Seven Major Communication Skills To Master For Success

Communication is essential in all aspects of our personal and professional lives. Below are seven major communication skills to master if you want to be a Success in your career or personal life. Whether you are a team leader, an educator or someone trying to navigate social events, you will need to develop key communication skills to succeed.

If you wish to improve your social skills and get real results from your communication, there are several techniques that master communicators employ.

Communication Skill 1: The Seven Cs of communication

Communication Skill 2: Learn Empathy

Communication Skill 3: Make Small Talk

Communication Skill 4: Find the Right Posture

Communication Skill 5: Read Body Language

Communication Skill 6: Ask Questions

Communication Skill 7: Tell a Story

Communication Skill 1: The Seven Cs of communication

The Seven Cs of effective communication offer a guide to performing well in you written and spoken communication. These rules are essential if you are in leadership or management and you want to make your vision clear.

They are also important for correspondence throughout everyday life to ensure that your views are listened to and understood by others.

The 7 Cs of communication are:

  • Completeness
  • Conciseness
  • Consideration
  • Clarity
  • Correctness
  • Courtesy
  • Coherence

By learning these rules of communication, you can make your phone calls, meetings and daily interactions more productive.


Any communication should be complete so that your message is not left to interpretation. You need to include all of the relevant facts so that additional time or expense is avoided from following up with extra messages.

A complete message leaves no additional questions in the mind of the receiver. It allows for better decision making on the information provided and improves efficiency.

Unfinished messages will only irritate the person receiving it.


Conciseness is the art of conveying your message in the least amount of words necessary. This makes it easier for the receiver to get to the point of what you are trying to say.

Nobody wants to read a page of information when a paragraph could have summarised the key points.

Concise messages are more appealing to the audience as they save time and money in the effort to read them. Make sure that your message is brief and to the point. This means avoiding repetition and unnecessary explanations.


By considering the audience, you can ensure that your communication is received correctly. You need to be able to put yourself into the mind of the person receiving your message to understand how it will be interpreted by them.

Consider the viewpoints, background, recent history, education level, age and cultural identity of an audience. Will they be emotionally responsive to some ideas? Will they feel as though their opinions are being listened to? Are you presenting your ideas in a way that your audience can see the benefits to themselves? Are you using technical terms that may not be understood?


The recipient of any communication needs to be completely clear about the message that you are trying to get across. This means that you refrain from any vagueness or ambiguity. Avoid poetic styles and stick with conversational words and phrases.

You should be able to assess how the other person will interpret your message. This means that you use language and illustrations that they will be able to gain meaning from.

You should ensure that your communication is grammatically correct using easy to understand words and phrases. Refrain from using technical phrases and jargon unless you are talking with a technical expert.


All the information that you communicate should be factually correct. Always check your information before you pass it on as a message to avoid sending out misleading information.

Providing correct information reinforces confidence in your message. Ensuring that you are providing accurate facts will prevent misinterpretation which could become confusing and costly.

You can improve the readability of facts and figures by including charts and graphs.


All communication should be cautious to the receiver at all times. Any message that you send should be polite, enthusiastic, reflective and judicious.

Communication can be complicated and sometimes your message may require urgency or be of a reprimanding nature. However, the tone of your communication should be professional and respectful at all times.

Remember that everybody deserves to be spoken to with respect. Whichever level of the business you are communicating to, there should be no reason to make people feel belittled, worthless or disrespected. Adding courtesy to your communication requires little extra effort but makes the receiver feel valued in the conversation.


If your communication is not coherent then it can cause confusion and frustration. Stick to the subject and provide the information of the message in a logical way.

All points in the communication need to relate to the main topic. If there are other issues which need to be brought up, this can be done in further correspondence to avoid confusing the main point.

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Communication Skill 2: Learn Empathy

Empathy is the skill of being able to put yourself in the place of another person. You are able to imagine what another person is feeling and what their motives may be. In doing this you can adjust your communication to address the things that make them happy, upset or that they are scared of.

Benefits of Using Empathy

Skills Required to Improve Empathy

The Importance of Empathy

How to Practice Empathy

Benefits of Using Empathy

You will…

  • Treat people as they wish to be treated
  • Be able to offer calm into stressful situations
  • Notice non verbal communication before the need for it to be spoken
  • Be able to predict how someone will react
  • Understand the needs of customers that you work with
  • You can gain a better understanding of people’s needs
  • Gain understanding in how your words affect others
  • Learn what motivates people
  • Your views will become more convincing to other people
  • You will see life from many perspectives
  • Be able to manage conflicts at work and home
  • You can easily deal with people who have negative views
  • Know the fears and concerns that affect others

The Importance of Empathy

Empathy in communication is important for creating a meaningful connection between you and the person that you are communicating with. Each person is individual and has a specific history which effects their emotional well-being.

By understanding the ways in which you can use empathy, you can avoid causing situations which may be painful or cause anxiety. You should know when to provide encouragement in areas where someone is weak or support for people who are going through hardships.

There are also situations where you need to avoid invalidating another person’s feelings. This can happen when you are trying to offer encouragement but inadvertently contradict the emotions of the person that you are talking to.

An example of this is by avoiding the reality of problems that someone is facing by saying things like:

“..everything will be ok..”
“..don’t worry..”
“…you’ll feel better tomorrow…”
“…you should have nothing to complain about…”

This makes people feel as though their concerns are invalid and that they are unable to discuss their true fears and options available.

Most people do not intend to be cruel by the way they respond to the concerns of others. You may offer some well-meaning advice which appears as dismissive of the discomfort that the other person is going through. This shows a lack of empathy in your communication skills.

Skills Required to Improve Empathy

We are all naturally able to empathise with others. But only a handful of people are able to offer natural empathy as part of their communication skills. People with natural empathy can make their ideas understood by others and can build meaningful social interactions.

Natural empathy is a skill which can be learned. You will need to understand your current level of social intelligence and from there expand on your skills of empathy.

Understanding Yourself

The first stage in becoming more empathetic towards the feelings of other people is to understand yourself better. Gaining a better understanding of yourself will allow you to become aware of your own emotions and the feelings of others.

Understanding Others

Understanding others comes from observation and communication. Listen to what people are saying and try to imagine that you are in their situation. How would you feel if you were this person? What would you like to be told?

Nonverbal Empathy

Most people can only realise the emotional situation in others once they experience an outburst or breaking down. Before reaching this point, there are many non-verbal clues to look out for. By learning how to read the emotions of people through non-verbal cues, you can emphasise more with their situation.

How to Practice Empathy

Practising empathy will help improve your ability to communicate throughout your personal life and within the workplace. Improved empathy can offer many benefits including career advancement, better management results and longer lasting relationships.


Many conversations involve two sides trying to get their own point of view across. Heated debates and arguments often create a back and forth of views. During these debates the response is usually begun before the previous speaker has finished their point.

This usually means that you are formulating your next statement before the other person has finished speaking and are waiting for the opportunity to say what you have prepared. As a result, you will not have listened to what has been said by the other person.

Listening is an essential part of empathy and good communication. Force yourself to listen to what is being said before you reply. You will need to consider the words spoken as well as the motivation of the person saying them.

You may need to add a follow-up question to get a better understanding of what is being said to you. The important thing is to only speak once you have absorbed the points provided by the other person before you speak.

Pay attention

It is easy to get distracted from the real world by social media, emails and blog articles trying to grab your attention. When we are absorbed in our virtual world, we stop noticing the people around us.

A good way to practice your empathy skills is to begin paying attention to the people that surround you. Whether you are on public transport or in a busy office, try to imagine the feelings and thoughts of those around you.

By wondering and paying attention to other people, you can build up a picture of how happy, upset or frustrated others may be. Honing this skill can help improve your empathy in conversation and communication.

Manage disputes

There are times in our lives when we become involved in disputes which seem to go on without resolution. When we argue with someone, we usually feel as though your side of the conflict is in the right and the other side is wrong.

Disagreements can happen between co-workers, family members, neighbours or local authorities. It seems as though a line has been drawn between the two sides of the conflict and you will automatically oppose anything that the other has to say. It begins to feel as though you are two enemies at war.

In your mind, you may have the image of the enemy as stupid or evil. At the very least you will always see their opinion as being wrong.

It is important to try and look at the conflict from the point of view of the other person.

