this will work”), Visual (“I see what you mean”), Auditory (“Sounds good”), and Olfactory/Gustatory (“smells fishy”.) We also communicate with ourselves all day, every day, through self-talk.

Get to know someone else’s preferred system, and you can establish rapport with them quickly. Get to know your self-talk, and you establish a better rapport with yourself (your unconscious and conscious mind.)

Related Article: The Incredible Power of Self-Talk

Tip #4: Speak the right language

Notice the way that someone structures their communication, and you’ll get an idea of their model of the world. Then match their type of language, or even their words, to communicate your meaning most effectively.

For example, if someone is a “Visual” communicator then use phrases like “look at it this way” or “we can see clearly that…” in order to get your message across effectively.

Tip #5: Remember that you can not communicate

Everything you do, think, or say is a form of communication to your outside and internal world. Become more conscious of your body language, words, and tonality, and you’ll begin to understand how you communicate well, and how you need to improve.


communication expert Derek O'neill

Derek O’Neill is an internationally acclaimed psychotherapist, motivational speaker, author, martial arts sensei, and humanitarian. For more than 15 years, Derek O’Neill has been changing the lives of thousands of people around the world using transformational therapy, and his signature process “the sword and brush.” In addition to his workshops, Derek has also authored, “The More Truth Will Set You Free” and has recently released four new mini-books as part of his “Get a Grip Series” that discuss anger, happiness, and stress.

Featured photo by Anderson Mancini

Originally published 11/5/12 and updated 8/16/13. 

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