What is our universal language? By universal I mean, the language we all understand. By we, I mean not just the human species but also the animal species. Let's imagine for a moment what goes through our dog's head when we speak in a commanding voice. The command in our voice communicates a message to the dog. He learns to stop and pay attention to what we are saying. Often he understands what to do. Let's imagine for a moment when we communicate sadness to someone who does not speak our language. When they see our tears or when they hear the catch in our voice, what do they understand?

By now perhaps you have answered that question, what is the universal language. The answer is the language of feeling. Our feelings communicate to all beings what is going on inside us. If we feel desperate, we show that desperation and others understand. If we feel joy, we jump up and down, we smile, we glow. Our joy is there for all to see and understand.

It's amazing to me how much we communicate. I'm also amazed at how much we miss. Sometimes I believe we communicate better with people (or beings) who do not speak our language. In those instances we do not assume they understand. We pay more attention to what we do and how we do it. We pay more attention to what they say and how they say it.

This message suggests that the better we know one another, the harder it is to communicate. That truth is one of the many paradoxes of communication. Think about the trouble we have communicating with our children or with our parents. Think about the marriages that dissolve because people say, "We just couldn't communicate."

If we can communicate with our dogs, why can't we communicate with our spouses. What kinds of things get in the way?

Here are few tips to help you improve your communication:

• Assumptions hide true communication. When we assume what someone is thinking or feeling, we miss the message. That does not mean you shouldn't assume things. You will. What it does mean is you must learn to catch yourself when you assume and check out what you see and hear.

• Pay close attention to nonverbal messages. Our feelings come through our nonverbals and they are often subtle. When people do not have a common language, they raise their antenna to read nonverbals. We should keep that antenna raised at all times, particularly when we are communicating with people closest to us.

• Learn what your own messages, both verbal and nonverbal communicate. Watch how others respond to your messages. Are you being clear or vague? How can you make your messages clearer for others.

• Test what you see and hear. If you believe you see happiness, ask. If you believe you see fear, ask.

• Learn the things that block you from reading other people's messages. Are you stressed? Are you in so much of a hurry that you can't take the time to read others? Are you focused on yourself and not others? What kinds of things blind you from seeing what others are "not" saying?

Find out more about your own communication. Rate your NonVerbal Antenna by taking this free assessment. http://www.totalcommunicationscoach.com/rate_your_nonverbal_antenna.htm

Author's Bio: 

Joan Curtis is the CEO for Total Communications Coach http://www.TotalCommunicationsCoach.com. She has done leadership training and consulting for over 20 years. Her new book, Managing Sticky Situations at Work http://www.managingstickysituationsatwork, came out in June 2009. In it she creates a new model of communication called the Say It Just Right Model. Her new book, The New Handshake: Sales Meets Social Media co-authored with Barb Giamanco will be out in July 2010 and can be pre-ordered at Amazon, Barnes & Noble and Books-A-Million. Check out the blog, http://www.thenewhandshake.com