You will realise that perhaps they have a legitimate reason to hold their views. You may even realise that they might even be right about the subject that you are in dispute over.

Understanding how the other side thinks and feels could reduce the stress and intensity of the conflict. You should ask yourself the following:

  • How does the other person feels when you automatically disagree with them. Is there a reason that they are stubbornly holding this point of view?
  • Perhaps you will find that there is a positive motivation behind their negative actions.

  • Could you agree with the reasons behind their holding a conflicting view?

  • Does your own actions increase the fears of the person that you disagree with? Could you be making them more stubborn by increasing their fears?

When you consider the situation objectively, do they have a valid argument? You may be the person who is being stubborn unnecessarily.

Look at both sides

The most objective position to take in any dispute or argument is the third person. By taking neither side of an argument you can listen to both sides of the debate and make an informed decision about which side is in the right.

It is usually difficult to be a complete objective observer. Most complaints that you hear about are from friends or family. When you have a bond with the person in a dispute, you naturally take the side of this person.

Being a supportive friend is important and they will usually expect you to back them up.

However, as an exercise in practising empathy, you could take onboard the opposing view also.

Assess the opposite side first and then return to the views expressed by your friend. You will now have a much more complete understanding of the situation. From this point, you will be able to see things as they really are.

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Communication Skill 3: Make Small Talk

Meeting someone for the first time can sometimes feel awkward. You may feel intimidated by the situation if you cannot think of what to say. Learning the technique of small talk can help smooth over awkward silences.

Small talk is a social lubricant which helps two strangers progress towards a full conversation. Once you have begun to engage in a meaningful conversation with someone, you may be taking the first step towards starting a long term friendship.

Remember that the stranger that you meet today could become a meaningful friend or business colleague. This person may become a potential partner or introduce you to a career opportunity. For these reasons, you should never let an opportunity pass to engage with another person who you do not know.

The FORD Technique

Transform Small Talk into Meaningful Conversation

Rules for Mastering Small Talk

Approaching Small talk as an Introvert

The FORD Technique

There are many social situations where it would be helpful to get a conversation started. For some people, small talk is a natural skill which comes easy. Others can agonise over finding the right way to begin speaking to someone and avoid awkward silences.

One effective tool to help you master the art of small talk is known as the FORD technique. FORD gives you four universal topics of conversation to help you break the ice at a dinner party, corporate event or social gathering.

FORD stands for:

  • Family
  • Occupation
  • Recreation
  • Dreams

Using the FORD technique effectively can help you appear more confident amongst people. The FORD technique can also help to make social events enjoyable rather than something to dread.

The FORD technique is a combination of asking questions, listening to the answers, responding to what is said and allowing the other person to continue speaking about themselves.

The strategy of the FORD technique is to provide a number of conversation starters which anyone can feel comfortable engaging in. These are small general questions which will allow the other person to open up and offer personal information about themselves.

Once you have learned some piece of information, try to use that to expand the conversation. People love to talk about themselves, so make it as easy as possible for them to feel free to do so.

Showing a real interest in the information that they provide will demonstrate that you are engaged in what they are saying. This will make the person that you are talking to feel appreciated and comfortable in your company.


If you are meeting someone for the first time ask about where their family is from. Find out if they are married or have children. Following on from this you can try to find out how did they meet their current partner or if they are meeting their parents over Christmas. If you already know that they have children, you could find out about their ages or how they enjoy school.


Most people feel comfortable discussing their work. It offers you a chance to try and learn more about the industry that they are involved in. When you begin to show an interest in what someone does it will encourage them to open up. Opening questions would be as simple as asking what line of work they are in, how long they have been doing the job and what they find interesting about it.


Asking someone about what they do over the weekend or where they went on holiday last can open up an opportunity to find a common interest. If you already know about the hobbies or interests that they enjoy you can try to find out the last time that they were involved. Try to make connections between the interests of the person that you are talking with and the things that you get up to in your own spare time.


We all have dreams and aspirations. Try to find out about what motivates the person that you are communicating with. Is there somewhere that they have always wanted to visit? Have they got plans for a career change? How do they imagine their ideal future?

In each of the examples above, have some questions ready beforehand and use them to start up a conversation. If the conversation leads to a dead end, ask the next question and listen to the answer provided.

Try to show that you are actively listening by adding a follow-up question related to the answer. This should help move the conversation along in a natural way.

Transform Small Talk into Meaningful Conversation

Small talk often feels like you are being forced into saying something to the stranger next to you. But approaching small talk in a positive way can offer a useful tool in your communication skill set. The goal of small talk is to find common ground and use that to begin a meaningful conversation.

Share information

Keep revealing information about yourself until something sparks an interest in the other person. Expand all answers to include details about your experiences and hopefully, you will reveal a common interest.

Show interest

We often begin to talk about ourselves to fill moments of silence. Before you begin a full conversation you also need to show that you have an interest in the other person. The best way to show someone that you are taking an interest in them is to listen to what they are saying before responding. Asking relevant questions based on what the other person has said makes you look like you have absorbed what has been said.

Be prepared

Before any social event where you are likely to be meeting people that you wish to engage with, you should prepare yourself with topics of conversation. People enjoy discussing current events as it provides a common ground which everyone can have an opinion on.

Pay attention to the most recent news stories and try to develop an interesting view on the subject.

Think about the local area and your experiences of visiting it.

Research the local history or find some interesting local facts to share. If attending a business meeting be aware of the company products and recent achievements.

Expand answers

During small talk, you are likely to be asked questions about your occupation, family, social interests or where you live. Try to avoid giving a straight answer without additional flavour. Offer an example of a recent project, activity or experience that can provide further openings to the conversation.

Ten Rules for Mastering Small Talk

If you find it difficult to begin a conversation with strangers, it can be helpful to have a set of rules to work with for mastering small talk. Small talk is essential for sparking up conversations when you are in social situations or networking events.

Follow these simple rules and your small talk will become easier and you appear more confident in social interactions.

1. Remember peoples names

In social situations, it can be difficult to remember the names of each person that you meet. But it is essential that you do.

Make sure that you hear the name correctly when introduced and if you are unsure, ask for it to be repeated. When meeting someone with a hard to pronounce name, take the time to learn it with them. This shows that you have taken an interest and wish to make the extra effort to get their name firmly planted in your mind.

Repeat each name several times after you learn it so that it becomes familiar. Try to spend more time with each person that you are introduced to before moving on. Stay present and slow your thinking down so that each name becomes clearly associated with the right person.

Forgetting names is inevitable so you should not panic if you do. Remain calm and come clean. Apologise and ask if you could have their name again since your mind has gone blank. People will understand as they have probably done the same before.

2. Use the right greeting

A handshake is usually the most appropriate greeting for people that you are meeting for the first few times. Once you become more familiar, you may feel comfortable embracing with a hug or a peck on the cheek.

You should always respond accordingly to how someone greets you so that you do not cause offence.

Remember that you should keep up the same greeting each time that you meet someone. If you kissed them once, you should kiss them each time to avoid them feeling shunned.

Try to be fair with your greetings also. If you are giving a husband a peck on the cheek and not the wife then you look as though you are favouring one over the other.

3. Prepare for the people attending

Good networkers do their homework before a social event. On the way to a party or business event, try to prepare things that you can talk about. Think about the host of the party and their interests. If you can get talking with the host, they are in the best position to introduce you to other guests.

You should consider the other people who are likely to attend the event and remember the things that they enjoy talking about. Research the hobby of the person you wish to engage with so that you can show an interest in the things that they enjoy.

4. Overcome awkward silences

Most social exchanges begin to wind down eventually and you may experience moments of silence when you are trying to get the conversation back on track. Try not to panic when you experience awkward silences they are not as long as they seem. Moments of silence may be appropriate in communication so that you don’t produce an endless stream of irrelevant babble.

When conversation lulls, it may be a point where you notice that the other person is keen to get away. In which case give them the opportunity to leave. Or you can use this opportunity to steer your conversation in a completely new direction.

5. Encourage the other person to open up

Given the chance, most people love to talk about themselves. Sometimes it only takes you to offer them the opportunity to open up to you and they will be happy to engage with you.

Try to get the person to open up by introducing one of the following subjects.

