Top 10 tips for Effective Communication
• Be honest. Dishonesty will show up somewhere along the line.
• Be interested in the people you are communicating with. Remember people are more attracted to those who are interested in them, and will pay more attention to what they are saying.
• Be relaxed. Bad body language such as hunched shoulders, fidgeting, toe tapping or hair-twiddling all give the game away.
• Listen first. Communication is a two-way process; getting your message across depends on understanding the other person.
• Smile and use eye contact. It’s the most positive signal you can give.
• Think before you speak or put pen to paper: what message you trying to convey? What outcome do you want to elicit?
• Be direct (but not aggressive). A lot of flannelling around can make people lose interest and miss the vital point.
• Don’t use jargon – and the acronyms, and the technical expressions, unless you are sure your listeners understand.
• Write, as you would speak. Don’t fall into the trap of using long words just because it’s written down.
• Take your time. Whether in speech or on paper, rushing can make you seem nervous, unconfident and downright scared.
Being a good communicator is more than just making yourself heard – it’s about really understanding what you need to communicate and then finding the best way to communicate it. Effective communication is the lifeblood of any successful business or private relationship and just like any other skill, it’s something that can be learned and practised. Many people feel they are not very good at communicating clearly in a face-to-face situation and shy away from it, preferring to rely on emails and texts – they then wonder why they do not seem to achieve the outcomes they were hoping for!
Communication is really very simple: it’s about knowing WHAT to communicate, followed by HOW to best communicate it. One of the golden rules is not to ASSUME how much the other person knows – there is an old saying that when we assume, we make an ASS of U and ME – when we base our actions on assumptions, we more often get it wrong, sometimes with quite serious consequences
Therefore, we need to communicate effectively with those around us, whether that’s your manager, your colleagues or even your partner, but how do we get it right? It’s essential to be clear about the purpose of communication and what makes it effective. When I communicate something of significance, my goal is always to:
1. Pass and receive RELEVANT information
2. Using the most APPROPRIATE method(s)
3. In a way which is clearly UNDERSTOOD
4. And is ACTED upon
1. Relevance: Often, we try to pass on all that we know, rather than only passing on that which the other party needs to know in that situation (the ‘expert’ syndrome). Unfortunately, if the other person’s initial perception is that this is ‘too deep’ for them, they invariably switch off pretty quickly. Many of you will have heard of the KISS principle, KEEP-IT-SHORT-and-SIMPLE – it works!
2. Appropriate Method: Generally speaking, the following rules of thumb are useful:
Face-to-face: particularly important when there is difficult information to pass on, as both parties have the opportunity to read body language and detect voice tone, as well being able to ask clarifying questions immediately. The message is also generally perceived as more credible when delivered face-to-face, and it is easier to influence someone to adopt your idea or position when using this method.
Telephone: particularly suitable for brief conversations where interaction is required, OR where face-to-face communication regarding a substantial and/or difficult topic is not possible.
Written (including email and texting): particularly suitable for the communication of e.g. facts, figures, statistics, or where only a brief answer is required (except when drafting a legal agreement or similar). Remember that other than grammar and symbols, you have no body language or tone of voice when using written communication, making it very difficult to accurately convey your attitude when writing something difficult for the other party. This is why people often completely misinterpret the other party’s true meaning (usually in a negative way), when this method is used to communicate in difficult situations.
3. Understood: The message may be entertaining, but it is of no use if either party does not understand the other. Understanding is usually achieved by the use of good questioning skills (using ‘open’ questions to gain additional information, and ‘closed’ questions to clarify what you think to be true). Naturally, if you are going to ask questions, you also need to be able and prepared to listen properly to what is said (or in the case of written communication, to read what you have received very carefully before responding). Also, avoid jargon and abbreviations if you are in any doubt as to the other party’s level of knowledge on the subject.
4. Acted upon: This is the real test of whether your communication is any good or not – do others actually do or know what is expected of them, to the correct standard? Therefore, if you are asking someone to do something, or are stating your position, base what you say on specific facts which are measurable or provable. Also, take responsibility to know what has been agreed and to follow up any actions – don’t just assume they will be carried out, CONTINUE communicating.