Communication is the sending or receiving of information.  The word itself originates from Latin, meaning “to share”.

Many of us take the ability to communicate for granted whilst in reality, effective communication is a skilled activity that can be improved upon and mastered over time.  Unfortunately, not all communicators are effective.  The result of poor communication is a misunderstanding that may lead to negative outcomes such as conflict.


Verbal communication

Verbal communication is the sharing of information using words.  This includes the exchange of words that are spoken, heard, written, and read.

Effective giving of verbal communication requires the deliberate choice of words to reflect an exact meaning.  The words that are chosen should be suitable for the target audience.

Effective receipt of verbal communication requires concentration free of distraction to improve the accuracy of the interpretation of information.

Non-verbal communication

Non-verbal communication is the sharing of information without the use of words.

Examples include

  • posture (e.g. sat upright or slouched)
  • facial expressions (e.g. smiling or frowning)
  • tone of voice (e.g.calm or aggressive)
  • speed of speech (e.g. rushed or relaxed)
  • touch (e.g. handshake or not)
  • eye contact (e.g. maintaining eye contact or looking away regularly)
  • movements (e.g. fidgeting or sitting still)
  • distance (e.g. sat close or far away)
  • orientation (e.g. facing toward you or away from you)

Non-verbal communication is extremely important in modulating the effectiveness of verbal communication.  In fact, non-verbal communication is so powerful that the message it portrays can override the meaning of words.  For example, if someone told you that what you said was fascinating, but they were not looking at you, would you believe them?

There are also a number of other subjective observations that play an important role in non-verbal communication that require a special mention.  These include

  • clothing (e.g. smart or casual)
  • physique (e.g. slim or overweight)
  • grooming (e.g. tidy hair or not brushed)
  • body modifications (e.g.tattoos)

Making an impression

Whether we like it or not, people make judgments and form impressions about other people very quickly and with long-lasting consequences.  This can occur within seconds of the first meeting resulting in positive, negative, or impartial feelings.  This first impression is formed from years of practice at recognising patterns in society resulting in strongly held opinions of what constitutes a good person or a bad person.  On closer inspection, we can see that these first impressions actually include whether or not a person is perceived as friendly, confident, trustworthy, and intelligent, or not.  Consequently, understanding how our verbal and non-verbal communication may be interpreted by others to form an opinion on us is extremely important in relationship building.  This is a great opportunity to use reflection to enhance the image you portray.

What makes an impression?

Positive interpersonal characteristics

Negative interpersonal characteristics

  • Listens
  • Consults others
  • Questions
  • Interested in others
  • Enjoyable company
  • Positive
  • Persuasive
  • Develops relationships
  • Welcomes feedback
  • Shows empathy
  • Ignores what you say
  • Decides on their own
  • Tells other people what to do
  • Isolated from the team
  • Boring
  • Negative
  • Ineffective
  • Only concerned about self
  • Avoids feedback
  • Does not appear to care about others

Examples of communication techniques

  • Open vs closed requestions
  • Probing
  • Mirroring
  • Paraphrasing
  • Summarising
  • Responding to cues