At a social event …opinion on the event which you are attending

In a gallery or exhibition…favourite exhibit here or favourite artist

At a networking event or party…views on the latest news

At a business conference…how do they think the future looks for your industry

You can begin with superficial questions such as a comment about their jewellery, tie or shoes. This can open the way to encouraging someone to talk about their own likes and dislikes. What someone chooses to wear often says a lot about their personality so they will be flattered that you noticed.

6. Observe your surroundings

When you cannot find common ground between you and someone who you are making small talk with, you should remember that you are both sharing this experience. The one thing that you do share in common is your current surroundings.

Comment on the food preparation, the decor or flower arrangements. Do you share a like or dislike for the music at the event? These are the things that you can find common ground within the immediate situation.

Another shared point of reference is the host and your relationship to them. If you struggle to find any other shared interests, ask about how they came to know the host of the event.

7. Expand your answers

When meeting people for the first time, you need to give them as much information as possible about yourself so that they have more options to engage with you. If someone asks you a question try to avoid the short answer, but add extra details which could lead to further trails of enquiry.

Offering short answers can leave the other person struggling to find another question from very little information. Adding embellishments to your answers will reduce the awkward silences and allow the conversation to flow.

8. Provide introductions

Effective small talk includes the ability to make introductions which make each person feel important. Make sure that you pronounce both names slowly and clearly. You should also offer a piece of information for each person that you introduce. If you feel that they have a shared interest, make this the key to your introduction.

9. Avoid unpleasantness

There are some people at any social gathering who you find unpleasant. It is important to try and avoid these people without causing an uncomfortable situation.

People who may make a situation feel uncomfortable can cause a bad atmosphere. Try and make a gracious exit if you find yourself with someone that talks only about themselves, who makes unnecessarily rude comments or who invades your personal space.

10. Exit with courtesy

There will always be a conversation where you need to get away without causing offence. There are a number of excuses which you can use that offer a genuine reason to move away.

I haven’t eaten all day, I should get something to eat

I need to go refresh my drink

I have something to discuss with my colleague over there

I must consult my spouse about something

When you depart, ensure that you mention the part of your conversation that meant something to you. This shows that you have valued your time together and are not leaving because you have become bored.

Approaching Small talk as an Introvert

Most people dislike small talk. But if you consider yourself an introvert, you will probably dread small talk. Small talk can seem like a chore which is likely to be awkward or boring. Social events are increasingly becoming hard to avoid.

Small talk is the essential skill required to navigate networking events, office meetings, cocktail parties and other social events. Learning a few small talk tips may make the experience a lot easier to digest.

Overcome anxiety

As an introvert, you may become anxious at the thought of meeting new people and attempting small talk. You will need to overcome this anxiety if you wish to become more accomplished at communication. You need to learn to keep positive and rational.

Remember that anxiety comes from your own perspective and is not a product of the situation. Anxiety is often a result of thinking the worst. But what if the worst does happen? If people do not like you then so what! Move on.

Always value yourself and your ability to contribute to a conversation. You may be feeling apprehension based on past experience. But just because something which happened before, does not mean that it is going to happen again.

Have a positive approach to small talk

Try not to begin thinking that small talk is pointless or boring. If you go into a conversation thinking these negative thoughts, then you will probably only encounter dull interactions.

Remember that small talk is important. It is the foundation of building strong relationships and deeper conversations.

Show your interest

Becoming genuinely curious about the person that you are talking to can help make the communication more interesting. Try to ask questions that fulfil your natural curiosity about a person or a subject which they have knowledge of.

Showing an interest will offer a more engaged conversation and make future communication more positively received.

Find out more

An introvert often feels uncomfortable revealing too much about themselves. One way to keep the conversation moving without becoming the centre of attention is by asking questions. This will give you the chance to find out more about the other person before opening up. It is important to not over use the asking questions technique without offering some information about yourself or it may begin to feel like you are interrogating the other person.

Expand your answers

Try to avoid giving one word answers to questions. Include additional information which allows the other person to use as a way of progressing the conversation.

Use open-ended questions

You can avoid heading into a dead end by asking questions which are open ended. This means that you can avoid getting one-word answers and the conversation falling flat. Open-ended questions allow the other person to expand as much as they like. You can use these questions to nudge the conversation along.

Be aware of your nature

As an introvert, you may give the wrong impression to other people. Introverts often appear reserved or uninterested. When you notice that you are making the other person feel uncomfortable, offer a smile and show genuine interest in what is being discussed.

Don’t dwell on your faults

When making small talk, remember that everyone makes mistakes. Introverts tend to become introspective and dwell on their faults. It is important to be prepared to fail at communication and learn from your mistakes. Remember that if you are going to be successful at communicating then you need to overcome many failures to achieve success.

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Communication Skill 4: Find the Right Posture

First impressions matter when it comes to good communication. One of the first things that people notice when meeting someone for the first time is the way that they carry their body. As a result, your posture can produce a good or bad reflection on what type of person that you are.

The way that you hold your body shows a lot of information about yourself. A confident posture can positively transform the way that people interact with you while a bad posture can give the impression of laziness or submissiveness.

Posture is something that can be changed if you pay attention to it. The way that you carry your body is a habit which can be adjusted through practice.

What Are The Benefits of a Good Posture?

Understanding Posture as Nonverbal Communication

Adopt Power Poses for Success

What Are The Benefits of a Good Posture?

Good posture sets you up for making the right first impression. This is important throughout key stages in your life from job interviews to first dates.

The way you hold your body can make you appear persuasive, engaging, confident and attractive. At the same time, a bad posture can make people see you as having low self-esteem, lazy, uninterested or submissive.

Posture as expression

Your posture works as part of your overall expression. While the most expressive parts of your body are your face and hand gestures, your posture can emphasise or contradict these.

When communicating with someone you will appear interested in what is being said by leaning in to listen closely. By leaning back of hunching you will look apathetic or disinterested in what someone is trying to communicate to you.

Good and bad posture

Your body language reflects how you feel. Keeping a straight and confident stance makes people more willing to listen to you and engage with what you have to say. This can be a direct result of your body language since you look more self-confident, active and positive.

When we feel down, this can also be reflected in our posture. This conveys a bad impression and communicates low self-esteem or a negative outlook. You may also be perceived as lazy or sad when you walk with slumped shoulders or a hunched back.

Many people develop a bad posture over the years without realising the impression that others may have from the way they stand, walk and engage with people.

You can develop a good posture by practising good habits which will become more natural over time. It may feel strange at first when you try to change the way you stand and move. But if you are dedicated, you can stop yourself from slumping and begin to stand straight.

Standing Straight

A good posture can be achieved by standing straight and confident.

  1. Keep your ears in line with your shoulders and hold your head in a neutral position
  2. Rest your shoulders down.Keep your chest open but not puffed up.

    Try to distribute tour weight equally between both of your feet. Keep your feet firmly on the ground.

    Keep the curve of your back natural. Avoid over extending the curve or making it too tense.

    Try to keep a slight tension in your buttocks and abdomen to hold your composure.

Health benefits

There are many health benefits also associated with having a relaxed and straight posture. When you stand and move in as confident way it helps you feel more self-assured and will improve your mood. A good posture can make you feel more alert, positive and less stressed.

When your body is relaxed your blood can flow through your body naturally and this helps your body to function at its optimum level.

Reduction in stress levels and an improved mood can make you more energised and less prone to negative feelings.

Good posture also reduced strain and stress on your spine. This can help reduce back and neck pain. Slouching can put pressure on your spine and constrict blood vessels and nerves.

Back problems from bad posture can affect joints, discs and muscles. People who suffer from back pain often only resolve the issues once they adopt a more positive posture.

Understanding Posture as Nonverbal Communication

Non-verbal communication is a major part of the way that we interact with people. Posture, body movements and proximity offer a non-verbal language which gives an indication of the mood and emotions of the speaker. It is estimated that the words that we speak only make up about 20-30 % of our communication.

Non-verbal communication is the signals that we send through our body language. This includes facial expressions, eye contact, the tone of voice, hand gestures and the way that we stand. The type of posture that you adopt can enhance the words that you say and make your communication more compelling and persuasive.

Open Posture

An open posture offers a friendly and positive appearance when you are speaking to someone. Using an open posture can also make you appear more approachable and persuasive to others.

An open posture requires you to communicate while always keeping your body facing towards the other person. Sit or stand straight exposing your abdomen and chest with a raised head. You should keep the palms of your hand face outward and your feet are spread wide. You will also need to also maintain good eye contact and a relaxed facial expression.

