Improving communication skills requires three key techniques:
The Golden Triangle of Communications

Improving communication skills: this page describes what are communication skills, how to improve communication skills, and tips to good communication skills.

The Golden Triangle of Communications.

Improving communication skills will require you to develop your skills of:

* LISTENING, to the answers generated by,

* ASKING many questions, and

* SUMMARISING periodically, as a means of feedback.

These three basic interpersonal communication skills will also facilitate your use of power and influence tactics.

In addition, they are key in helping you avoid or overcome communication barriers.

Let's look a bit more closely at each of them and how they contribute to improving communication skills:

Listening is the single most important and effective of the communication skills.

If you want to be a great conversationalist or you want to be great at establishing rapport, and building relationships with others, or you want to be in control, and influence people, invest in improving communication skills and learn to listen.

This is not the same as hearing though.

Listening is defined as:

making a deliberate effort to understand the significance of what is heard.

Hearing is a bit like single loop learning.

You hear a sound. You register it’s existence (I heard that), and you move on.

When you listen, it is more like double loop learning.

It means that you register a sound and then you do some work inside your minds and body - you put in some effort.

You interpret the sound in terms of, does it matter?

You question what the meanings of the sound might be. You associate the sound with other experiences in your internal mental and emotional databases.

You ask if the sound needs a response and, if so, what?

You think about the implications of the sound for you and others and, internally, you ask many questions about it.

You are making a deliberate effort to understand the significance of what you heard. And, in doing so, you are improving communication skills.

To listen is hard work, as it requires high levels of mental energy and concentration.

In any communication between people there are two things going on at the same time (at least).

On one level, there is the content of the communication - what are they communicating about?

On another level, there is the process and the relationship - how and why are they communicating?

This may include, for example: are they communicating in ways that are building trust or suspicion? Are they creating mutual respect or disdain?

Are they learning? Are they enjoying the experience? Will their relationship be stronger or weaker as a result of this communication?

Listening can be geared to either one or both of these levels.

In improving communication skills, there is also another language that needs "listening" to - body language - with skillful observation and interpretation.

How to improve communication skills? - develop your active listening skills, one third of the golden triangle, as a primary means of improving communication skills.


Keep it simple and regularly do some simple listening exercises. For example:

* listen to the news, switch it off and summarise the headlines (to yourself or out loud)

* bored at a meeting or with a group, play an internal game, really listen to what is being said and summarise it in your head

* significantly increase your use of summarising (see below).

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Tips to good communication skills would inevitably involve Asking, which means questioning, of course, and there are different types of questions and they achieve different things.

Listed below are seven really useful types of question that will significantly help with improving communication skills:

1. specific, precise, closed questions - very useful for getting accurate, factual information (provided the person answering tells the truth).

This type of question will usually get you the facts but that may be all you get.

If you want to get things flowing a bit more, you will need to use open-ended questions.

2. open-ended questions - very useful for getting the other person to talk and share opinions.

Great when you are not sure what you’re looking for or when you want to build relationships and establish rapport or when you want to be in the receiver mode.

3. if you combine 2. and 1. above, in that order, you will create funnel questions.

Funnel questions work like a funnel in the sense that they start very wide (open-ended questions); you listen to the answers and select something to ask a question about in more detail (your questions are getting narrower); you listen to the answers you get now and ask even more focused questions to funnel in (specific, precise, closed questions)

4. comparative questions - ask a person to think about a situation, think about a different situation and compare them.

Comparative questions are very good for revealing what matters to someone and what they value

5. summarising questions - great for checking out that the messages that are being communicated are being understood as they were intended.

They also help you to stay in control and to ensure that you, and others, don’t drift off all over the place (unless you want to, of course)

6. short questions - intended to keep you, the receiver, receiving, and the other person talking, as well as making progress on whatever the communication is about.

Short questions are most typically the six words: “what? - who? - when? - how? - where? - why?”.

The most probing of these questions is, “why?”. Depending on the situation, handle this question with consideration for the other person as it may come across as aggressive or cause the other person to feel inadequate

7. the seventh type of question is the absence of a spoken question - it is a pause or silence.

In some situations, especially if your communication with another person has reached a sensitive point, the approach that will get the best response is to shut up, maintain supportive eye contact and body language, and wait.

Most people don’t like the silence that ensues and the other person may well speak out revealing more information.

A skilfully judged pause or silence can be most helpful in conflict situations.

There is, of course, a judgement to be made here as pauses or silences that go on too long may be embarrassing and weaken rapport. The judgement is, how long is too long?

The third element of the golden triangle of communications is Summarising, which means accurately repeating back the message that has been transmitted.

Summarising is time and effort very well spent because it will:
* ensure understanding
* demonstrate that active listening skills are being used
* build relationships (eg trust, respect, mutual support)
* confirm or clarify key points
* explore any perceived contradictions
* explore any new information
* reinforce openness and honesty
* confirm common ground
* create opportunities to correct any errors in the communication process.

Summarising is really valuable for improving communication skills but, unfortunately, it is too often rarely seen.

It is also a great test of listening, of course, and is one of the best listening exercises you can do (see above) for improving communication skills.

If you can’t summarise accurately what has been said, you probably were not listening in the first place (which is pretty insulting to the others involved, isn’t it?).

The golden triangle of communications will enable you to be effective in using persuasion techniques and influence tactics to the great benefit of yourself and others.

Improving communication skills is one of the best self improvement investments you will make given the definition of communication that it is always "on" and the importance of communication in our lives.

If you want more information and insights on improving communication skills, please click here to purchase our ebook How to Be a Great Communicator (the Antidote to Destructive Conflict) from Smashwords (USD$5.99).

Improving communication skills is never-ending. Use the golden triangle of listening, asking and summarising to be in control, influence others and achieve win-win solutions.
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