Communication skills are frequently regarded as innate and intuitive. Many studies, however, now show that most components of communication techniques can be taught and that these learned skills have an impact on the physician's ability to communicate. This article sets out two fundamental protocols that act as templates or strategies for communication. One, (the C-L-A-S-S strategy) highlights the five central factors in all clinician-patient interviews. The second (the S-P-I-K-E-S protocol) is a variant for the specific task of breaking bad news.