Closed Posture

A closed posture often implies hostility, boredom or a lack of interest. You should try to avoid using a closed posture when you are trying to win someone’s confidence or make a good impression.

Someone adopting a closed posture may be sat in a hunched forward position or with arms crossed over the chest. Other signs of closed posture are crossed legs facing away from the person, clenched fists or showing the back of your hands.

Confident Posture

A change in your posture can make you appear more confident and self-assured in what you are saying. You should try to use a confident posture when you want to make a good impression or appear more convincing. Even if you are feeling stressed or nervous, adopting a confident posture will help keep you looking composed.

To adopt a confident posture, hold your head up and pull your body to its full height. Keep your arms and legs relaxed by your sides while pulling your shoulders back and maintaining a gaze at eye level.

Echoing Posture

Mirroring the posture of another person will make you appear in step with the other person. Echoing body language can be used as an effective method for flirting and making someone feel relaxed.

When using the mirroring technique you should watch the way that the other person stands and reflect it in your own posture. You should try and imitate the pace and style of movement to appear more compatible with them.

Adopt Power Poses for Success

Power poses are ways which you can adapt your body to appear more confident and dominant. Power poses also have physical effects on your body chemistry. By standing or sitting in a power pose for a few minutes, you can reduce stress hormones and increase testosterone.

These changes in your body chemistry can help improve your performance and chances of success. You will also notice that you become more confident in the way that you interact with other people.

Build confidence with power poses

When we feel at our most confident it shows in our body language. Moving with expansive, open body language makes you look more powerful. Confidence is communicated by taking up as much space as possible. By holding an expansive pose for a few minutes as you are approaching an important encounter can improve the way in which you feel.

Reduce stress

Holding a power pose actually changes the chemicals in your brain to convince you that you are more dominant. Power poses can increase testosterone which improves your feeling of dominance while reducing cortisol which can make you feel stressed.

Here are nine examples of power poses which can be used for success:

1. Power pose in your sleep

When you wake in the morning you want to feel powerful and ready to face the day. The sleeping position that you adopt can have a lot to do with how you feel after sleep.

If you sleep in the fetal position on your side with arms and legs pulled toward your torso, you are adopting a low power position. A low power sleeping position can make you feel more vulnerable and sensitive when you wake in the morning.

Instead, you should use a power position which makes you feel bigger and more powerful. Lay on your back and stretch your arms and legs out in an open position to become more confident in your sleep. Holding your hands behind your head is another example of a powerful sleep position.

2. Power pose at meetings

In meetings, you will need to show a strength of posture to get your voice heard. When you raise your arm, ensure that your elbow is not leaning on the table or that your arm is not bent. Take up as much room as possible, extend your arm fully and make yourself noticed.

While speaking at meetings, you want to appear confident and persuasive. A good posture to help you make an important point is a folded arms posture. You must also ensure that your shoulders are held back and your head held high. Crossing your arms with shoulders leaning forward will show a sigh of weakness so must be avoided.

3. Closing a deal

A good posture to use when closing a deal and offering your final offer needs to communicate dominance and seduction. Standing above the desk leaning forward with both hands on the table can show that you are fully engaged whilst also offering a shade of intimidation.

4. Make yourself heard when pitching an idea

You should appear relaxed and confident when pitching a big idea. This shows that you are not intimidated by taking risks and making bold suggestions. You should lean back in your chair with your hands behind your head while you rest your feet on the table.

5. Be confident in interviews

Before entering an interview it can help make you feel more confident by practising a power stance beforehand. Just by holding a good power pose for five minutes before an interview you can appear more relaxed and self-assured. Before the interview starts, adopt a stance with feet stood widely apart. Stretch your arms into a V position over your head as if celebrating a victory.

6. Become assertive while interviewing someone

As an interviewer, you will need to look comfortable in your position whilst remaining assertive. You can achieve this by reclining in your chair with knees apart and feet firmly kept on the ground. You can rest your arm on the back of a chair or place your hands behind your head to open yourself up more. You can vary this stance by resting your ankle upon your knee.

7. Hold your ground while talking to superiors

When talking to superiors, you will often feel as though you are becoming intimidated or under stress. Avoid low confidence stances such as touching your neck or hunching forward. You should counteract these feelings by adopting the Wonder Woman stance. This is achieved by standing with your feet wide apart, chin tilted up and hands on hips.

8. Look stronger while negotiating

If you are feeling nervous or under pressure it can show in your eyes. A good method of showing confidence in your eyes is by pinching the lower eyelid. Bringing the lower eyelid up can make you look more self-assured and able to negotiate your worth.

9. Walk with confidence

When you walk you should look like you are confident and in control. Create space between your arms and body by holding your elbows slightly out. When you take a step, use long strides while moving your arms from front to back.

Follow this link for examples of the power pose used by highly successful people.

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Communication Skill 5: Read Body Language

Successful people need to be aware of all levels of communication. One skill that the best communicators understand is how to read body language. Body language can reinforce what we are saying or offer a glimpse into what a person may be revealing.

Understanding body language is a powerful communication tool which can help you to detect lies or notice when someone is genuinely interested in what you are saying. Body language is the use of facial expression, posture, gestures and eye contact which can be used to read someone’s true feelings and attitude.

What is body language?

How To Read Body Language

Body Language Signals

Body Language Mistakes to Avoid

Tips For Improving Your Body Language

What is body language?

Body language can make up 70 – 80% of what we communicate. We may think that people are listening to the words which we are saying but they are also reading the non-verbal information which is transmitted through our movements and gestures.

Types of body language

We can use body language to emphasise what we are communicating verbally. A skilled reader of body language can notice when the words that someone is saying is not linked to their body language.

1. Emblems:

Emblems are recognised signals which can act in place of a word. These may be recognisable hand signals such as ‘come closer’ ‘ok’ or ‘stay back’.

2. Illustrators:

When we use gestures to accompany what we are saying as non-verbal descriptions, these are called illustrators. Illustrators can reinforce what we are saying and make our communication clearer.

3. Regulators:

Regulators act as feedback to the person that you are communicating with. Nodding of the head and short ‘uh-huh’ sounds can indicate agreement. Other regulators can show boredom or a wish to bring the conversation to an end. Most conversations are pushed forward with the help of regulators that express a desire to continue.

4. Adaptors:

Adaptors are actions which act out our psychological needs. These actions are usually associated with a nervousness or feeling of hostility. These include biting of nails, scratching or adjusting yourself.

Types of Posture

Our posture can indicate our level of self-confidence or emotional state. Posture can reveal our intentions and attitude towards the person that we are communicating with.

1. open and closed posture:

Posture in communication can be open or closed. An open posture can show confidence and willingness to engage with others while a closed posture can reveal low confidence or lack of interest.

An open posture is where the body are pointing towards the person who you are talking with legs and arms apart.

A closed posture may be reflected in folded arms, legs pointing away or a lowered head.

2. mirroring:

Mirroring is the use of posture to reflect what another person is doing. When you mirror another person’s actions it shows an interest or approval of the other person.

Types of Personal Space

Each interaction requires an appropriate level of closeness when communicating with them. Depending on the relationship between you and the person who you are talking to, you will need to provide adequate personal space (or proxemics).

1. Intimate Distance:

This is the distance of people in a close relationship. You can be touching each other or remain within 15-45cm. Remaining at an intimate distance to someone who is not in a close relationship with you will be seen as uncomfortable and disturbing.

2.Personal Distance:

A personal distance is a distance where a handshake can be met. This is between 45cm to 1.2m and is the adequate distance for conversation. At this distance, you can easily read facial expressions and eye movements.

3. Social Distance:

When attending a social gathering or discussing business which is not of a personal nature you will remain at a social distance. Speech at a social distance needs to be louder as there is usually desks or seating arrangements which create a formal atmosphere at a comfortable distance.

4.Public Distance:

When talking in front of an audience a speaker will need to be further away from the people that they are communicating with to ensure effectiveness. Standing at a public distance, it is not possible to recognise the facial expressions or subtle body language, Therefore, when speaking at a public distance it is important to exaggerate hand movements and to make larger head movements to be perceived from further away.

Read more about how we use body language to communicate.

