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Tips and how-tos

How to communicate effectively

Aisling Lawless, Guest contributor, Relationships Australia WA

17 Aug 2021 • 3 mins
mother and daughter on web call

This article has been contributed by our partner Relationships Australia WA

The purpose of communication is to exchange information with each other and to build positive feelings in our relationships with other people.

While the challenges associated with COVID-19 can add an element of complication to our communication with others, there are steps we can take to make it easier to maintain strong connections with our family and friends. Here are some tips on how to communicate effectively in our new environment:

1. Adapt to new forms of communication

While face to face communication is usually considered the most effective mode of communication, many of us now need to use the telephone, video chat platforms, emails and texts more than ever to communicate and stay connected with other people.

2. Where possible, try and use face to face online communication

Face to face communication brings the benefits of body language, tone of voice and expressions used. In combination, these elements help us accurately interpret the meaning of what another person is trying to communicate.

The more delicate the communication, the more important it is to see or hear each other. Save texts and emails for communicating basic information, not for conducting relationships.

3. Understand the importance of listening

Listening is imperative in effective communication. When we are truly present and listen to others without distraction, we are showing we value and respect them. We are more likely to get all of the information they are trying to share and accurately hear what their needs are.

We can show a person we are listening by:

  • Acknowledging the person speaking with nods and smiles, if they can see us, or by using verbal cues such as 'I see...', 'right...', and 'okay...'. These are examples of active listening.
  • Summarising back what they are saying with a statement like 'what I'm hearing you say is... have I got that right?'. This also gives the person speaking a chance to clarify if we have misinterpreted anything. These are examples of reflective listening.
  • Giving the person space to tell their story, by avoiding interruption and allowing them the time they need to express themselves.

4. Listen with empathy

Empathy refers to our ability to understand the experience from another person’s perspective.

While this requires suspending our judgement of the problem or situation, it is important to note it does not mean we need to agree with them. We are simply accepting their perspective as they share their story and feelings, and working to gain an understanding, while being attentive and present for them.

5. Avoid trying to fix the problem

We may believe offering a solution is the right thing to do to help someone when they have a problem. We often experience the urge to 'fix it' so that our friend or family member can stop feeling negative or painful emotions. Offering or pushing for a solution may do the person a disservice. It can disempower them, as they may believe they don't have the skills or knowledge to resolve their own issues. It may also remove an opportunity for them to come up with a creative solution.

If you are tempted to offer solutions, ask the person instead what they think different options might be and support them in coming up with possibilities. This is more likely to empower them and help them build their resilience.

As we journey through these challenging times, please reach out for support and connection amongst your community.

If you'd like to register your interest in attending a course on communication skills, or any of Relationships Australia WA's other courses, please visit , email or call 6164 0200.

Keystart's Customer Assistance Program with Relationships Australia

In partnership with Relationship Australia WA, Keystart provides customers with up to five free sessions with a Relationships Australia counsellor, to support any customers facing difficulties.

If you are a Keystart customer, you can get in touch with Keystart on 1300 578 278 or email to find out how to set up a confidential appointment. The customer assistance program can help to resolve difficulties in a supportive, respectful and completely confidential environment.

Need help

Keystart recommends that you seek your own independent financial advice prior to making any decisions about your financial needs. Any examples given in this post are provided for illustrative purposes only.