ICE 4 Life

Effective Communication


Communication is so important in life. It is the difference between being heard, understood, respected and getting your needs met or not being heard, giving and receiving mixed messages, misunderstanding and misinterpreting people. Poor communication can lead to poor self-esteem and low self-regard. There are many ways in which you can improve your communication. On the following pages are some examples, advice and strategies to employ to increase the level of your communication.

Be clear, be heard, be direct, be firm but fair!

Communication Skills

These are considered the underpinning skills in communication, as suggested by Hutchings, Comins & Offiler (1991).


Eye contact – looking at the person you are talking with.

Facial expressions - showing you are listening and responding to what the person is telling you or saying by using facial expressions such as happiness, sadness, anger, surprise, disgust etc.

Positive regard - treating the person with unconditional respect.

Empathy – putting yourself in the other person’s shoes and trying to see things from their point of view.

Personal space – making sure you have ample personal space between yourself and the person you are communicating with. An arms length space is considered adequate.

Touch – physical contact can be used to show reassurance, congratulations, support etc. Just check out first that the other person is okay with this.

Disclosure – sharing personal experiences and information, your feelings and opinions with the person.

Listening skills – showing you are listening actively whilst they are talking and responding appropriately.

Gestures – using gestures to indicate size or direction and to emphasise what you are saying. Also nodding or shaking head to show understanding.

Posture – your posture will convey whether you are feeling interested or bored, tense or relaxed.

Initiating the relationship – finding out what you have in common and seeing where you are compatible.

Developing the relationship – sharing interests, activities, values and attitudes together.

Over the next few weeks try to include the skills you don’t already employ. This will help to improve your communication skills.


Open and Closed Questions

Open questions invite a full reply, with more information. They encourage the other person to talk more freely, and to think about their answer.

Closed questions can be answered by one word – Yes, no, maybe. They can be used for checking information, or gathering facts but do not guarantee a lengthy conversation.

Examples of open questioning:

Why do you think that happened?
What does that feel like?
What is it about that situation that makes you feel nervous?
What would you like to do about it?
How do you get along with your parents?
How do you feel about what the bully did to you?

Examples of closed questioning:

Do you watch Eastenders?
Have you tried that?
Do you like school?
Are you okay?
Are you angry about what the bully did to you?

If your conversations are always short, and you only get one word answers (YES, NO, DON’T KNOW)… Think about how you are asking the questions!



I’ Messages

‘I’ messages are a clear way of getting your message across. If you want to be heard you need to make sure you are being clear with your communication.

You can do this by remembering some important points:

1 Ask to be heard. E.g. I’d like to talk to you.
2 Look directly at the listener.
3 Speak in a clear voice.
4 Use ‘I’ statements.
5 Check for understanding
6 Thank the listener.


Can I talk to you for a moment. When you … talk about me behind my back it makes me … feel uncomfortable and I feel I can’t trust you. I would like it if … you wouldn’t do that. Thank you.

‘I’ messages are about stating the behaviour of the person (and not the person – therefore eliminating blame), stating the effect their behaviour has on you, letting them know how you feel about it (again, not portioning blame) and a possible solution for you both so there is a win-win!

We can call these ‘I Messages’, as we are speaking for ourselves and not blaming others. An example of the difference between an ineffective ‘You Message’ and an effective ‘I Message would be:

You Message

‘You never come round for me when you say you will. You always let me down!’

I Message

‘When you don’t come round for me when you’ve said you will, I feel really let down. I’d like it if I could count on you in future’.



Now try these effective ‘I Messages’ for the following scenarios:

Spoiling a game

When you……… I feel …… I’d like you to …………

Being let down by a friend after having planned an outing

When you …...… I feel …….I’d like you to ……......



Effective messages are important for everyone - teachers, pupils and parents!

Strategies for better communication and dealing with anger

‘Time out’

To be used when angry, (especially when both persons are angry at each other). One person should say the words, ‘Time Out’ and then agree a time to come back together and talk about what is upsetting the person. This gives both parties time apart from each other to let the angry emotion pass and then when you reconvene you are able to talk reasonably without anger. If you get back together and are still angry, do ‘Time Out’ again until there is no anger.

‘Invasion of space – Step back’

To be used when in a heated argument and the space between two people becomes too close. Person needs to step back (arms length space so you can wave your arms in front of you without touching the other person) to create an acceptable boundary space between each other, thus not making the other person feel threatened.

‘Don’t shout’

If someone is shouting at you and not giving you a chance to respond or have your say… Using a calm, clear, gentle voice, say, ‘I can see you are angry, Can I speak?’ By not shouting back and using the lower voice, you invite the person to calm as they will not feel threatened by your calm voice and they should stop shouting at you.

If they continue to shout, you could say… ‘I can see you are very angry right now. I have things I need to tell you but we will do this later’. There may be occasions when they are so angry that they continue to shout even after you have used this strategy. It is important to remember that anger can be very powerful and not take on their emotion. Leave the room, walk away, reiterating that you will talk with them later when they can talk with rather than shout at you.