COMMUNICATION – verbal and non-verbal interactions

9 Do’s and 6 Dont’s

We all desperately want to get it right. To ace our communications effectively. To have everyone completely understand what we think we said AND of course what we intended to say AND absolutely to have heard us.

Deborah Tannen wrote a whole book titled ‘That’s not what I meant’. Shad Helmsetter (the name is so fabulous & the book title even better) wrote a whole book called ‘What to say when you talk to yourself’ as he had identified perceptively that our communications with ourselves need to have as much attention invested as communications with other people.

And we often make the classic error that it’s just the words that flow from our mouths forgetting that we imbue the words with complex emotions which probably have nothing to do with the person/ people we are talking to. And not just the words + our emotions BUT all our non-verbals too.

Then we wonder what goes wrong. It’s like one person is fluent in Russian and has a dictionary in Australian. Talking to another person who is fluent in Italian and has a dictionary in Chinese.

Add into this complicated mix the butterfly nets, black holes, oblique assumptions, unexpected traps to name a few communication challenges and it’s a wonder that anyone understands anyone. Yet we do … or do we?

Once we get it everything becomes so much easier. Be with others as you would wish others to be with you.


  1. Think before you speak – try the power of the pause of 10. Count to 10 slowly using the fingers of each hand before replying.
  2. Be interested genuinely – enjoy listening, use the ‘act as if’ if necessary. 100% focus on what is being said to you. Absorb the information properly. Ditch the ‘already speaking’ bad habit. Listen. Pause. The other person might not have completed what they wanted to.
  3. Listen powerfully – really listen carefully without thinking about what’s for lunch or what you want to reply.
  4. Acknowledge what the other person says before replying. Try this: when you reply, repeat what they said first, prefacing it with “I heard you say/understand that you ……”. It’s a great way of ensuring you have understood not just the words but the meaning too.
  5. Pay attention to your body language – Closed arms shuts people out, looking over their shoulder shows disinterest. A nod of the head, good eye contact, leaning forward – all show you are paying attention.
  6. Answer appropriately – Respond, based on what you have just heard. Don’t immediately compare with your own experiences, rather show empathy, give an opinion if asked or expected, and a solution if requested.
  7. Use and invite feedback – Given in the right way, feedback is invaluable.
  8. Put yourself in their shoes – Try and see the other person’s perspective. You may discover something very useful.
  9. Listen to other people’s conversations – to discover good ways to talk to people and what gets results.
  10. What would you add? That might have been missed or not noticed?

6 DON’T’s  … don’t

  • be judgmental – be observationally and politely critical … constructive in fact, not dismissive
  • deviate – unless you want to confuse and prolong the conversation
  • be negative – try to phrase your differences in a positive way
  • be aggressive – it really doesn’t help simply fuels confrontation and escalates situations
  • shout – obviously not a technique to use!
  • interrupt – it’s very annoying.
  • AND what the one that you would have wanted to include?