How To Read Body Language

Emotional Cues

Emotional cues include recognising when someone is feeling upset, hostile, anxious or embarrassed. You will need to be aware of the emotional needs of people to become a skilled communicator.


Crying is usually used as an outlet for emotions. Although crying is most often thought of as a sign of sadness or distress, it can also be an expression of happiness. You need to assess the context of the crying to apply the appropriate response. You should also watch out for people who use crying to manipulate others using deception or sympathy. Forced crying to achieve a personal gain is known as crocodile tears.


When someone becomes angry they will close themselves away from you by tightly crossing their arms. The eyebrows of an angry person will become v-shaped and their mouth becomes downturned or open. They will also express wide threatening eyes.


You can spot an anxious person by fidgeting and not being able to keep their hands still. They may also have jittery legs or tap their feet. When people are anxious they increase facial movements and blinking. The mouth will also stretch into a thin line.


When people feel embarrassed, they usually turn their head away or avert their eyes. You may even spot a tense smile. People who look towards the floor a lot are timid, shy or embarrassed. When someone looks to the ground they are usually feeling unpleasant emotions that they are trying to hide.

Intimacy Cues

Intimacy cues show a recognition of a close relationship between people. When people are in love or in a close relationship to each other they display this in sharing a close personal space with touching and affectionate body language.


People show affection by touching and sharing a personal space together. This level of close proximity is limited to people who are in intimate relationships.

Eye Contact:

When someone is engaged in a conversation that they are interested in, their eyes are almost always looking at their partners face. These looks move from the eyes to the nose and lips then return to the eyes.

Eye contact can be used to detect when someone is lying. When someone avoids eye contact it may be a sign that they are not being truthful. But remember: Too much eye contact could be the sign of someone who is aware of their actions. If someone wants to deceive you they may be overcompensating for avoiding eye contact when interrogated.

Dilated pupils also show an interest in the engagement. However dilated pupils can also be the result of substances such as alcohol, ecstasy, cocaine, amphetamines or others.


When someone has an open posture they are engaged with the other person and open to what is being discussed. Their body will be facing towards the other person with arms and legs in an open position.

A closed posture suggests that the person is mentally and physically closing themselves off from the other person. When someone has their limbs tightly wrapped around their body they are showing resistance to the conversation.

Attraction Cues

When two people find each other attractive they will show signs of attraction in their facial expression, eyes and body language.

Eye Contact:

Regular eye contact is a sign of attraction. When eye contact is reciprocated it is a sign that both people are interested in each other.

Facial Expression:

A genuine smile is a sign of attraction. You can spot a fake smile if the eyes do not show emotion. A genuine smile includes the eyes which display tiny wrinkles or crows feet at the sides.

Gestures and Stance:

When someone feels attracted to another person they will try to get within a close distance. They will lean forward to show interest and display light touching or stroking.

Watch for a person’s hands and feet also. A person who is interested in you will usually point their feet in your direction and suggest openness with palms turned up.

Power Cues

Power cues are the signals communicated by people to display dominance or power over others. Some people use body language to intimidate others, show authority and to make their point more strongly.

Eye Contact:

Strong eye contact is the most effective way of showing dominance and can become intimidating when prolonged. When someone is trying to establish their power over others, they will begin staring at others. A dominant personality will always be the last to break eye contact.

Facial Expression:

When someone is trying to assert dominance they will remain serious and avoid smiling. Pursed lips and a frown may be displayed when someone is trying to assert their authority.

Gestures and Stance:

A dominant person will try to establish their position with a firm handshake which is sustained to show control. Other gestures used to show dominance include pointing at other people and using large gestures.

When a dominant person is relaxing they will usually adopt a wide and long stance which takes up as much room as possible.

Personal Space:

People who have a higher status try to keep more physical distance between themselves and those with less status. Dominant people will usually take up more personal space in their body posture by standing in a power pose which is more expansive.


When people feel confident of their status they will feel more at ease touching someone of a lower status. When someone feels dominant over another person they will touch them more frequently. If the interaction was between two people of equal status the touching would be reciprocal and of equal frequency.

If you want to read more about body language, visit the Glossary of Reading Body Language.

Body Language Signals

We all want to get an insight into what people are really thinking when they communicate with us. Luckily, understanding body language can provide more than half of the signals sent out through our communication.

Of the most successful people in almost any industry, the majority have high emotional intelligence. This means that they have become skilled at reading the unspoken language that we all emit. Gaining an understanding of how to read body language can, therefore, provide an edge over others in the area which you want to succeed.

Crossed arms and legs

When someone crosses their arms or legs they are creating a physical barrier which closes them off mentally from what you are suggesting. Observations of negotiations for body language research noticed that no agreement was reached where someone was crossed legged or armed while communicating.

Genuine smiles

Sometimes people use smiling to hide their real thoughts. A fake smile can be identified by observing the person’s eyes. If they have crinkles at the edge of their eyes while smiling, it is more likely to be a genuine smile.


When you are negotiating a deal, be aware of your own body movements to see if they are being mirrored by the other person. Imitation of your body language communicates a willingness to agree with you.

Good posture

Our brains equate the amount of space that someone takes up in their posture with importance. A good posture means avoiding slouching and standing straight with expansive gestures. Maintaining a good posture makes you look more confident and powerful. Your posture can command respect and encourages engagement.

Eye Contact

Most people understand that it is difficult to maintain eye contact when you are lying to someone. As a result, people who are trying to deceive you will often hold eye contact for longer than is comfortable. If someone is trying to convince you that they are telling the truth, watch their eyes. If they avoid or hold eye contact without blinking for more than 7-10 seconds then they may be lying to you.

Raised eyebrows

People usually only raise their eyebrows when they are expressing fear, surprise or anxiety. If you are engaged in a comfortable conversation with someone who raises their eyebrows, there may be a hidden agenda to what they are saying.

Exaggerated nodding

People will generally nod in agreement to show you that they understand what you are saying. But if someone is nodding excessively they may be really thinking the opposite. Excessive nodding may mean that they do not feel as though they can follow your instruction or they are anxious about your approval.

A Stressed jaw and neck

When someone becomes stressed they show tension around the jaw and neck. If you notice a tightened neck, furrowed brow or clenched jaw, they may be showing signs of increased discomfort. This could mean that they are anxious about where the conversation is heading or their mind is on other things.

Further reading: How to detect lies.

Eleven Body Language Mistakes to Avoid

Within the professional world, your body language can help you achieve success or leave you unable to climb to the next stage in your career. Non-verbal communication can tell someone whether you are self-confident, honest, energetic and engaged.

Whether you like it or not you will be judged on your non-verbal communication when interacting with people in the professional world. So it can help your career to be aware of the mistakes that people can make from poor body language.

1. Avoiding eye contact

Good eye contact is a major aspect of our non-verbal communication. Holding eye contact improves your ability to be persuasive and authoritative. When you apply strong eye contact to your interactions, you will appear more confident and present. When we break eye contact or look to the floor during communication, we show signs of insecurity or deception. When you do feel the need to break eye contact, try to move your eyes to the left or right rather than downwards.

2. Being out of sync

It is important to be in sync with your work colleagues to help develop trust and show engagement. Matching the body movements, the tone of voice and mannerisms of those around us demonstrates our approval for what they do. If you are out of tempo or are unwilling to mirror their ways of communicating, you will not be showing them that you are a team player. You will appear unenthusiastic, unmotivated and in some cases, you may appear to be lying.

3. Lack of feedback

Showing physical feedback towards a work colleague demonstrates empathy and that you take an interest in them. When we are interested in what someone is saying, we offer demonstrations of feedback such as nodding the head, smiling or raising our eyebrows. We also lean forward and offer vocal acknowledgement such as saying ‘uh-huh’. When we forget to provide these visual signals, it makes us look like we do not care or obnoxious.

4. Forgetting to smile

Smiling is a pleasant facial expression which encourages a positive reaction. Smiling demonstrates warmth, energy and openness. Smiling also makes us feel empowered since it is associated with positive activity in the left pre-frontal cortex of the brain. When we smile it triggers a mirror responce in the person that we are communicating with and offers them the chance to smile back.

5. Bad posture

People who slump their shoulders or lower their head give the impression of laziness, lack of confidence or insecurity. It is important to maintain a good upright posture in the workplace to show confidence and eagerness. By adopting a more powerful posture, chemicals in our brain will make you begin to feel more self-confident and less stressed.

