Communication Skills For Dummies®

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Table of Contents

About This Book
Conventions Used in This Book
What You’re Not to Read
Foolish Assumptions
How This Book Is Organised
Part I: Honing Your Communication Skills
Part II: Being Receptive to Others
Part III: Putting Your Mind and Body into Your Message
Part IV: Managing Communication Challenges
Part V: Communicating Across Distances
Part VI: The Part of Tens
Icons Used in This Book
Where to Go from Here
Part I: Honing Your Communication Skills
Chapter 1: Grasping the Finer Points of Great Communication
Using Your Whole Body to Communicate
Getting into the right frame of mind
Putting your eyes and ears to work
Communicating with Clarity
Sending a clear message
Providing feedback
Being clear about your goals, needs and preferences
Distinguishing between personal and business conversations
Displaying Respect for Other People
Behaving respectfully
Listening with an open mind
Connecting with different types of people
Handling Challenging Communications
Chapter 2: Knowing What You Want to Achieve
Communicating with a Clear Intention
Declaring your needs and preferences
Saying what you mean
Meaning what you say
Presenting a Compelling Case
Tapping into what matters to the other person
Speaking with credibility
Removing Potential Barriers to Achieving Your Aims
Avoiding criticising
Letting go of moralising
Casting aside blame
Chapter 3: Valuing Different Communication Styles
Developing Your Awareness of Different Communication Styles
Communicating with the loud and proud or the meek and mild
Taking in the wide view or preferring detail
Adapting Your Style for Clear Communication
Helping others to understand what you mean
Seeing things from someone else’s point of view
Part II: Being Receptive to Others
Chapter 4: Listening Actively for Total Understanding
Listening with the Intention to Understand
Lowering your barriers
Letting go of judgement
Turning off your opinions
Paying attention to people’s words and behaviours
Hearing what people don’t say
Getting into the Other Person’s Mindset
Asking questions to check your understanding
Paraphrasing for clarity
Letting People Know They’ve Been Heard
Being open to being corrected
Going beneath what’s been said
Respecting people’s feelings
Chapter 5: Establishing Rapport for Effective Communication
Building Trust and Camaraderie
Demonstrating curiosity
Finding common points of interest
Seeking similarities
Making your assumptions clear
Acknowledging the impact of your behaviour
Engaging with Empathy
Appealing to people’s feelings
Standing in other people’s shoes
Creating Alignment to Build Rapport
Establishing rapport in the workplace
Matching and mirroring posture and energy
Listening for understanding
Pacing and leading to advance the conversation
Part III: Putting Your Mind and Body into Your Message
Chapter 6: Choosing the Right Attitude
Speaking from the I-Position
Discovering the I-position
Using I-statements
Appreciating the Power of Your Actions
Letting go of accusations
Sending a message that resonates
Connecting with Commitment
Wanting to engage with other people
Networking effectively
Speaking with conviction
Telling a compelling story
Chapter 7: Speaking with Clarity
Illuminating Your Intention
Supporting Your Breathing
Putting your posture into the picture
Filling yourself with air
Adding Quality to Your Voice
Articulating to be understood
Emphasising your points
Picking Words That Resonate
Adding gusto and passion
Cutting through the clutter
Bridging to stay on track
Chapter 8: Conveying Messages through Movements
Letting Your Body Do the Talking
Discovering the five silent emotional displays
Bringing your body into play
Putting Your Face into Your Message
Engaging with your eyes
Moving your mouth
Positioning Your Body for Best Effect
Part IV: Managing Communication Challenges
Chapter 9: Getting Yourself Out of Sticky Situations
Dealing with Conflict
Seeking to understand other people
Taking practical action
Managing Difficult Behaviour
Treating people with respect
Taking practical action
Chapter 10: Negotiating with Finesse
Preparing to Negotiate: The Basics
Establishing your uniqueness
Gaining commitment in principle
Aiming high
Setting Out Your Stall
Letting the other side go first
Listing all your requirements upfront
Defining clear goals
Staying Focused During the Process
Being prepared to trade concessions
Keeping the big picture in mind
Respecting the relationship
Determining the consequences
Knowing who holds the power
Considering all solutions
Summarising and clarifying as you go
Closing the Deal
Chapter 11: Communicating Across Cultures
Respecting Cultural Differences
Stereotyping and generalising
Developing awareness of different cultures
Appreciating norms, values and beliefs
Acknowledging customs and religious practices
Being flexible
Following the locals
Understanding Context
Spelling things out: Low- context cultures
Inferring, suggesting and implying: High-context cultures
Avoiding the Pitfalls
Part V: Communicating Across Distances
Chapter 12: Communicating Successfully through Technology
Getting Your Email Etiquette Right
Appearing your best in emails
Thinking of your reader
Creating a distinctive and descriptive subject line
Registering a professional- sounding address
Keeping your formatting simple
Watching for danger points
Making the Most of Social Media
Representing yourself on Facebook
Twittering and tweeting
Getting LinkedIn
Employing Other Forms of Electronic Communication
Working your way around the web
Keeping in touch with texts
Finding your voice through VoIP
Chapter 13: Communicating over the Phone
Calling with Confidence
Preparing in advance
Managing the opening efficiently
Getting to your point
Speaking clearly
Asking for what you want
Dealing Professionally with Received Calls
Picking up promptly
Greeting callers cheerfully
Offering to help
Responding to callers’ needs
Putting people on hold
Listening with Care and Enthusiasm
Putting a smile in your voice
Confirming your understanding
Closing the Call
Chapter 14: Putting Pen to Paper for Positive Effect
Re-Introducing the Art of Letter-Writing
Keeping the recipient in mind
Proofreading and revising before sending
Getting Your Personal Letters Right
Composing a condolence letter
Jotting an invitation
Sending a thank-you note
Crafting Successful Business Correspondence
Keeping your letters concise
Sticking to the point
Jettisoning the jargon
Writing specific official letters
Part VI: The Part of Tens
Chapter 15: Ten Top Tips for Speaking Face to Face
Minding Your Attitude
Engaging with Your Eyes
Speaking Clearly
Putting Energy into Your Voice
Positioning Yourself for Best Effect
Listening with Willingness
Letting Go of Negativity
Feeding Back What You Hear
Paying Attention to Body Language
Minding Your Tone of Voice
Chapter 16: Ten Essential Tips for Effective Communication
Treating the Other Person with Respect
Knowing the Preferred Form of Communication
Thinking Before You Speak
Talking Less and Listening More
Asking Questions to Understand
Minding Your Non-Verbal Behaviour
Handling Disagreements with Diplomacy
Opening Yourself to New Ideas
Following Through on Promises
Recognising What’s Going On Beneath the Surface
About the Author
Cheat Sheet

