Communicating Effectively: Effective Communication

Dr. Clifford N. Lazarus


“What’s he look so fried for?” Burt wondered. “Jack said I could borrow his trailer. I would’ve gotten it back to him sooner, but I wanted to clean it up first. If he didn’ t want me to use it be should’ve said so! ” Burt and Jack’s communication breakdown could have been avoided if they’d used some straightforward communication skills: Jack’s anger was actually due to a malfunctioning vacuum cleaner, and had nothing to do with Burt.


Everyone communicates in one way or another, but very few people have mastered the skill of truly effective communication. Breakdowns in communication occur all too often and usually lead to a wide range of social problems, from hurt feelings and anger to divorce and even violence.

Communication is both an expressive, message-sending, and a receptive, message-receiving, process. Failure to communicate effectively can be due to a problem on either or both ends of the process.

Effective expressive communication can usually be achieved by sticking to a few important guidelines:

• Make sure you have the attention of the person you wish to communicate with by establishing and maintaining eye contact.

• Try to send clear messages that are congruent in both verbal and nonverbal dimensions.

To be congruent, make sure the tone and volume you use agrees with the content of the message you send: if you are pleased, look happy and sound happy; if you are angry, look annoyed and sound annoyed (but don’t yell! ).

• Say what you mean and mean what you say. Be direct and honest; don’t dance around the issue or play games.

• Ask for feedback to ensure the message you sent was accurately received.

Effective receptive communication is based on good listening skills

• Face the message sender and maintain eye contact.

• Nod, smile, or occasionally make affirmative vocalizations or other responses that tell the sender you’re paying attention.

• Wait for the person to complete a thought without interrupting to express your own ideas.

• If you’re not sure you understand the message, ask questions and seek clarification.

• Paraphrase what you heard so the sender can be sure you got the right idea.

By following these simple guidelines, you can improve your communication skills greatly, promote better understanding in your relationships, and enhance the quality of your life.


Dr. Clifford N. Lazarus is a licensed psychologist, Co-founder and Clinical Director of The Lazarus Institute. In addition to his general psychotherapy practice, Dr. Clifford Lazarus specializes in health and neuropsychology.

Dr. Clifford Lazarus received his B.A., M.S., and Ph.D. in psychology from Rutgers University where he was a Henry Rutgers Research Scholar.  Seen here are excerpts from one of his books, The 60-Second Shrink – 101 Strategies For Staying Sane In a Crazy World, a book, he co-authored with his father “One of the ten most influential psychotherapists in America”  Arnold A. Lazarus, Ph.D.  For more details on Dr. Clifford Lazarus visit this link to The Lazarus Institute.  Or visit his page here on

Books available at Amazon by Arnold and Clifford Lazarus

Direct links to two highly recommended books by Dr. Clifford Lazarus and Dr. Arnold A. Lazarus:

The 60-Second Shrink: 101 Strategies for Staying Sane in a Crazy World 

Don’t Believe It for a Minute!: Forty Toxic Ideas That Are Driving You Crazy

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