Communication skills
August 6, 2022

Communication Skills


The listener may become confused when a person sends a conflicting message between verbal and nonverbal communication.

  • Inconsistency can also create a lack of trust and undermine the chance to build a good working relationship.
  • When people get mixed messages, the nonverbal information tends to be believed. i.e. if someone with a clenched jaw, tight fists, and hard eyes tells you that they aren’t upset, would you believe them?


Listening means putting aside our thoughts and agendas and trying to see the world through that person’s eyes. It requires that we put away judgment and instead try to understand another’s frame of reference, emotions, and attitudes.

Note: We do not need to agree with someone to hear what they are saying.

Listening Skills


  • Giving full physical attention to the speaker
  • Being aware of the speaker’s nonverbal messages
  • Pay attention to the words AND feelings of the speaker

Listen with your body: 

  • Leaning toward the speaker
  • Facing the speaker
  • Maintaining an open posture with arms and legs uncrossed
  • Moving the body in response to the speaker, such as head nodding and facial expressions


  • Reflective listening: reflecting back to the speaker what we believe we understand;  helps give the person the experience of being heard and acknowledged.
  • We also provide an opportunity for the speaker to give us feedback about our perceptions’ accuracy, thereby increasing our overall communication effectiveness.
  • Paraphrasing: a concise statement of the content of the speaker’s message. A paraphrase should be brief and focus on the facts or ideas of the message rather than the feeling.
  • Questioning: the listener asks open-ended questions (questions that can’t be answered with a “yes” or a “no”) to get information and clarification.

Barriers to Communication

Nonverbal Communication Barriers

  • Staring at people or avoiding eye contact
  • Rolling eyes
  • Quick or slow movements
  • Arms crossed, legs crossed
  • Gestures made with exasperation
  • Slouching, hunching over
  • Poor personal care
  • Excessive fidgeting with materials

Verbal Communication Barriers

  • Shouting
  • Name-calling/threatening
  • Refusing to speak
  • Attacking (interrogating, criticizing, blaming, shaming)
  • “You Messages” (moralizing, advising)

Tips on Communication Skills

  1. Use Assertiveness: involves expressing beliefs, feelings, and preferences in a way that is direct, honest, appropriate, and shows a high degree of respect for yourself and for others; standing up for your rights without infringing on the rights of others.
  2. Use assertive body language:  Face the person, stand or sit straight, and keep your voice calm and soft, and not whiney or abrasive.
  3. Use “I” statements: Keep the focus on the problem you’re having, not on accusing or blaming the other person. Example: “I’d like to be able to tell my stories without interruption.” instead of “You’re always interrupting my stories!”
  4. Express ownership of your thoughts, feeling, and opinions. Example: “I get angry when he breaks his promises.” instead of “He makes me angry.”
  5. Make clear, direct requests.  Example: “Will you please … ?” instead of “Would you mind … ?”
  6. Don’t apologize when it isn’t necessary. i.e. “I’m sorry, but I really can’t…”

Communication at the WorkPlace

  1. Step back and look at the situation Before Taking Any Action: There are some times in which emotions may make us passionate about certain issues or topics. It is best to not act on emotions in a workspace but to take a step back and look at the whole picture before taking any action.
  2. Discussing Behaviors: When discussing an issue, it is best to discuss a person’s behavior rather than attack their character. So instead of saying, “you are such a lazy person,” it might be more effective to describe their behavior. For instance, “I would appreciate it if you arrived to work on time and completed your tasks prior to going home.”
  3. Talking to the main source: if there is an issue going on with a co-worker, it is best to first address it with that main person. Rather than going to talk to others about the problem, address your concerns assertively (as discussed previously) with whomever the problem is concerning. Group communications are used more often to give general information, education, etc. It should not be used to pinpoint an individual. Remember, praise in public and criticize in private.
  4. Person to person communication: with all the technology out these days, it is easier to discuss issues either via email, text message, phone, etc. Nothing beats an in-person conversation. When someone is face to face, you can see their body language and better understand what’s going on. There could be a lot of confusion, for example, with someone’s tone over a text message.

Feel free to contact us if you are looking for help with communication skills. Trauma can impact our style of communication, and our clinicians can help you learn these new skills and more!

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