5 Keys to Effective Communication

Remember the telephone game you played when you were little? Someone would whisper a sentence into the ear of the person next to them. That person would then pass the comment to the person next to them. The secret was whispered along to each person in the line until it reached the last person…who’d announce what they thought was the original sentence.

The end message was always completely different from the original, got huge laughs at its crazy endings, and clearly showed how communication could go awry!

What’s NOT funny, however, is when ineffective communication leads to errors, wasted time, team conflict, broken relationships, and even business failure.

Below are five essential keys to communication—written or verbal—that lead to success, not strife, in your business and personal lives.

Choose your words wisely.

Whether writing or speaking, communicating involves taking a bit of time to think about what you’re going to say. Will the listener understand what you’re saying? Or will it be misinterpreted?

Take responsibility for how you will be understood, and do the best you can to communicate in a way that improves the odds for clear understanding.

Listen to what others say.

Pay attention to the person with whom you’re conversing or to the presenter at a conference. If you find yourself formulating a response or distracted rather than listening, you're likely to miss the real learning opportunities of the conversation.

It’s better to be fully present and actively listening first, then respond. If necessary, you can ask to have the question or statement repeated before you respond. And it can be helpful to restate what you heard to ensure understanding before giving your response.

Consider your tone, inflection, and body language.

When you speak, make sure the tone of your voice is not “saying” something different from the “words” that are coming from your mouth. For instance, if you’re paying a compliment or making a sales presentation about an exciting new product, but you’re frowning or not meeting eyes with your audience, your message may be taken differently from your intent.

When someone is speaking to you, stand with your arms at your side, on the table, or in your lap. If you cross your arms, you give off a vibe that you’re “closed in” or are not receptive to the conversation.

Write less, say more.

Most of us communicate these days using email, Skype, instant message, and the like. While these methods are a valid means, particularly because they serve as a keeper of records, they sometimes lose some of their effectiveness because you can’t see the body language or hear the tone of voice. Inferences can be made that you don’t intend.

It’s important to take the time to formulate your email with care, especially since once it’s gone from your fingers, your communication is viewable forever.

Know when to stop! Especially with electronic communication, less is better. But the same is also true for verbal communication. The more succinct and to the point your communication is—without being abrupt or unfriendly—the more effective it's likely to be.

Author’s content used under license, © Claire Communications