Communication Skills For Dummies®





Make no mistake: your ability to communicate with clarity, courage and commitment is your number one key to success at work and in your personal life. No matter how innovative your ideas, how sincere your feelings or how passionate your beliefs, if you fail to connect with other people and communicate in a way that persuades, inspires or motivates them, your efforts are going to be in vain.

You’re never not communicating. Whether you’re in a deep sleep, in a heated debate with a colleague or in a text-a-thon with a friend, in today’s world of 24/7 communication you’re always sending and receiving messages. Some people are outstanding communicators, listening for understanding in addition to conveying their own clear intentions, whereas others struggle to connect with their own message as well as with other people.

Great communication leads to understanding, intimacy and mutual appreciation. The good news is that you can develop and successfully apply communication skills, as long as you’re willing to commit to the process and practise. As my father used to say, communication works for those who work at it.

If you want to be recognised as a committed and effective communicator, you need to concentrate and absorb the messages that people convey to you. As well as noticing the spoken words themselves, pay attention to the way the words are delivered. For example, does the speaker’s voice rise at the end of a statement, making it sound like a question? Is the voice soft and difficult to hear? Are the spoken words straightforward and direct, or do they convey uncertainty and doubt? How the message is conveyed contains the core of the message.

When you’re delivering a message, make sure that your intention is clear and your delivery is congruent with your message. Your aim is to connect with the people you’re engaging with in order to achieve mutually satisfying goals and objectives.

About This Book

As an American, married to a German, living in England and working with multicultural teams and individuals around the globe, I’m very aware of the influence of culture – including gender, race and nationality – on communication. Although I devote one chapter specifically to communicating across cultures, my primary focus in this book is on Western communication practices. Writing this book, I’ve been selective in what I’ve chosen to include, with my aim being to offer you ways of communicating to enhance your personal and business relationships.

I explain how your attitude impacts on the content and delivery of your message. I describe how treating others with respect and establishing rapport increase your chances of creating clear and compelling communication. I show you how you can develop productive, profitable and positive relationships by listening with an open mind, being certain about the messages you want to convey and being prepared for challenging interactions. When you support the message you convey through words with body language – including gestures, expressions and posture, and voice – you increase your chances of communicating successfully.

Whether you’re writing your message, speaking face to face or using the various forms of communication technology, this book encourages you to listen to what others have to say, treat everyone with respect, maintain a clear intention about what you want to express and convey your message in a way the receiver can understand.

Conventions Used in This Book

Jargon can get in the way of clear communication and so I don’t use any in this book. When I introduce a new term, I write it in italics and then define what it means. The only other conventions in this book are that web and email addresses are in monofont, and the action part of numbered steps and the key concepts in a list are in bold.

