Communicating Effectively: Understanding the Elements of Communication

Dr. Clifford N. Lazarus


“He never listens to me!” complained Alice. “Even when I’m trying to talk to him about something really important, like the kids, he just tunes me out.” “I do want to talk about the kids,” Tom replied. “It’s just that she always waits until I’m doing something else, and then expects me t drop whatever I’m doing because sbe wants to talk.”


During waking moments, whenever we are in the company of other people, communication never stops. Everything we say or do transmits important information. For example, if Betty says to Tom, “I’m worried about Billy’s poor grades on his report card,” she is expressing a strong desire to discuss Billy’s school performance. If Tom’s response is to continue reading the newspaper, he is expressing an equally strong message that he is not willing to discuss the matter.

Many people run into problems with communication due to poor timing. “My wife usually wants to have a heart-to heart discussion when I’m in the middle of watching TV.” “The times my husband picks to talk to me are invariably when I’m on the phone with my business associates.”

Communication is the process of exchanging information. It is the only means we have of understanding one another. In people who have no sensory or vocal limitations, oral or spoken communication is the most common way to express ourselves. Oral communication takes two forms verbal ~ putting message content into words ~ and nonverbal ~ unspoken messages conveyed by actions (tone of voice, facial expression, gestures…). Messages can be positive or negative and can be conveyed through both verbal and nonverbal channels.

Another dimension of communication is the context in which it takes place -~ the circumstances in which the communication is occurring. For instance saying, “I’m going to take a walk,” in the middle of an important conversation conveys a very different message than saying it when your partner is happily reading a book or watching TV.

Understanding these simple elements of communication and applying them intelligently can make an enormous difference to one’s relationship.


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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