Strategies in Communication: Your Guide to Better Connections

Written by Coursera • Updated on

In today’s world, communication skills are essential. It doesn't matter if you're talking on the phone or meeting someone face to face. You'll be able to connect better by following these strategies.

[Featured image] Three employees communicate during a casual meeting in their office.

Effective communication is foundational to healthy working and personal relationships. People communicate in various ways, and understanding how and when to use each type of communication can benefit your ability to communicate effectively. 

In addition to strengthening your communication skills, you can also find better connections in your personal and professional life by learning strategies to address common communication barriers that may involve cultural or linguistic differences. 

Importance of effective strategies in communication

Good communication helps prevent conflicts that may arise in the ambiguity of miscommunication. Effective communication skills are foundational to any good personal or professional relationship. Learning successful strategies in communication can impact your ability to motivate others, have more engaging conversations, share information, and practice more efficient problem-solving. 

Effective organizational communication strategies can help employees and coworkers understand what is expected of them, meet goals, and boost motivation. Communication skills are essential if you're in a leadership position or manage a team where you must delegate responsibilities while maintaining a respectful relationship. 

7 effective strategies in communication

Building your communication skills takes practice, but it is entirely possible and worth it. Find your weaknesses and consider focusing on one or two strategies at a time. To improve communication skills, notice your current communication style. With time and effort, you’ll convey better ideas, thoughts, actions, and opinions in your personal and professional life. Use the following strategies to get started.

1. Convey important points clearly and concisely. 

It may be tempting to insert additional information, include popular phrases to relate to the listener, or fall back on filler words that lack true meaning. However, this could be perceived as clutter when you want others to understand your message fully. Many people are busy and read or listen to tons of communications all day. Choose your words wisely and organize your thoughts in a way that is easy to understand and follow. 

Use these tips to improve the clarity and conciseness of your communication:

  • Use action verbs when possible.

  • Offer tangible and concrete terms instead of ambiguous ones. For example, instead of, “Let’s touch base sometime later in the week,” say, “Would Thursday at 3 p.m. work to check in on this project?"

  • Leave out filler words and clichés that lack meaning.

  • End with a clear call to action if the communication requires the listener to do something.

  • In written communication, use bullet points and avoid long streams of text.

  • Consider using visual aids to support your points.

Placeholder

course

Improving Communication Skills

Learn how to communicate more effectively at work and achieve your goals. Taught by award-winning Wharton professor and best-selling author Maurice ...

4.7

(1,718 ratings)

113,828 already enrolled

BEGINNER level

Average time: 1 month(s)

Learn at your own pace

Skills you'll build:

goal setting, Communication, Negotiation, Deception

2. Use multiple modes of communication.

We commonly communicate with others using multiple communication modes without noticing. In an email to a coworker, you may include a screenshot of a document—a visual and written method of communication. When you speak to someone, you are always using nonverbal communication with your body language and verbal communication as you’re speaking. 

Using multiple modes of communication intentionally can add clarity to what you’re trying to convey. Match the modes of communication you choose to the type of communication and listener. Consider the best way to communicate based on the end goal and needs of the listener, and prepare to use multiple modes of communication if sharing with a group. 

3. Be mindful of your tone.

Not only what you say but also how you say it affects your ability to communicate well. The tone of your voice or written communication should appropriately match the type of communication you’re trying to convey.

Think about how the interaction would be received if you were on the receiving end. If you’re communicating a policy change to a group of employees, think about their pain points, questions they may have, and needs. In your communication, build in that information with a tone of understanding and openness so that employees who may be anxious about such changes are calmed.

When emotions get involved, it may be hard to maintain the tone you intend. Take time to think through what you’ll say and how you’ll say it to maintain better control of your emotions. 

4. Maintain awareness of your body language and nonverbal cues.

Similar to tone, it’s vital that you are aware of what your body language and gestures convey to listeners. It may be challenging to control certain nonverbal cues, especially if you struggle with emotions tied to the conversation. Practice being aware of your body and facial expressions in your daily communication to start understanding where you can improve. Ask for feedback if appropriate.

Practice these ways to use body language to improve your communication skills: 

  • Uncross your arms to maintain a more “open” position. 

  • Speak at a steady pace and avoid talking and moving quickly or erratically. 