6. Poor handshake

Poor handshakes make you appear weak or unenthusiastic. A good handshake should be firm but not overpowering. Ensure that your handshake makes palm to palm contact and your thumbs lock while you both apply an equal amount of pressure.

7. Crossing arms

Crossing arms or keeping your hands hidden can be a defensive posture. This tells the people around you that you may have something to hide or are not willing to open up. You should keep your hands visible at all times to make yourself look credible and honest.

8. Exaggerated hand movements

Big hand gestures in the workplace are usually unnecessary. Authority is shown in small gestures which carry weight. If you are seen to be fighting, making big gestures or fidget with your hair or phone you will look weak and low in confidence.

Read more about hand body language.

9. Use of a personal phone

When you are in a conversation with someone you need to show that you are engaged in what they are saying. People who begin to use a mobile phone while communicating with someone is showing that they are not interested in the other person as much as they are in the object in their hand.

10. Words mismatching your movements

When your words do not match your body language it can be a sign of deception or not being fully engaged. Your facial expression and body posture should reflect what is being said or you create a mismatch in messages. Combining appropriate body language with what you are saying can reinforce your communication and make what you are saying become more persuasive.

11. Rolling of the eyes

When people roll their eyes it can communicate frustration or aggression. When someone sees you roll your eyes while talking to you they can feel disrespected or not appreciated. Whenever possible, you should refrain from rolling your eyes as it sends out a strong signal of disrespect. Rolling of the eyes is seen as such an important signal that studies show that use of this can indicate that a couple is heading for divorce.

Tips For Improving Your Body Language

Stand like Superman

You can increase confidence before an important meeting or interview by standing in a power pose for two minutes before hand. Whenever you feel nervous or intimidated, adopting a power pose can fool your brain into increasing your confidence. Stand tall with your arms outstretched to the sky like Superman or with your hands on your hips to encourage the release of chemicals that make you feel less intimidated or stressed.

Turn up your passion

In some situations, we need to make a big impact on other people. When you are faced with an important presentation or heading a meeting you may not be showing as much enthusiasm as you think. Talking in front of an audience requires increasing your energy level to about 20% more than normal. By displaying more passion and high energy your presentation will not be seen as so flat and lifeless.

Remember to smile

Smiling helps your body to release feel-good chemicals while frowning and grimacing produces a negative signal to your brain. When your brain thinks it is under pressure, it will send increased cortisol through your bloodstream which increases stress. If you smile when you are beginning to feel stressed, you can overcome these negative feelings.

Shift your stance

Standing square in front of someone will make you both feel confrontational. You can reduce this feeling of threat by standing at an angle to someone that you are communicating with. By shifting the angle of your body by 45% while retaining eye contact, you can reduce the confrontation in a situation.

Keep action below the shoulders

In professional life, people do not raise their hands higher than shoulder level. Try to keep all hand movement below this area or it sends out inappropriate signals of celebration or presumed success.

Use your hands

Hand gestures can be used to emphasise what you are saying and help you think more clearly. Try to combine natural hand gestures to reinforce the words which you speak. Talking with your hands feels more comfortable and helps you improve your confidence when speaking.

Break their resistance

When you are communicating with someone who sits with crossed arms or a lowered head it may seem as though they are putting up resistance to what you are saying. It can help to break their resistance by encouraging them to open up. Offering to shake their hand or to offer them a drink will force them to lower their defences. You can break the resistance of a room full of people by handing out paperwork or encouraging them to stand, change seats or raise their hands.

Think first

Thinking about what you want to say before you engage in communication with someone helps you to maintain a comfortable and engaged posture. When you have to think about what to say next, you break eye contact to gather your thoughts. Since keeping eye contact makes your words more powerful, it can disrupt the impact of your conversation if you look away mid sentence. Instead, take a moment to pause before you answer, look away briefly to think, then regain eye contact as you begin to speak again.

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Communication Skill 6: Ask Questions

Why Do we Ask Questions?

Types Of Questions

Becoming Effective With Asking Questions

Useful And Destructive Questioning

Why Do we Ask Questions?

Asking questions is a method of gathering information from other people. The information which we acquire can be used to solve problems, make better decisions or to understand others more effectively.

Without the ability to ask questions, our communication abilities will be inadequate. A major portion of all communication involves asking or responding to questions.

We ask questions to solve the following functions:

  • To gather information
    Asking questions is the most effective way of gaining information. We use the question to find out something which we do not already know but someone else may be willing to share with us.
  • To direct a conversation
    Assertive people often use questioning to direct a conversation. One way to become dominant in a conversation is to control the information by asking questions.
  • To show an interest in another person
    We often use questions as a way to find out more about the person that we are communicating with. This can demonstrate taking an interest, showing empathy or building rapport.
  • To ensure clarity
    When communicating with someone it may be required to clarify a point which the other person has made. Questions can be used to ensure that there has been no misunderstanding between individuals.
  • To gain an understanding of someone’s personality
    We can use questions to gain an insight into someone’s outlook on life so that we can make an evaluation of their views or understand their problems better. We can explore a person’s personality by asking about their opinions, feelings, beliefs and attitudes.
  • To test someone’s knowledge
    We can test the knowledge of someone by asking factual questions about a particular subject or concept. These are the types of questions used in tests or exams to assess the breadth of a subject which they have learned.
  • To explore an issue further
    Asking the right type of questions can encourage someone to think deeper about a topic. You may pose the question so that an idea is approached in a new way.
  • To create a group dynamic
    Questions can be used in a group situation to encourage a discussion between the members. Asking a question within a group may be used to produce a unique solution, create a group dynamic or keep their attention.

Types Of Question

Tony Robbins quotes; Successful people ask better questions, and as a result, they get better answers.

Open questions

Open questions offer a chance for someone to expand their answer as far as they like.

Open questions are generally used to broaden a conversation or get a full description of something. Open questions can help build up interest in a conversation by allowing the other person to offer new information which can open up the scope of the subject being discussed.

Open questions are also used to gain feedback, understand full details of an event, explore someone’s thoughts and listen to their ideas.


How did the meeting go?
Can you describe your current situation?
What are your thoughts on what we have been discussing?

Closed questions

A closed question requires a short and factual response. This is usually a one-word answer such as yes or no. They may also offer a limited choice of answers such as white bread or brown bread. These types of questions are generally used as fact finding or to confirm that someone understands your instructions. The nature of closed questions means that they are not good at progressing a conversation.


Do you agree with the decision?
Where were you born?
Do you want soup or salad?
Where are you working?

Funnel questions

Funnel questions are a series of questions used to draw a final conclusion. Like a funnel, questions begin more general and then narrow down. These types of questions are used for researching and investigating a subject or incident. The opening questions allow for broader more general answers which make the person answering to feel more comfortable as the process begins. This makes it easier to follow on with more specific questioning.


Where did the incident occur?
Can you name some other people who were there?
What was the reason for the gathering?
Who mentioned the specific idea of XYZ?
What were they wearing?
Can you tell me the exact words used?

Probing questions

A probing question is used to gain information and understand specific details. Probing questions are used to find out what someone is hiding or avoiding. A probing question tries to extract exact information about something specific.


Can you tell me who wants this information?
What are you using this information for?
Where exactly did you find this?
Who specifically are you sending these details to?

Leading questions

A leading question usually restricts the answer to limited choices. The nature of the question lead someone to an answer that you can make use of. Leading questions can act as a subtle way of getting the answer to follow a particulr route. By asking a question in a negative way you can be trying to influence the person to provide answers which more reflect a negative perspective.


Can you describe any problems that you have found with the new system?
Do you agree that this product suits your needs better?
Which option do you prefer out of A, B or C?

Rhetorical questions

Rhetorical questions are used while communicating an idea to others. The questioner is not expecting an answer to the question but using it as a way to keep engagement.

Rhetorical questions offer the chance for people to become creative, produce ideas or think in an engaged way.


Isn’t that Incredible?
Are you stupid?
Is this supposed to be some kind of a joke?
How did we live without this?

Recall Questions

A recall question requires an answer from your memory. Someone may ask you a question about a subject that you should know from experience or facts which you have memorised through study. Recall questions are typically used in testing facts that can be recalled from memory.


What is the capital of France?
Which town were you born in?

