I can't quite distinguish them, because "communication" is always social? I guess 交际 is like my social skills and 沟通 is used with "dispute" but is that it and what about 交流?

I am sure all three terms can be found in dictionaries, but some of the definitions might overlap and cause new learners confusion, I think it is better to just list their main difference in my answer:

交流 = interact / exchange

交際 = socialize

溝通 = communicate

Examples:

  • 文化交流 (cultural exchange) ; 互相交流 ( interact with each other)

  • 交際應酬 ( socialize and partying) ;與上流社會交際 (socialize with the upper class )

  • 無法溝通 (unable to communicate); 以眼神溝通 ( communicate with looks in the eyes)

Informal speaking, “交流” is like exchanging idea and information.

I like using linedict.com for this, you can find example sentences which help us 老外 see how words are used.

http://ce.linedict.com/dict.html#/cnen/example?query=%E4%BA%A4%E6%B5%81

Click the radio button Examples and enter a word. You get examples with English translations.

交流:talk in forum,exchange each other.

交际:make friends or something like that. or other mean talk in part-->noun,like 交际能力:ability of socialize

沟通:still means talk,but usual talk for some purpose ,like change other person mind

交流, communication / exchanging ideas

交际, socializing

沟通, talking about something frankly

交流= vt.communicate, n. Communication 交际= n. Social networks 沟通= vt. Deeply communicate

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