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The Science of Effective Communication

The ability to exchange information, otherwise known as communication, forms the basis of humanity’s collective development. Communication is an integral aspect of everyday life that enables you to function within all levels of society, ranging from the daily interaction with peers to more dynamic forms of communication with family members or your spouse. It is instinctive, yet it is a skill that most people fail to harness to its utmost degree. Effective communication is a broad term whose definition may vary from context to context (e.g., dating, marriage, work-life). However, it can be generalized to the form of communication where information, thoughts, emotions, and other informative elements, are conveyed and understood with clarity and purpose. The ability to communicate effectively is not apparent, and it is fundamental to consult the relevant research on the topic and integrate evidence-based methods to enhance your communication skills significantly.

As of 2022, the research surrounding effective communication and the various benefits that it can bring to interpersonal relationships, individual wellbeing and overall performance is extensive. In the field of relationships, effective communication has been associated with several positive outcomes, such as relationship longevity (e.g., Whitton, James-Kangal & Rhoades, 2018), efficient conflict resolution (e.g., Overall & McNulty, 2017) and increased intimacy between partners (Babaee et al., 2016). Surveys investigating the current status of relationships have outlined various factors that mediate whether a relationship will be healthy or not (Karney, 2021). Accordingly, effective communication emerges as a defining factor for this process in most studies investigating the underlying factors of healthy relationships (Karney, 2021; Overall & Mcnulty, 2017).

In addition, multiple lines of evidence support the role of effective communication in individual performance (Kryucheva et al., 2021). The ability to communicate and convey information effectively acts as a precursor to building stronger friendships, setting clear and respected boundaries, and understanding one’s own thoughts better (McEwan & Geurrero, 2010; Hargie et al., 2017). Moreover, it is also significantly associated with emotional intelligence. Effective communication and emotional intelligence are highly interrelated processes that positively contribute to each other as the ability to effectively convey information demands a heightened sense of awareness of your emotions and the emotions of others. Hence, as you work on your communication skills, you are simultaneously developing your emotional intelligence, which has been demonstrated in research to enhance interpersonal functioning, emotional regulation and teamwork (Koprowska, 2020; Nwabueze et al., 2018). On a broad scale, this produces significant benefits for psychological wellbeing, life satisfaction and self-confidence, which are fundamental building blocks of everyday functioning.

Effective communication is a broad term that can be broken down into different sub-mechanisms. As a skill that has been under careful scrutiny from science and various professional fields, multiple evidence-based techniques that drive effective communication have emerged from research. Consequently, if you want to cultivate effective communication within your life, it is crucial to integrate practices grounded in empirical evidence as they have been shown to produce the most substantial benefits. These include, but are not limited to processes such as:

  • Emotional Awareness: This process is fundamental to developing effective communication. To be able to convey information and ideas, it is crucial to understand it through the lens of its recipient and assess the best possible method of adapting to various emotions. Studies have shown that emotional awareness is a crucial aspect of developing trust, building stronger relationships and resolving conflict (Boros, 2020; Sidhu et al., 2019)

  • Value Identification: When you become aware of your own values and underlying principles, research shows that your ability to communicate firmly increases as there is an alignment between your values, thoughts, and subsequent behaviours (Gill et al., 2021). This process is a key component to navigating intimate relationships as value identification enables firm boundaries to be set and communicated (Ben-Ze’ev, 2011).

  • Behavioural Management: Behavioural management is a decisive factor in effective communication that enables you to navigate complex interactions such as conflict, manipulative behaviours from toxic partners, and verbal aggression. Science has shown that the ability to manage behaviours efficiently is a supportive component of effective communication (Mevawalla et al., 2022).

  • Fear Management: Fear is cited by many researchers to be a significant inhibitor of effective communication, and efficiently managing fear is beneficial for communication skills and individual wellbeing (Lang, 2019). As fear becomes more efficiently managed, anxiety levels subsequently decrease and remove many psychological and physiological obstacles that affect verbal expression and communication (Lang, 2019).

Taken together, processes such as emotional awareness, value identification, behavioural management and fear management have been shown to positively contribute to developing healthy relationships and increasing individual performance (Boros, 2020; Gill et al., 2021; Mevawalla et al., 2022; Lang 2019). Fundamental to effective communication, they are techniques that can be easily taught through instructional methods that are grounded in science. Another domain that is positively impacted by the cultivation of effective communication is self-discovery and individual awareness. More specifically, when you begin to learn how to communicate, you will also gain a heightened understanding of your own internal thought processes and mental responses (Petrovici & Dobrescu, 2014). Accordingly, the ability to effectively communicate is relevant throughout various domains and there is a host of available research that overviews its broad impacts. There are extremely cost-effective methods that integrate evidence-based techniques available in the form of structured courses which can be found and applied. Efficient communication impacts the individual on a broad scale and does not present itself with any detrimental consequences. The benefits are extensive and its integration within your daily life is efficient and backed by robust scientific evidence.

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Babaee, S. N., & Ghahari, S. (2016). Effectiveness of communication skills training on intimacy and marital adjustment among married women. International Journal of Medical Research & Health Sciences, 5(8), 375-380.

Ben-Ze’ev, A. (2011). Romantic Compromises. Morality and the emotions, 95.

Boroș, S. (2020). Controversy without conflict: How group emotional awareness and regulation can prevent conflict escalation. Group Decision and Negotiation, 29(2), 251-269.

Hargie, O., Dickson, D., & Tourish, D. (2017). Communication skills for effective management. Macmillan International Higher Education.

Karney, B. R. (2021). Socioeconomic status and intimate relationships. Annual Review of Psychology, 72, 391.

Koprowska, J. (2020). Communication and interpersonal skills in social work. Sage.

Kryucheva, Y. V., & Tolstoukhova, I. V. (2021). Psychological and pedagogical potential of the discipline “personal development”. Revista on line de Política e Gestão Educacional, 25(2), 1039-1047.

Lang, P. J. (2019). The cognitive psychophysiology of emotion: Fear and anxiety. In Anxiety and the anxiety disorders (pp. 131-170). Routledge.

McEwan, B., & Guerrero, L. K. (2010). Freshmen engagement through communication: Predicting friendship formation strategies and perceived availability of network resources from communication skills. Communication Studies, 61(4), 445-463.

Mevawalla, Z., Cologon, K., Hayden, J., & Hadley, F. (2021). Behaviour as communication: counter-stories of resistance and dignity work. Equity & Excellence in Education, 54(3), 285-302.

Nwabueze, U., & Mileski, J. (2018). Achieving competitive advantage through effective communication in a global environment. Journal of International Studies, 11(1).

Overall, N. C., & McNulty, J. K. (2017). What type of communication during conflict is beneficial for intimate relationships? Current opinion in psychology, 13, 1-5.

Sharma, D. T. (2020). A Study on Psychological Benefits of Healthy Communication.

Sidhu, A., Bhalla, P., & Ali, I. S. S. (2019). Impact of emotional intelligence on quality of romantic relationships: Review research. International Journal of Recent Technology and Engineering (IJRTE), 7, 1774-1779.

Whitton, S. W., James-Kangal, N., Rhoades, G. K., & Markman, H. J. (2018). Understanding couple conflict.

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