Process Questions

Process questions are a result of thought and analysis. You may need to consider your answer before you reply.


Can you explain why we should choose X over Y?
What advantages can you offer us compared to our previous provider?

Clarifying questions

A clarifying question is used at the end of a discussion to confirm that what you understand is correct. Once the conversation is over you may need to clarify a few details so that you can leave with a clearer understanding.


Can I confirm, we will be meeting here again tomorrow at noon?
Am I right in thinking that the delivery will arrive before the end of the week?

Types of responses to questions

Along with the various forms of questions, there is a range of types of answer too. The type of answer that someone gives to your question can reveal something about their motives.

An honest reply:

When someone asks a question what they would ideally like is a direct and honest answer.

A dishonest reply:

When someone lies in response to the question it may be difficult to detect that they are being dishonest. Sometimes the facts do not sound plausible or you may notice signs in their non-verbal communication.

An irrelevant response:

Some responses will be completely out of context and not relevant to the question. The person answering maybe trying to avoid the subject. You may need to rephrase the question to get a more relevant answer.

A partial answer:

Someone answering a question may choose parts to answer and parts to not answer. This may be intentional or an oversight.

An avoidance:

People often try to avoid difficult questions. This is usually so they do not have to give a negative response. They may try to draw attention to a positive point related to the subject.


Someone may be trying to gain extra time before answering the question by stalling. This may be used to think up a more appropriate answer. One method of stalling is by asking another question in place of an answer.

A distorted response:

The answer may be exaggerated or offer a skewed perception. This is not intentional distortion but offering a response which is correct according to someone’s cultural norms. Their answers may be influenced by bias or stereotypes. They may be trying to inflate or deflate the answer according to what they expect to be culturally normal. eg. Exaggerating their income levels.

Refusal to answer:

You may ask a question of someone and they refuse to answer. They may choose to remain silent or tell you that they will not answer that question.

Becoming Effective With Asking Questions

Learning to use effective questioning techniques can help you gain the most effective answers. Using questions in your communication is only useful if you are able to ask the right questions.

Using the right type of question and technique will help you learn more during your communication. Questions can help you to gain information, become a better leader, understand others and build relationships.

Give enough time

When you ask a question it may take someone longer than expected to provide an answer.

It may seem as though the person has offered silence as an answer and you may decide to move on too quickly. Ensure that you give people enough time to think about their answer and get back to you.

Listen carefully

If you wish to get the most useful information from your questions you will need to become a skilful listener. Make sure that you observe body language, tone of voice as well as the words said to gain a full understanding of the answers provided.

Body Language

Body language is a large part of our communication. If you can learn how to read a person’s non-verbal communication, you can get a more complete view of a person’s attitude and feelings.

Learn more

Asking questions is an essential method of learning from other people. You should understand when it is appropriate to use open or closed questions to get the information that you require. When you are investigating a situation or piece of knowledge you can use probing or funnel questioning techniques to your advantage.

example: where did you grow up? (closed question)
example: are there a lot of employment opportunities there? (open question)

Build Relationships

Open questions are the best way of gaining personal information from people and gaining an insight into their personality. People respond positively to questioning if you appear interested in them and engaged. Try to use open questions that open up a dialogue between you and another person then follow up with an interested question based on the answers given.

example: What can you tell me about your hometown?

Seek Clarification

If you are investigating an important issue there may be significant consequences as a result. It is important to use probing and funnel questioning to reach the right answers. Finding the truthful answer to important questions may require thoughtful analysis. It is important to challenge your own conclusions as well as other peoples based on facts and reality. This involves analysing your personal beliefs and assumptions.

example: What exactly happened here last night?

Calming a bad situation

When you are approached to mediate between two parties to solve a grievance you may face stubborn opinions or heated views. People may become emotionally involved in the situation and find it hard to answer impartially. Funnel questions can help distract someone from their anger and feel as though their points have been heard.

Where did this happen?
What was said?
How did this affect you?
How can this be best resolved for you?

Become persuasive

By using open and leading questions you can help to encourage people to think in a particular direction. It is much more difficult to persuade someone to follow you if you try to lecture them into it. Instead, open questioning can help them come to these conclusions themselves.

example: Do you think it would be a good idea to hire more staff in this area?

Coaching and motivation

When you are trying to motivate someone to undertake an action that you suggest, you can reinforce your facts with rhetorical questions.

Rhetorical questions can engage the listener and persuade them to think about a proposal and confirm that it is a good idea.

example: Would you like to learn the secret of reaching your goals?

Useful And Destructive Questioning

Questioning is a major part of professional and personal communication. A skilled use of questioning can improve the results that you get from an interview, coaching, questionnaire or interpersonal relations.

A skilled interviewer or coach will use questions to help gain informed answers from a candidate. These questions will help the person to think through their answer and expand the information that they provide.

Useful Questions

Open questions

Open questions are open-ended which means that they cannot be answered with a simple yes or no. This allows for reflection and thought to be put into the answer.

Stay present

Questions offer a practical use if they focus on the present. Use questions to address solutions that can be acted on now. You can focus on a current problem and look for ways to take realistic actions to resolve it.


A question can be used to get to the heart of an issue. Using a question that clarifies can help you sum up a conversation or strategy.

Learn about someone

Use questions to find out more about the way in which someone thinks. You can use questions to investigate the beliefs, priorities and perspectives of a person. Try not to use too many questions when gaining information as it can begin to overwhelm some people.

Show trust

Using questions to ask for help shows someone that you trust their abilities. This encourages confidence in your relationship. This can be useful in coaching or an employee relationship with an employer.

Powerful Questions

Powerful questions should be used to inspire and offer solutions to a current situation. Using powerful question allow you to enhance creativity, clarity and introspection. These are questions which can be used to make the person that you are speaking to think in new ways.

Just by posing the right type of question, a powerful question can lead to an Ah-ha moment. This is the point where someone can radically shift their established views or habitual ways of thinking. Powerful questions can help to transform the way someone approaches a subject.

Powerful questions usually begin with a How or What. These are effectively used when the questioner is genuinely interested and curious about the person that they are talking to.

What options do you have?
What do you want?
What support do you need to assure success?
What if you do nothing?
What will you do? By when?
How much control do you have in this situation?
What will that give you?
What are you learning from this?
What do you need to say ‘no’ to?
How can you make this easy?
What is this costing you?
What is important about that?
What is holding you back?
How will you know you have been successful?

Destructive Questions

Closed questions

Questions which require a short answer can be thought of as destructive questions since they do not open up into any useful direction. Questions that require a yes or no answer should be avoided in interview situations. More useful questions begin with How, What, Where, and When.

Leading questions

Leading questions are designed to give a limited range of answer. This can feel as though the person being questioned is being manipulated into giving a required answer.

Why questions

Questions that begin with “why” can appear as if they are asking someone to justify their actions or beliefs. These can make them feel defensive and withhold their true thoughts. Asking “why” can cause hurt feelings and damage trust between you and the person being questioned.

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Communication Skill 7: Tell a Story

We live in an information-saturated age. If a business or team leader wants to communicate a message it can become drowned in all the surrounding noise. One of the most effective methods used by communications experts is to provide information through storytelling.

The art of storytelling is the most direct and effective way to communicate with people so that they feel a real connection. Stories make use of emotions and an easy to understand narrative to create memories within the minds of listeners.

Humans have evolved to understand the world through storytelling. Stories remain the most universal method of sharing ideas and experiences amongst people.

Communication by storytelling has been recognised as connecting directly with emotional activity in the brain. This makes the ability to process information more effective and compelling.

World-leading organisations use storytelling as a way of connecting people with their brand. Telling a story about your brand helps provide a backstory to the foundation and principles of the company. This helps present a product or organisation as something that consumers can develop a personal or emotional bond to.

Leaders of businesses, brands and nations all understand the importance of storytelling. Telling a good story can inspire loyalty, motivation, notion of a common cause and self-improvement.

Storytelling As A Leadership Skill

Making Your Vision Clear With A Story

Why Storytelling Is So Effective

Rules For Effective Storytelling

How to use Stoytelling as a Motivational Tool

Storytelling As A Leadership Skill

The ability to tell as story is an essential leadership communication skill. The ability to connect with people is a driving force behind motivating and inspiring people throughout your professional and personal life.

