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How to be a Good Communicator

Have you ever said something that was misunderstood by the person you were talking to? Do you know anyone who sometimes says things in a way that seems rude and abrupt? It is not always the words used, but the way in which they are used.
Good communication is very important. Carolyn Ward explains what it is and how to be a better communicator.


What is Communication? 

All human beings have to communicate.  We talk to each other to explain what we need and want.  When two or more human beings talk face to face, different types of communication happen.

These are called ‘Verbal’ and ‘Non-Verbal’ forms of communication.


What is Verbal and Non Verbal Communication? 

Verbal – is anything you communicate with words. When you actually talk to someone.

Non-Verbal – is anything you communicate without words, through facial expression, movement, and little sounds. 

‘Paralinguistics’ are the other ways we speak, which isn’t done with actual words. Think about all the ways in which you communicate with others, where you make sounds but don’t actually say a word.

  • The little sounds that you make between words such as ‘er…’ or ‘hmm’ which signals that you aren’t sure or convinced of what you are saying. 
  • The volume of your speech which signals if you are happy, scared or angry
  • The tone you use which lets the listener know if you are being aggressive, sarcastic or timid
  • Sounds like ‘eurgh’ to express disgust or ‘huh’ to express confusion

Your Tone and Expression

Think about this sentence and which word you emphasise.


I love chocolate eggs more than you.

I love chocolate eggs more than you.

I love chocolate eggs more than you.

I love chocolate eggs more than you.


Try saying it while you are laughing, scowling, even pretending to cry. Do you see the difference it makes?

There are literally hundreds of ways to say just one short sentence!  This is what actors consider when they are given their lines.  When to be intense, where to falter… when to whisper, when to command; even when to breathe.  Politicians and TV presenters also have to deliver lines in very set methods. 

Some comedians even pretend to be news readers and speak in the same way that they do a serious report, which is very funny out of context.  Listen to news readers – how do they speak? What do their faces do? Can you see them fidget with nerves sometimes?

Now think about how the person listening to you could understand – or misunderstand – you depending on the way you spoke and the way you emphasised particular words. That’s why there are so many misunderstandings when people are chatting online via text. It’s very easy to misread the comment when you don’t have the non-verbal clues to help you!


Body Language 

Our whole body- hands, arms, feet and of course face; communicate in many ways – without us really realising. An incredible 93% of what we are communicating is non-verbal.

For example – if someone tells a fib, their eyes may look downwards towards the right. This is a famous ‘tell’ that police look for in interviews with suspects.  It is not always 100% accurate, but is a noted factor, especially when seen along with other ‘tells;’ like a liar avoiding eye contact, getting fidgety, covering their mouth or touching their face with their hands…

Different people can have different ‘tells’ so don’t make fast judgements. Just notice things and think about the overall scenario.  Why would that person be fibbing? What would they have to gain?

Crossed arms and legs can mean barriers, and stroking the face, or messing with hair can all protect the person against feeling uncomfortable in a situation. Nerves are shown if people chew their lips, or bite their nails. Boredom can be shown with staring glazed eyes, fidgeting, and hidden yawns.

Some people don’t like holding eye contact, so don’t take that as a sign that they don’t like you or that they are lying to you. For example, some children with Special Needs find it really difficult to look people in the eye. 

Understanding body language helps us to become successful and confident communicators.

If we want to make a good impression when you meet someone for the first time, sit still, smile, keep a normal level of eye contact, show active listening, and keep a good posture. 

Even if you feel nervous inside, if you ‘look’ confident on the outside, that is all that matters.


Active Listening

This is listening carefully, and nodding, smiling, keeping good eye contact, and occasionally saying ‘hmmm’ and so on, to show the speaker that you are interested in what they are saying. If you ever see a news interviewer on TV asking someone questions, you will see them nodding along with the answers to encourage the interviewee that they are listening.


Communication Activities 

When somebody you know well is talking to you, close your eyes so you can’t see them. (explain why you are doing it first!) How hard is it to really understand them?

When you speak to them, try and use a totally flat tone and keep really still.  How does it feel?

Try saying some stuff with a fixed smile on your face.  Does the smile reach your eyes? Can you smile without using your eyes? Look in a mirror if you can – how different does a ‘real’ smile and a ‘fake’ smile look?

Watch shop assistants and waiters/waitresses next time you are out. Do they have genuine smiles? Do they hold eye contact?  Sometimes if they do not it could be that they have a lot on their minds, or are actually nervous or shy- or not feeling 100% well. 

Watch your teachers.  What is their posture like? Do they sit up tall and breathe deeply with their chests open? Or are they hunched over and breathing shallowly? Think about your own posture, imagine a string in the top of your head drawing you upwards.  Let your shoulders relax and fall level. Breathe in deeply through your nose and out through your mouth.  Walk tall and sit up straight.  You will look more confident straight away – and possibly save yourself some joint pain when you get older.

Consider how people convey emotion through text messages and emails, today’s very popular methods of communication.  How many times do you use ‘emoticons’ and smileys in your text messages?  Does your message sound different if you take them out?

Has anyone ever sent a text that upset you, and then insisted that they didn’t mean it? Read something in different ways.  Look for the meanings between the words – what does the writer actually want from you?  What are they not saying?

Practise with your friend, take it in turns to tell each other a story, be an active listener, and an inactive listener (don’t nod, don’t look at them, fidget with your hands, yawn). Is it easy to talk to someone who is not watching you?

Someone clever once said ‘The answer you get is the response to the communication YOU gave’

If someone gives you an answer you didn’t expect, or snaps at you, or is upset; think very carefully about what you communicated to them. What you asked or said may not have been quite right for that situation.  We talk to different people in our lives in incredibly different ways.  Notice what you do and what responses you get.  If something doesn’t work, try new ways.  Find a way to get the response you want – even just a smile from someone who is usually ‘grumpy’.

If you practice your communication skills and learn to observe body language, you will develop an edge on others in life when you do things like job interviews, in social situations like parties, and when meeting new people, and making new friends.  Looking confident will help you to feel confident inside.   You can use these skills to negotiate better in your daily life.



Featured Image by Flickr 


Carolyn Ward

Carolyn Ward lives in Wolverhampton and writes as much as possible around the busy schedules of her three small children.She loves to write about horses and psychology for JUMP! Magazine, and is currently writing a novel.

Likes :A full night’s sleep, pizza and a good cappuchino
Dislikes : drizzle, falling off horses

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  1. 2

    Brilliant article! Planning to read this together with my 8 year old and talk about communication.

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