Keys to Effective Communication

Effective communication is important in problem solving, conflict resolution, for positive working and personal relationships, and in reducing the stresses associated with interpersonal interactions.

Communication Tips

  • Open the door to two-way conversation. Encourage questions, ask questions.
  • Consider the sender/receiver’s communication strengths and weaknesses, and communicate in the manner that is best accepted by the sender/receiver.
  • Paraphrase what you heard back to the speaker, to ensure you have a common understanding.
  • Don’t be thrown off course by words that affect you emotionally. Continue to listen even when the urge is to start debate.
  • Communicate to be understood. Many people communicate to impress, not express. Use short words that communicate clearly and concretely’ present one idea, at the most two ideas, in one sentence. Avoid jargon. Use strong verbs. Avoid passive voice as much as possible.
  • Be open to feedback.
  • Be an active listener.

Active Listening Tips:

  • Listen with purpose. Ask yourself, “What worthwhile idea is being expressed?” or, “What is being said that I can use?”
  • Judge content not delivery. Look beyond the speaker’s delivery and just concentrate on what is being said.
  • Keep emotions in check. Avoid becoming overstimulated by what the speaker says. Avoid allowing your own biases or values to distract from the speaker’s message.
  • Listen for the main idea or central themes of the message.
  • Be flexible. Find a variety of ways to remember what you hear. Find a variety of note keeping techniques to help you remember.
  • Work at listening. Give your full attention to the speaker. Face the speaker. Use facial expressions that indicate you are following what the speaker is saying.
  • Resist distractions. Concentrate on what the speaker is saying. Stay focused on the situation at hand.
  • Keep an open mind. Avoid developing blind spots regarding cherished convictions. When you hear “red-flag” words, keep your emotions in check.
  • Capitalize on thought speed. Most of us talk about 120 words a minute. Our thinking speed is about 500 words a minute. Thus there is a lot of time to spare while a person is speaking to us. Don’t let your mind wander and then dart back to the conversation. use the spare time to advantage by thinking about what is being said; try to anticipate the point; mentally summarize the point so far; mentally question any supporting points; look for nonverbal clues to the meaning.


Source: National Interagencey Fire Center:

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