  • Match your eye level with the listener—if they are sitting down, sit with them. 

  • Maintain eye contact. 

  • Shift your posture and gestures to match that of the listener if needed. 

  • Stand facing the person you’re speaking with. 

5. Know your audience.

To know your audience is to understand their thoughts and feelings—it involves perspective and will take time and thoughtfulness. Modulate your tone, gestures, and body language to help your audience perceive your motives and intentions. Before you send an email, approach a coworker, or walk into a meeting, take the time to understand the audience and consider how they may feel or react to what you’re about to communicate to them.

6. Focus on what others say and acknowledge it.

Referred to as active listening, when you can focus on what you are saying and what others say in response to you, you can tailor your communication style and content appropriately. Show you are listening through nonverbal communication. You may be more effective in your communication when you can acknowledge the perception of others and respond appropriately to their feedback, questions, or suggestions. Be open and listen, avoiding defensiveness and interrupting. If you don’t know how to respond, ask if you can get back to them on that point. There is no harm in asking for time to provide a thoughtful response. 

7. Request and provide feedback. 

Asking for feedback can be helpful if you’re struggling with effective communication. It can also help you build useful communication strategies in a leadership role.

Ask a boss or coworker to provide constructive feedback, or record yourself and watch for any nonverbal communication that could negatively affect your ability to transmit your message successfully. Manage your emotions and pride to accept and implement constructive criticism. When you ask for feedback, invite the listener to point out things you might be struggling with, thank them, and be mindful of their time. 

Placeholder

course

Giving Helpful Feedback

This course teaches you the simple principles expert managers use to improve and motivate employee performance. You’ll never have to avoid telling an ...

4.8

(1,254 ratings)

39,952 already enrolled

Average time: 1 month(s)

Learn at your own pace

Skills you'll build:

Communication, Staff Management, Coaching, Performance Management

Overcoming potential barriers to effective communication

Communication barriers can be anything that negatively impacts your ability to communicate appropriately with others. From the tools you use to communicate to the methods of communication, barriers may be physical, emotional, cultural, or linguistic. There are ways to address these barriers and improve your ability to communicate in varying scenarios. 

Emotions 

Sometimes, emotions can cloud your ability to communicate effectively and actively listen. Emotions like anger or disappointment can affect your ability to communicate because your brain can not logically process what is being said, especially if the information is conveyed during a time of stress or anxiety. To mitigate the impact of your emotions, wait until you’ve managed them before choosing the best method and environment to speak with a  person or group of people. You can also involve a mediator or neutral third party. 

Perception 

How others perceive you and the motives behind your words and actions can help or hinder your communication ability. To avoid negative perception, be sure your intention is clearly stated and understood, have open body language, and make time for follow-up questions. 

Culture 

Social differences among cultures can create misunderstandings that impede effective communication. It’s important, particularly in the workplace, to ask questions about communication standards, norms, and preferences if you suspect a cultural-based communication barrier. Companies can be sensitive and respectful to other cultures by communicating the desire to meet the communication needs of all employees. 

Language 

Language barriers don’t just refer to speaking different languages entirely, but also regional and dialectal differences between people and how they each understand the same language. For example, there may be two ways to say the same word,  associations tied to certain words or phrases, or colloquialisms in one part of the United States that don’t exist in other regions, among other things.

To overcome language barriers, avoid jargon, clichés, phrases, or slang that may not translate well without further explanation. In other words, know your audience. Also, some technical terms may be appropriate if you're writing an email to a coworker or supervisor, but not when speaking at a conference for a group of college students.

Interpersonal

Interpersonal barriers refer to the relationship between you and the person or people with whom you’re communicating. Interpersonal barriers can be a lack of trust, engagement, or a difference of opinion. You can more clearly communicate in these instances if you can be transparent, open to criticism, and keep strong emotions at bay. Understand that when interpersonal barriers are present, you may need to compromise, offer solutions, and even step away and take time to consider the situation. 

4 types of communication 

The four main types of communication are verbal, nonverbal, written, and visual. Any time you communicate with someone, you use at least one of these types of communication, but you often rely on several types at once. For example, consider when you walk into a colleague’s office to discuss a project. You're communicating with the words you say but also your tone of voice, body language, and expressions. You may also bring a visual aid like a copy of the project details or send a follow-up email after you chat with them. All of these means of communication help get your point across. 

