“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” George Bernard Shaw
Communication is defined as the process of understanding and sharing meaning. It is not just exchanging information. Communication is effective when the recipient of a message understands its meaning and can express that meaning back lo the speaker or sender of the message. Effective communication allows you to build trust and respect, and create a positive environment for creative ideas, problem solving and caring. If you want to be an expert communicator, you need to be effective at all points in the communication process
10 steps to effective communication
Follow these ten steps to help take away some of your anxiety and make your conversations more successful.
Define your purpose
One of the biggest communication mistakes is going to an event, a meeting or making a phone call without a clear purpose. You need to know what your goal is. What is your desired outcome? Remember, you are looking to have an exchange of information. Purpose is the key to confidence. It provides you with the drive to make things happen and helps sustain your commitment to achieve.
A conversation without a game plan is like driving without a map
Get on the same page
At the very start of a conversation, identify the underlying reason for the conversation. Outlining the specific outcomes, you hope for can help keep the conversation on track and make it easier to resolve whatever issues you are addressing.
Ask the other person what is important to them and what outcomes they hope for as a result of the discussion. Helping them to identify their own intentions will help make your conversation more effective and more successful. Listen carefully to what is being said and ask for clarification if needed.
Be sure to not push your own opinions into theirs. Snap judgments can easily become a major stumbling block to open and effective communication, especially in cases where problems or misunderstandings are involved.
During listening, show the other person you are paying attention through methods that don’t contribute meaning such as nodding and eye contact. Don’t focus too much on what you’re going to say next as the other person is talking. Make sure to ask questions whenever there’s something they say that you don’t quite understand. This will help fill any potentially awkward lapses in communication.
Pay attention to nonverbal signals
Nonverbal communication, or body language, includes facial expressions, body movement and gestures, eye contact, posture, the tone of your voice, and even your muscle tension and breathing. The way you look, listen, move, and react to another person tells them more about how you’re feeling than words alone ever can.
- Eye contact communicates to the other person that you are not only interested in them and what they have to say, but that you are also trustworthy. When done in moderation, they will also assume you are confident in yourself because of your willingness to face them directly. As a result, people will naturally want to pay more attention to you and what you have to say.
- Pay attention to your facial expressions. When you smile at people, you communicate that you like them and their presence brings you happiness. Smiling at them will cause them to subconsciously want to smile back at you which will instantly build rapport between the two of you. Just make sure that your smile is sincere because if it’s not they will sense it.
- You can enhance effective communication by using open body language—arms uncrossed, standing with an open stance or sitting on the edge of your seat.
- Dress for your job; show respect for the values and conventions of your business.
- Be mindful of people’s personal space when communicating. Do not invade personal space by getting too close, and do not confuse communication by being too far away.
After an appropriate chunk, demonstrate that you have heard what the other person has said and that you understand what they mean by it. Your goal is to reflect back to them an image of themselves in you.
This can be as simple as repeating what you think you heard, with enough space to allow for misunderstandings.
Pay attention to their nonverbal communication. Watch their body language and posture, also take note of their inflection and word choices. Now, tailor your words, body language and voice tone to match what you have observed. Doing this will help them feel a deep subconscious connection with you.
Be brief yet specific
The economy of words is an important principle to keep in mind when communicating. It would seem that more words would bring more clarity, but the more words we use, the more cluttered the message becomes. Use enough words to be clear, but not so many words that they blur the lines and complicates the issue. Too much talking can result in getting off-track and may prevent anything from getting accomplished.
Know what you want to say and why
Once the issues have been thoroughly discussed and you’re confident you know each other’s intention and desired outcomes, only then is it time to brainstorm ideas that will help you both find resolution in the situation.
Consider all points of view, and make sure that both parties have reached an agreement about solutions that won’t give anyone feeling resentful later on.
Reach understanding, agreement or consensus. Once you have had the opportunity to discuss the topic, re-visit the purpose of the interchange. Have you reached common ground, solved a problem, or clarified your position? If the purpose was to teach, inform or instruct, have you accomplished your goal? Do you need to decide who is prepared to take the specific actions needed to implement any strategies you have identified as solutions? If so, both parties need to be satisfied with the conclusions you’ve reached, any actions that need to be taken, and that the overall strategy will in fact provide and satisfactory solution to the issues at hand.
Your agreement needs to include a specific time frame about when the actions will be completed and who will complete them.
Arrange a future time to follow up on the discussion with a meeting, phone call or email. Make sure that you both check in to see how things are progressing.
“You can have brilliant ideas, but if you can’t get them across, your ideas won’t get you anywhere.” ~Lee Iacocca
Make sure you take some time to reflect on your communication. If things don’t go so well, identify what’s going wrong and what needs changing. Effective communication is an essential tool for persuading, influencing, inspiring, building rapport and trust, and forming stronger relationships to help grow your business.