No-one operates in isolation. To succeed in our work, we all need to get things done through or with other people, and this means communicating clearly.
Clear communication is critical to both business and personal success, but is often fraught with difficulties.
These Tips highlight the most important principles to help improve your communication skills, both as the 'sender' and the 'receiver' of messages.
1. What is communication?
All communication consists of three elements: the 'sender' who originates the communication, the actual message that’s being communicated, and one or more 'receivers' of the message.
True 'communication' is not necessarily the message that the sender intended to send, nor is it even necessarily the words that the sender used – it’s the message that was understood by the receiver.
Clear communication exists when the message received is the same as the message which the sender intended to send.
2. Remove barriers
Barriers can pop-up at every stage of the communication process and have the potential to create misunderstanding and confusion.
For example, poor body language, lack of time, poor technology, and language difficulties.
You need to be aware of these and remove them to help develop the relationship.
3. Prepare your message
Ensure that the message is totally clear in your own mind. What are you trying to achieve? How will you know if you have achieved it?
Try to identify any assumptions you are making (for instance about the other person's cultural background, knowledge of, or attitude to, the subject). Look for any underlying prejudices affecting your view of the situation and the message you are trying to convey.
Anticipate the receivers’ likely reaction, but do not assume that this reaction is bound to occur or be misled by wishful thinking. If your message is complex, plan and structure it with care.
4. Choose your method carefully
Check which communication method is most appropriate for your receiver and avoid using any words you are not sure about.
How do they prefer to receive information? What is important to them?
You can develop rapport, trust and credibility through being thoughtful in the method you use, and keeping it simple.
5. Ask questions
Ask questions to seek information and check understanding – it helps develop rapport!
- Open questions encourage the other person to answer at some length, expressing their views and feelings. They are often introduced by 'what', 'why', 'how', ‘who’, ‘when’, ‘where’.
For example, 'What do you think?' or ‘Tell me about yourself?’
- Closed questions generally elicit a simple ‘yes/no’ response and confirm understanding, and provide short, specific pieces of information. They’re ideal for clarifying a problem or situation.
For example, 'Did that happen yesterday?' or ‘Is that what she said?’
- Reflective questions can be used to bring underlying feelings and opinions into the open, or to check that you've understood the other person correctly. They may be either open or closed.
For example, ‘How do you feel about that?’ or ‘You seem a bit unsure about this?’