We humans are the most skilled at it. We use a more complex form of it than any other species. And yet… we’re often found woefully lacking in it.
Communication is one of the key reasons we have evolved from nomadic, cave-dwelling creatures into the technologically advanced race that now populates most regions on Earth.
Listening, speaking, conveying our thoughts and feelings to others: they all lead to a better understanding of who each other are and what tasks need to be carried out to assure our continued survival and prosperity.
Or at least, that’s the theory.
In reality, despite our many complex languages and huge brains, our ability to accurately discern what each other thinks, feels, desires, and needs is often found wanting.
To help you improve your own communication skills, here are some quotes that shed light on the many nuances of effective transfer of information.
Listen with curiosity. Speak with honesty. Act with integrity. The greatest problem with communication is we don’t listen to understand. We listen to reply. When we listen with curiosity, we don’t listen with the intent to reply. We listen for what’s behind the words. – Roy T. Bennett
Deep listening is miraculous for both listener and speaker. When someone receives us with open-hearted, non-judging, intensely interested listening, our spirits expand. – Sue Thoele
The spoken word belongs half to him who speaks, and half to him who listens. – French Proverb
I remind myself every morning: Nothing I say this day will teach me anything. So if I’m going to learn, I must do it by listening. – Larry King
We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak. – Epictetus
When people talk, listen completely. Most people never listen. – Ernest Hemingway
You cannot truly listen to anyone and do anything else at the same time. – M. Scott Peck
Two monologues do not make a dialogue. – Jeff Daly
On Saying Too Much
Many attempts to communicate are nullified by saying too much. – Robert Greenleaf
What information consumes is rather obvious: it consumes the attention of its recipients. Hence a wealth of information creates a poverty of attention. – Herbert A. Simon
Wise men talk because they have something to say; fools, because they have to say something. – often attributed to Plato, but no evidence for this
Be still when you have nothing to say; when genuine passion moves you, say what you’ve got to say, and say it hot. – D.H. Lawrence
Do not say a little in many words but a great deal in a few. – Pythagoras
Today, communication itself is the problem. We have become the world’s first overcommunicated society. Each year we send more and receive less. – Al Ries
Saying nothing… sometimes says the most. – Emily Dickinson
Speak only if it improves upon the silence. – Mahatma Gandhi
On Being Understood
The two words ‘information’ and ‘communication’ are often used interchangeably, but they signify quite different things. Information is giving out; communication is getting through. – Sydney J. Harris
How well we communicate is determined not by how well we say things, but how well we are understood. – Andrew Grove
The ability to express an idea is well nigh as important as the idea itself. – Bernard Baruch
Good communication does not mean that you have to speak in perfectly formed sentences and paragraphs. It isn’t about slickness. Simple and clear go a long way. – John Kotter
The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place. – William H. Whyte
On Nonverbal Communication
The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn’t said. – Peter Drucker
What you do speaks so loud that I cannot hear what you say. – Ralph Waldo Emerson
Setting a good example is truly the most effective means of communication. – Jan Carlzon
In the last analysis, what we are communicates far more eloquently than anything we say or do. – Stephen Covey
Much unhappiness has come into the world because of bewilderment and things left unsaid. – Fyodor Dostoyevsky
Of all of our inventions for mass communication, pictures still speak the most universally understood language. – Walt Disney
A picture paints a thousand words. – Unknown
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On Who You Are Communicating With
I speak to everyone in the same way, whether he is the garbage man or the president of the university. – Albert Einstein
The basic building block of good communications is the feeling that every human being is unique and of value. – Unknown
To effectively communicate, we must realize that we are all different in the way we perceive the world and use this understanding as a guide to our communication with others. – Tony Robbins
Think like a wise man but communicate in the language of the people. – William Butler Yeats
On Knowing What To Say And When To Say It
First learn the meaning of what you say, and then speak. – Epictetus
Speak when you are angry and you will make the best speech you will ever regret. – Groucho Marx
We should be as careful of our words as of our actions. – Cicero
Two men in a burning house must not stop to argue. – African Proverb
On Telling Stories
Storytellers, by the very act of telling, communicate a radical learning that changes lives and the world: telling stories is a universally accessible means through which people make meaning. – Chris Cavanaugh
Audiences forget facts, but they remember stories. Once you get past the jargon, the corporate world is an endless source of fascinating stories. – Ian Griffin
On The Power Of Communication
Talk is by far the most accessible of pleasures. It costs nothing in money, it is all profit, it completes our education, founds and fosters our friendships, and can be enjoyed at any age and in almost any state of health. – Robert Louis Stevenson
Men often hate each other because they fear each other; they fear each other because they don’t know each other; they don’t know each other because they can not communicate; they can not communicate because they are separated. – Martin Luther King, Jr.
On Getting Better At It
Communication is a skill that you can learn. It’s like riding a bicycle or typing. If you’re willing to work at it, you can rapidly improve the quality of very part of your life. – Brian Tracy
Communication works for those who work at it. – John Powell
And The Rest
What is the shortest word in the English language that contains the letters abcdef?
Answer: feedback. Don’t forget that feedback is one of the essential elements of good communication. – Unknown
Examine what is said and not who speaks. – Arab Proverb
There are four ways, and only four ways, in which we have contact with the world. We are evaluated and classified by these four contacts: what we do, how we look, what we say, and how we say it. – Dale Carnegie
Which of these communication quotes do you think holds the most wisdom? What are the lessons we can learn? Leave a comment below to let us know.