Effective communication is an underrated skill, both in our personal lives and in professional settings.
Society often puts a strong emphasis on extroversion, technical skills, and efficiency, overshadowing the art of getting the message across.
But that’s the thing – effective communicators make the craft appear so deceptively simple.
They string together a group of words, say their piece, then leave the listener/s in awe.
However, in reality, effective communication requires subtle traits and strategies that contribute to a great conversation, one that both fulfills you and leaves you wanting more.
1) They Have a Genuine Interest in People
As the saying goes, “Interesting people are interested people.”
Effective communicators possess an innate curiosity about others, which drives them to ask questions, seek full understanding, and ultimately, establish a deeper connection.
It doesn’t matter if the topic of the conversation is seemingly mundane, profound, or breaking news – these types of people will naturally convey their genuine interest, a trait that fosters rapport and empowers them to see the world from someone else’s lens.
Keep in mind that this interest in people goes beyond mere politeness, pleasantries, or superficiality; it is a sincere desire to appreciate what the other person has to say.
That’s why effective communicators are known for connecting with strangers, even if their encounter was only brief.
2) They Respect Everyone
It goes without saying that respect is a cornerstone of communication. You can’t expect to be taken seriously if you’re being straight-up disrespectful and rude.
Nor should you think that you warrant any form of respect if you continue to make someone feel bad about themselves.
People want to feel seen and heard with no judgment. They want to feel that they’re in a safe space for dialogue – so please always treat everyone with kindness.
Respect also extends to acknowledging the experiences and perspectives of others, even if they’re different from your own.
Being an effective communicator entails connecting with different types of people.
After all, communication transcends the barriers of culture, background, and personal belief.
3) They Are Active Listeners
The one skill that spells the difference between effective and ineffective communicators is active listening.
When you pay attention to the words being said, as well as the non-verbal cues and underlying emotions, you are showing the other person that you care, and that you want to hear what they have to say.
This way, you’re creating an atmosphere of trust and mutual understanding that can lead to more fruitful and satisfying discussions.
I used to be part of the debate team in high school, and as you may know, debate kids only care about getting their point across — tensions escalate, the environment gets highly charged, and everyone is cutting each other’s sentences.
We didn’t exactly have the most constructive dialogue. Admittedly, it took years of unlearning the mannerisms and toxic behavior (e.g., shouting, close-mindedness, mocking) before I could say that I can resolve conflict healthily again.
4) They Are a Team Player
No man is an island. Effective communicators know that “If you want to go far, go alone. If you want to go fast, go together.”
When you work with others in the pursuit of a common goal, you foster a sense of camaraderie.
Each of you is putting in the work to propel the team forward, but at the same time, you’re getting to know one another in the process.
There’s a crucial dichotomy team players need to understand: You have to know when to take the lead and when to step back and allow others to shine.
There needs to be balance. You can’t have the spotlight shining on you all the time just because you know how to talk well.
Don’t forget to respect the expertise and insights of your colleagues.
5) They Are Self-Aware
Self-awareness is a powerful tool in the arsenal of an effective communicator. It allows them to pinpoint their own strengths, weaknesses, and even biases in communication.
By engaging in regular introspection, they can figure out which areas need work.
They’re also able to better understand how their words, actions, and ideas may be perceived by others.
By demonstrating self-awareness, these types of people show that they are receptive to feedback as well.
They’re the complete opposite of “snowflakes” and people with “thin skin.”
Constructive criticism won’t hurt their ego nor would it be a big blow to their self-esteem.
6) They Can Adapt Others’ Communication Style
Individuals have different communication styles.
Some are assertive and direct; others like being passive and not blunt; there are also those that are analytical – meaning they prefer logic and facts, instead of a more emotional or intuitive approach.
That said, since effective communicators are adaptable, they can better identify and adapt to the preferences of the opposite party.
This then creates a more comfortable and engaging experience for everyone.
I recall my first job when I was working for an American boss.
I grew up in a quiet, conservative Asian household, which meant that I was always used to passive communication styles, as well as a lot of shyness and holding back.
So it was a culture shock to me when I found out people from Western countries are typically more direct and concise. They don’t hold back.
Recognizing this cultural difference, I made a conscious effort to adapt my approach, focusing on delivering information in a more succinct and straightforward manner.
This adaptation, I kid you not, improved my working relationships a thousandfold.
7) They Are Honest, Open, and Observant
These traits – honesty, openness, and keen observance – are nonnegotiables for effective communications.
By being truthful and transparent in their interactions, they’re able to build trust with others.
They also know that if it’s a difficult conversation – no matter how challenging or uncomfortable the subject matter is – it most probably means that it’s a conversation worth having.
These people are also attuned to both verbal and non-verbal cues; they can pick up on subtle details, including changes in tone, body language, or facial expressions.
This heightened awareness means that they are more receptive to the needs, feelings, and motivations of those around them.
This is also a good skill to have if you want to identify potential conflicts and misunderstandings before they escalate.
8) They Are Empathetic and Appreciative
Empathy is what enables effective communicators to connect with people on a deeper emotional level.
It’s the ability to understand and share the feelings of others and thus make room for responding with sensitivity and compassion.
When you’re empathetic, you also validate the feelings of others. You never call them dramatic. You never make them feel like what they’re feeling is minuscule or questionable.
Empathy is knowing how to put yourself in someone else’s shoes.
While you may not have exactly experienced what they’re going through, you try your best to understand where they’re coming from.
Are they projecting? Is this coming from unresolved childhood trauma? Have they learned healthy coping mechanisms?
Appreciation, on the other hand, is about acknowledging the contributions of others.
It’s about expressing gratitude, valuing effort, and making people feel seen. Wherever you are – may it be in school, the workplace, or even a restaurant – make it a habit to say “thank you.”
The world needs more kindness nowadays.
9) They Return Calls
Admit it – these types of people are the best. They never leave you hanging. They don’t ghost you or flake on you. They make time for you – maybe not immediately, but they always do eventually.
You know that you can count on them to show up simply because they give you a heads-up.
Responsiveness in friendships also signifies how much one values their friends’ time and emotions.
It signals concern. It shows how much one is engaged and invested in the friendship.
While we’re all busy with our own lives, some of us often forget that investing in friendships and relationships should be bumped up on the priority list.
Now in the context of work, here’s a pro tip: Communication has a profound impact on professional relationships, so please show respect to your colleagues.
Value their time. If a clear deadline has been made, set expectations and update them about your progress.
False promises and excuses are just a smoke screen.
10) They Have High Emotional Intelligence (EI)
Effective communicators, more often than not, have high emotional intelligence, also known as emotional quotient (EQ).
This refers to the ability to perceive, interpret, and manage emotions – their own and those of others – which then allows them to navigate complex social situations with grace, compassion, and understanding.
Trust me – this trait is an invaluable asset in personal and professional communication.
When you’re more in tune with your emotions and those of others, you will inevitably impact your relationships in a positive way, as well as make your immediate environment feel much safer for everyone around you.