The ways in which successful people use communication to inspire, persuade and make important changes are what helps them drive a team to improvement. These changes in human behaviour benefits the project or the organisation because of good leadership.

One of the most direct and influential methods that leaders can make connections with their team is through storytelling. The ability to tell a story can motivate people to adopt new ideas and become motivated.

Storytelling is such a powerful skill that leading brands use storytelling as a way to connect with staff and customers. Multinational organisations have even hired

Hollywood movie directors to help develop the storytelling skills of their management.

  • Presenting an inspiring vision for the future
  • Helping to assist transformation and change

  • Influencing opinion

  • Teaching valuable lessons

  • Uniting a group

  • Finding a common purpose

  • Creating values and culture

  • Motivation and inspiration

  • Promoting a shared identity

  • Explaining why you do what you do

Leadership benefits from storytelling as it helps them to inspire creativity and motivation in staff or teams. These are improvements that cannot be gained from instruction or rulebooks alone. But when a good story is told, people can learn from it and become inspired to change their behaviour.

A good leader should always be prepared with an appropriate story to suit individual situations. Remember to make a note of any useful stories when you discover them or write down personal experiences which can be used to relate to others.

Making Your Vision Clear With A Story

As a business leader or project manager, you will need to find ways to communicate your vision to others. You may have spent hours creating and developing your vision for the future, but your ideas will not take off if nobody else is able to get as enthusiastic about your ideas as you are.

A good leader can promote their vision and use it to create transformational change in the members of the team. For this to happen each person involved needs to feel an emotional bond to the ideas proposed. Stories are the most effective way of putting facts into an emotional context which is easy to digest.

The use of storytelling is the most effective way of motivating others. This is true compared to all other methods of influencing people. Rather than using push tactics such as bribery, persuasion, deception or charisma, storytelling allows people to think for themselves. When a person has become inspired to follow a vision by themselves they will fell a stronger attachment to it.

When using a story to promote your vision it should contain the following features:

A strong plot:

The story will communicate where the organisation began, how it developed and where it is going. People listening to the story will gain a clear understanding that they are contributing to a process which is going somewhere exciting.

A meaning which inspires action:

Within the story, there should be a clear connection between taking positive action and achieving good results. Team members will be confident in their actions and understand the direction that they are heading.

A range of compatible reactions:

A single story will produce different motivations for each listener. All levels within an organisation from management to employees will be able to see their place in the story. The success of a story is one where all person’s inspiration from it is compatible with everyone else’s.

A sense of inevitability:

Throughout the story, the listener will notice the logical progression towards the outcome. It will appear that it was inevitable that things should have turned out as they did.

Why Storytelling Is So Effective

Information presented as a story will resonate with the listeners in a way which other forms of communication will not. This is due to the unique way that our brains interpret stories.

Information presented as facts and figures are not as engaging as when the same details are included in the form of a story. This is because the brain uses only the language processing parts of the brain to decode the meaning of words. This is a process of understanding language without any emotional activity.

How a story affects our brain

Once you include information in a story, you include sensory elements which communicate deeper within the brain. When we hear a story which describes experiences or senses, our brain acts as though it is experiencing the same events.

How a story affects our brain infographic.

When we pass on details through a story, we not only pass information but allow others to share the experience. When you are describing the emotions, smells, heat or sounds of an event, you are synchronising your brain with the listener. The brains of the listeners are also experiencing the event.

Why do our brains react positively to a story?

When we hear information recalled as a narrative our brains are activated in a way that the same detail presented as a list would not. Stories are broken down into making a connection between cause and effect. Evolution has wired our brains to understand information better when events are unfolded one after another.

It is estimated that about 65% of our conversation is made from gossip and personal stories.

As we try to remember important information, our brains create internal stories as part of an internal conversation. So when someone is trying to relate personal information, it is natural to present it in the form of a story. It is also more effective for a listener to remember.

When we hear a story we try to relate it to our own set of existing experiences. This is why the use of metaphors is such an effective way of getting a message across. We actively search for a way to connect what a person is saying with experiences that we already understand.

This is why storytelling is the most effective way of planting new ideas within someone’s mind. The story is so easily absorbed that someone may later recall and retell the story as if it were their own idea.

Getting people to invest emotionally in a new project may be difficult if you try to force your ideas on them. Telling a story, however, can make your argument sound more persuasive and easier to feel a personal connection to.

Rules For Effective Storytelling

We all tell stories as the most natural way to communicate with others. A good story can inspire a team, improve an individual or help someone overcome challenges. Within business as well as in our personal lives, compelling stories can persuade people and get your view across clearer.

A good story must include the following criteria to be effective:

Keep it Simple:
When listeners become overwhelmed by facts and detailed information it can make the story become confusing. Make it easy for people to follow your story by keeping it simple.

Understand the audience:

Research the organisation or typical participant in the event that you are speaking. Become familiar with their interests, issues and priorities. Engage with members before hand, ask questions, listen and collect evidence.

Remain Short and Relevant:

Ensure that you do not loose track of why you are telling the story. Remain short and to the point. Ensure that the theme of the story is relevant to the people that you are trying to communicate with.

Be Inclusive:

Everyone who listens to your story should be able to feel a connection with it. If some people do not feel included in the story they will not be able to fully engage. Use ‘We’ rather than ‘I’, ‘Them’ or ‘They’.

Appeal to Shared Values:

Within any industry or organisation you will be able to recognise a set of shared beliefs and values which you can use to get the audience on your side.

Evoke Emotions:

Effective storytelling will engage with the emotions. Use excitement, humour and surprises to keep listeners feel connected.

Stay Optimistic:

A good story offers hope at the end even if what preceded was sad or uncomfortable.

Speak From the Heart:

When someone speaks with sincerity and passion it is obvious in your delivery. Make a story personal to you and show how it affected you.

Remain within reality:

Keep your story based on real life events. When you begin to create fictional events, you will soon be discovered.

Include the human element:

Bring boring statistics to life by connecting them to a real person. Numbers, facts and abstract concepts are easier to relate to if they can be related to someone that the audience can visualise.

Tell a Story that is easy to Share:

When a story is successful, people want to share it. Stories often become refined and more engaging when they are shared over and over by others.

Add Lifelike Characters:

Describe the characters in your story in detail so that they become alive in the imagination of the audience. Describe their appearance, occupation, talents and habits.

Repeat Important Phrases:

Use sound bites and memorable phrases within the story to highlight the main points. Repeat these phrases so that they become ingrained in the memory.

Make use of Metaphors:

You can improve the way that a story can engage an audience by including metaphors and analogies

How to use Stoytelling as a Motivational Tool

Storytelling is an essential skill for motivating a team or group. Here are some important ways that you can make more of an impact with your story telling communication.

Settle on the message:

Before you begin to tell your story, ask yourself: What is the overall message that I am trying to get accross? Think about the audience and what you want to share with them. Try top boil a story down to a single message that people can take away with them.

Use personal Experience:

One of the most effective sources of stories is from your own experience. Since you have lived the events, you will be more convincing and be able to convey your emotional connection. As a leader, it can be tempting to keep your personal life away from the workplace. But anecdotes about your path to success, failures and struggle make you appear more authentic and accessible to the team.

Don’t be egotistical:

If you are telling a story about yourself, try not to make yourself into the hero. People won’t buy into it. You can increase engagement with an audience by making the organisation or the staff into the star of the story. When a storyteller begins to celebrate their success or declare how great they are, they lose the respect of the audience who will not buy into the message.

A good story needs a struggle:

If you are trying to increase the motivation of a group of listeners, your story needs to offer a challenge to them. A leader that wants to get their team inspired will tell them that there will be difficulties in achieving their goals. While offering a reality check of hard times, you should also offer a goal which will be rewarding if the challenge is overcome. This provides the motivation to make an improved effort.

Don’t over complicate it:

A good story gets to the point as quick as possible. Adding too many details to the story dilutes the message and distracts the listeners from the plot. You need to add a few important and well placed details to flesh out the picture that you are trying to paint, but don’t let the message get lost in too much information.

Keep Practising:

As an essential communication skill for leaders, your storytelling will need to be effective and pursuasive. With repeated effort, you can develop your story telling skills so that you can see compelling results. Practice with friends and family members to try and hone your skills. Your presentation, enthusiasm, reciting of the details and delivery all work to produce the desired effect.

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