Home » Life Skills Wiki » Communicating Constructively

Communicating Constructively

Interpersonal Skills


Communication takes many forms, from casual to formal, 1:1 or in a group, “small talk” to important messages and verbal to written to body language. It is the foundation of personal learning, relationship growth and influencing. Everyone thinks they are good at it but there is usually room for improvement. This page addresses the “talking” side of communication; there is another page for listening.

 Skill Definition:

  • I plan important communications to get my message across. I check to determine if it actually occurred.

Key Learning Points:

  • Communication occurs in various forms: verbal, written and body language. It includes both talking and listening.

Faith Worldview:

  • Simply ask “what would Jesus do?”.  Insure that love guides your conversation even if it is tough love.

Learning Path:

  • Identify one or two important communications you want to make.
  • Organize and plan the communication (see below).
  • Deliver the message and monitor your body language and reactions.
  • Afterwards, assess the delivery and attainment of the objective.

Deeper Topics:

  • Examples of Communication types: Simple 1:1 conversation, group conversation, argument, debate, speech, verbal vs. non-verbal, formal vs. informal. Each deserves its own process. Click here to read an article that goes even deeper.
  • Communicating Effectively: Source: Communicating Effectively on ArticlesBase.com. The following tips will help you learn to communicate more effectively and eliminate many misunderstandings:
    • Organize – The first step is to know what message you want the listener to receive. Systematically organize your thoughts so that your message will be clear and easy to understand. Unorganized thoughts can lead to misunderstandings and confuse the listener. If you don’t know what message you want to convey, how can you expect the recipient of the message to know what you are trying to convey.
    • Plan – Important conversations should be planned ahead of time. Think of several scenarios with different reactions and plan where you will go with each reaction. Think about the person with whom you will be communicating, taking into consideration that person’s personality and behavior. Prepare a solution for each reaction so that you know beforehand how you will respond.
    • Monitor Body Language – Your body language must match your words for your communication to be clear. Sending mixed signals is one of the most frequent causes of miscommunication. Non-verbal signals are a large part of the communication factor. Your facial expressions and gestures will play a role in determining the response that you will receive.
    • Keep it Simple and Short – The goal is to convey a certain message that creates a response. Keep your key points simple and easy to understand. Choose the right words. If you state your point in a clear and concise manner without repeating yourself, your message will be easier for the recipient to understand.
    • Respond – Often times, it is hard to separate facts from feelings. You should always respond to the person you are communicating with rather than reacting to the person emotionally. Be sure to clearly answer any questions or concerns that the person may have, and again – keep it simple.
    • Find Common Ground – Try to find a common ground with the person you are communicating with. Don’t place your focus on differences of opinion, but work together to find a common ground that all parties can be comfortable with.
    • Stay Positive – Staying positive will decrease the chance that the person you are communicating with will react to you rather than respond. Negative statements more often elicit a negative reaction. Positive statements will more often elicit a positive response.
    • Listen – The goal of effective communication is for all parties involved to come to an understanding about the topic of the conversation. It is very important that you listen to what the other person has to say and address any concerns that either of you may have. Many times, whether the person likes a change or not, they are more willing to make the change if they feel that the person communicating with them actually listens to their point of view.
  • More Tips: Adapted from How to Communicate Effectively on WikiHow.com.
    • Choose the right time. There is a time and a place for everything and communicating is no different.
    • Choose the right place. If you need to tell someone something that isn’t going to be well received (such as news of a death or a breakup), don’t do it in public, around colleagues or near other people. Be respectful and mindful of the person receiving the communication and communicate to them in a private place.
    • Remove distractions. Turn off all electronics that could go off during the conversation. If the phone rings, laugh it off the first time, then turn it off immediately and continue talking.
    • Stay on topic. Once you start addressing your three main points, make sure everything you’re saying adds to the conversation or debate.
    • Be attentive when listening and ensure that your facial expressions reflect your interest. Listen actively. Communication is a two-way street.
  • Empathy.  Empathy is the ability to understand and share the feelings of another.  It is temporarily stepping into their situation and attempting to think, feel and experience what another is feeling.  It is related to but not the same as sympathy which is feelings of pity and sorrow for someone else’s misfortune.
  • Ask Open-Ended Questions.  Open-ended questions cannot be answered with a simple “yes” or “no”.  Good questions require some thought and create a capacity (empower and ownership) in the individual being asked.  Keep the questions as broad as possible.  Here are some examples of powerful questions (from the book Coaching Questions by Tony Stoltzfus:
    • What are you great at? What are your best talents or natural abilities?
    • Name some of your bigger dreams?
    • What do your spiritual values have to say about the purpose of life?
    • What are three things you’ve done that you couldn’t wait to get at each day?

Exercises for Older Teens and Adults:

Exercises for Younger Teens (13-16):

  • Easy talk, Tough Talk. List examples of verbal communications and classify them as easy, average or difficult. Some examples: conversation with a close friend about what to wear to a party (easy), a telephone conversation to schedule a dentist appointment (average), a discussion with a teacher about a poor grade (average or difficult). Think about conversations with parents, teachers, friends and more.

Have the teens practice some of the examples they wrote down. Consider using the What Leads to Success video and get the teens talk about their most important characteristic. Discuss what makes the conversation easy or more difficult. Recognize that difficult conversations often involve strong emotions or conflict. They may arouse fear, anger, sadness, insecurity or hurt feelings.

Questions to Encourage Critical Thinking:

  • What important communications are coming up in my life? Consider job interview, important decisions to be made with the family or a work team decision. Do I know what I want to say?

Tools and Templates:

  • Nothing at this time.

Word Definition:

  • Communication:  the exchange of information between people, e.g. by means of speaking, writing, or using a common system of signs or behavior.  Source:  Merriam-Webster.com
  • Empathy:  the action of understanding, being aware of, being sensitive to, and vicariously experiencing the feelings, thoughts, and experience of another of either the past or present without having the feelings, thoughts, and experience fully communicated in an objectively explicit manner.  Source:  Merriam-Webster.com

Web Articles:

250 Words (LSN Blogs):

Mentor for Purpose Workshops (available upon request):

  • Asking Powerful Questions
  • Be Available Attentively
  • Make Empathy a Habit




Faith-Based Quotes:

  • Know this, my beloved brothers: let every person be quick to hear, slow to speak, slow to anger.” – James 1:19 ESV
  • The heart of the wise makes his speech judicious and adds persuasiveness to his lips.” – Proverbs 16:23 ESV

Other Quotes:

  • “Good communication is as stimulating as black coffee, and just as hard to sleep after.” – Anne Morrow Lindbergh
  • “The right word may be effective, but no word was ever as effective as a rightly timed pause.” – Mark Twain
  • “The most basic and powerful way to connect to another person is to listen. Just listen. Perhaps the most important thing we ever give each other is our attention…. A loving silence often has far more power to heal and to connect than the most well-intentioned words.” – Rachel Naomi Remen

One-Point Lessons:


Related Skills on the LSN Wiki:

Summary 2-page Lesson Plans (available upon request):

  • Communicating Constructively (for older teens and adults, handout)
  • Communicating Constructively (for older teens and adults, instructor notes)
  • Communicating Constructively (for younger teens, handout)
  • Communicating Constructively (for younger teens, instructor notes)