To improve your strategies in communication, focus on each type of communication and consider ways you can build upon your skills in that area. If you have a strength in one area, assess what makes you most effective as you build upon other types of communication. One important note: The type of communication you choose should be appropriate for the situation.

1. Verbal communication

Verbal communication is the actual words you speak and how you say them. This can mean your pitch, volume, cadence, and more. Improve your verbal communication skills by being clear and concise, and avoid unnecessary filler words, such as “um,” “yeah,” “like,” and “you know.” Read the other person or people you’re communicating with using good active listening skills. Be confident in your speech and know when to listen and when to talk. 

Read more: 10 Tips to Improve Public Speaking Skills

2. Nonverbal communication

Nonverbal communication refers to the nuisances that you may not even be aware of when speaking with someone or a group of people. Your gestures, body language, and facial expressions are all means of nonverbal communication. Ironically, watching others is one of the best ways to improve nonverbal communication. Do they make eye contact? Are their arms crossed? Are they talking with their hands a lot? Being aware of others' nonverbal communication can help create awareness of your own, and you may be able to control your body language better when communicating. 

3. Visual communication

Visual communication is considered anything you use to convey information that the eyes can see. This can be a visual aid like a presentation, document, image, infographic, and so on. Visual communication can supplement what you say and give listeners a tangible example. For instance, if you’re writing a group email to your team about the timeline of a project you’re working on, you want to communicate your progress and needs thus far. Instead of writing it all out, create a bar graph to show improvement, attach it to the email, or screenshot the image and place it in the body of the email. This would be a visual way to communicate the needs of the project. 

4. Written communication

Written communication encompasses anything written or typed—from text messages to memos and reports to emails. To improve your written communication, use templates for reference and keep samples of good writing pieces you’ve done in the past. Remember, you can’t always read the tone of written communication, so rely on punctuation and simplicity and avoid jokes or sarcasm to prevent miscommunication.

Read more: 7 Ways to Improve Your Writing Skills

Placeholder

course

Business Writing

Writing well is one of the most important skills you can develop to be successful in the business world. Over seventy companies and thirty thousand ...

4.8

(4,002 ratings)

138,318 already enrolled

BEGINNER level

Average time: 1 month(s)

Learn at your own pace

Skills you'll build:

Grammar, Communication, Business Writing, Writing

Common modes of communication 

A mode of communication refers to the medium used by the sender of a message to deliver the communication to the receiver, how we deliver a message, and how the message is received. This could be email, text, or speech. Three standard modes of communication are presentational, interpersonal, and interpretive. 

Presentational and interpretive modes of communication are referred to as one-way communication since it typically involves delivering a message in a way that does not facilitate or encourage interaction or exchange from the receiver. 

Interpretive communication may occur in a classroom where a teacher presents information to students. Students must interpret the content based on the medium and the speaker’s communication cues like body language, tone, and other means of communication used. Presentational communication may occur in a seminar or more formal setting where the speaker presents rehearsed, scripted content to a group of listeners. 

Interpersonal communication is different. When we engage in interpersonal modes of communication, we interact with the recipient of our message. In this relational-based mode, we use verbal and nonverbal means of communication. Examples of interpersonal communication could be a phone conversation or texting. 

Next steps

Take the next steps to improve your communication development in your personal and professional life by applying these strategies. Effective communication is a critical life skill and is highly wanted in the workplace. Invest in your communication skills to build and maintain healthy relationships and positively impact your career and personal life.

Need resources to get started? Enroll in an online course like Improving Communication Skills or Teamwork Skills: Communicating Effectively in Groups, both offered on Coursera. These courses can provide professional guidance and helpful resources to help you improve specific areas of communication.

Placeholder

course

Teamwork Skills: Communicating Effectively in Groups

Recently revised and updated! Effective teamwork and group communication are essential for your professional and personal success. In this course you will ...

4.7

(2,877 ratings)

173,324 already enrolled

BEGINNER level

Average time: 1 month(s)

Learn at your own pace

Skills you'll build:

teamwork, diversity, Communication, Conflict Management, technology

Related articles

Written by Coursera • Updated on

This content has been made available for informational purposes only. Learners are advised to conduct additional research to ensure that courses and other credentials pursued meet their personal, professional, and financial goals.

Learn without limits