Effective Communication Skills

Effective communication skills are essential for advisers. Providing information in a meaningful way serves as a basis for decisions which can have a profound influence on a student's entire life. Advisees are not simply deciding what courses they will take or what they will major in; they are also deciding, if only indirectly, their futures.

  • Listen carefully and check your understanding by paraphrasing what advisees have said or by asking a question. Ask yourself whether advisees have asked the right questions. Too often, the correct answer is given by advisers--but the wrong question was asked by students, and communication fails.
  • Use open-ended questions and similar techniques that enable you to discuss topics with advisees rather than allowing only “yes” or “no” responses.
  • Discuss with your advisees their backgrounds and experiences, progress on their goals, and future plans. Such a discussion will provide you with helpful information, and it will reflect your concern for advisees as individuals.
  • Most communications have both an intellectual and an emotional component. Listen for the emotional message. If the emotional part of the message seems to be out of proportion or inconsistent with the intellectual part, you may need to examine this discrepancy before a rational decision can be made.
  • Always keep notes about what decisions have been made and why. A quick review before seeing students again will help you recall specific details. This is an important way to demonstrate your interest in students as individuals.
  • The more effective approaches to academic advising go beyond informing and begin to involve some counseling skills including helping and empowering.
  • Respect your advisees as people and show them that you respect them. One way to do this is to make a sincere effort to do an effective job of your advising.
  • Encourage informed decision-making of your advisees. They are adults, and, more importantly, they must live with their decisions.
  • Respecting advisees does not mean that advisers must agree with all of their decisions. The adviser role is to help them make realistic decisions. If advisers have reason to believe that students will fail or are making a poor choice, they should honestly discuss this perception with them.
  • Know enough to recognize when one of your advisees needs help beyond your capability and know how to make a referral.
  • Be available; you cannot provide even the basics to an advisee if the advisee cannot find you.

Adapted from the NACADA Faculty Advising Training Program