What You’re Not to Read

The grey-tinted sidebars contain extra text, such as more detailed research information, that’s not essential to understanding the section in question. By all means skip these boxes if you prefer, safe in the knowledge that you’re not missing out on any essential tips or practical insights.

Foolish Assumptions

Although making assumptions can lead to misunderstandings, I set out mine here for clarity. In this book I assume that you:

check.png Are interested in communication skills and want to know a bit about the subject.

check.png Want to improve the way you communicate.

check.png Are willing to reflect on what you read and put into practice the suggestions I offer.

check.png Expect the best of yourself and others.

How This Book Is Organised

One of the coolest aspects about For Dummies books is that you can dip in and out as you please. You don’t need to read Chapter 1 to understand what’s coming next, and if you want to read the last chapter first, you can do so without ruining your enjoyment and missing out on any info. Whether you start at the end, jump into the middle or begin at the beginning, my hope is that you find what you’re looking for. Turn to the table of contents or the index if you’re in a rush to find out what you need. Otherwise, sit back, open the book wherever you want and enjoy the read. The following sections give you an idea of what to expect.

Part I: Honing Your Communication Skills

In Chapters 1 and 2, I explore the range of benefits to you of clear and respectful communication and the value of knowing what you want to achieve and how to go about attaining your desired outcomes. Chapter 3 covers some of the different personal communication preferences that you may encounter.

Part II: Being Receptive to Others

The thrust of this part is focusing on the person with whom you’re communicating. In Chapters 4 and 5, you discover how building positive relationships and listening actively without barriers, such as prejudice and judgement, leads to successful communication.

Part III: Putting Your Mind and Body into Your Message

In this part you discover how your physical delivery in combination with your outlook can create clear, effective messages. I describe the impact of your attitude on communication (in Chapter 6) and how your voice (Chapter 7) and body language (Chapter 8) reflect your state of mind, perhaps unknowingly.

Part IV: Managing Communication Challenges

This part offers you insights and techniques for communicating with clarity and confidence whatever the difficulties. I cover navigating your way through awkward situations in Chapter 9 and negotiations in Chapter 10, where one wrong word can create havoc. I lead you through communicating successfully with people from cultures different from your own in Chapter 11.

Part V: Communicating Across Distances

In this part I help you uncover methods of communicating through technologies, ancient and bang up to date. Chapter 12 describes using social media and email, while Chapter 13 involves the slightly less novel form of the telephone! In addition, if you want to communicate in the traditional way with pen and paper, you find how to compose correspondence that’s sure to impress in Chapter 14.

Part VI: The Part of Tens

If you’re keen to cut to the core of communication quickly, begin with the two chapters in this part. Chapter 15 contains valuable hints on communicating in person and Chapter 16 is a concise overview of great communication skills.

Icons Used in This Book

For sharpening your thinking and focusing your attention, I use the following icons in the pages’ margins:

anecdote_blood.eps This icon highlights relevant stories about family members, friends, clients, colleagues or just people I’ve observed. I hope they entertain and enlighten you about the joys and sorrows inherent in communication.

BusinessSavvy.eps Here’s a chance for you to view communication from a business perspective. By putting communication into a business context I help you see where you can keep doing what you’re doing or perhaps make a few helpful changes.

remember.eps This symbol underscores a valuable point to keep in mind.

Tip.eps This icon indicates practical and immediate remedies for honing your communication skills.

trythis.eps Here you can have a go at putting theory into practice. I’ve designed these exercises to enhance your skills and turn you into a first-rate communicator.


Everyone makes mistakes from time to time, but if you take note of the common errors that I place beside this icon you can steer clear of the worst. Other people have made these mistakes so that you don’t need to!

Where to Go from Here

Each chapter of this book addresses a specific aspect of communication, from improving your listening skills to communicating efficiently through the written word, from appreciating different styles of communicating to establishing how to reach your communication goals.

Although I’ve designed all the information within these covers to support you in being a top-flight communicator, not everything is going to be pertinent to your specific requirements or interests. So you can read this book in any order that pleases you and in your own time: what, when and where you want.

If you’re interested in writing an impressive business-related or personal letter, turn to Chapter 14, and to discover the important impact of your attitude on communication, have a look at Chapter 6. If communicating across cultures concerns you, flip to Chapter 11.

So kick off your shoes, sit back and prepare to pick up a few tips and techniques for becoming the superb communicator you deserve to be. I sincerely hope that you enjoy the journey and benefit from reading this book.

Part I

Honing Your Communication Skills


In this part...

This part sets you on the path to becoming an accomplished communicator. Here you can find out the essentials for connecting with your listener and building robust relationships. I show you how to present your case with clarity and conviction, and how to speak successfully with anyone at any time.