Communication skills are some of the most
important skills that we need to succeed in the workplace.
We talk to people
face to face, and we listen when people talk to us. We write emails and
reports, and we read the documents and emails that are sent to us.
Communication, therefore, is a process that involves at least two people
- a sender and a receiver. For it to be successful, the receiver must
understand the message in the way that the sender intended. This may
sound quite simple. But have you ever been in a situation where this
hasn't happened? Misunderstanding and confusion often occur, and they
can cause enormous problems. If we want to be excellent communicators,
we need to be effective at all points in the communication process - and
we must be comfortable with the different channels of communication.
When we communicate well, we can be very successful. On the other hand,
poor communicators struggle to develop their careers beyond a certain
The person who is the
source of the communication encodes it into a message, and transmits it
through a channel. The person who is the receiver decodes the message,
and, in one way or another, sends back, through feedback, either
understanding or a lack of understanding to the source.
By understanding the
steps in the communication process, we can become more aware of our role
in it, recognize what we need to do to communicate effectively,
anticipate problems before they happen, and improve our overall ability
to communicate effectively.
The Source -
Planning Our Message
Before we begin
communicating, we need to take a moment to figure out what we want to
say, and why. We don't to waste our time conveying information that
isn't necessary - and we shouldn't waste the listener or reader's time
either. Too often, people just keep talking or keep writing - because
they think that by saying more, they'll surely cover all the points.
Often, however, all they do is confuse the people they're talking to.
Plan What We Want
objective. Why are we communicating?
audience. With whom are we communicating? What do they need to know?
Plan what we want to
say, and how we will send the message.
Seek feedback on how
well our message was received.
When we do all of the
above, we'll be able to craft a message that will be received positively
by our audience. Good communicators use the KISS ("Keep It Simple
and Straightforward") principle. They know that less is often more, and
that good communication should be efficient as well as effective.
Creating a Clear, Well-Crafted Message
Once we know what we want to say the we
need to decide exactly how we'll say it. Our responsibility is to send a
message that's both clear and concise. To achieve this, we need to
consider not only what we'll say, but also how we think the recipient
will perceive it. We often focus on the message that we want to
send, and the way in which we'll send it. But if our message is
delivered without considering the other person's perspective, it's
likely that part of that message will be lost. To communicate more
Understand what we truly need and want to
Always anticipate the other person's
reaction to our message.
Choose words and body language that allow
the other person to really hear what we're saying.
When writing our message always make sure
that what we write will be perceived the way we intend it to be. Words
on a page generally have no emotion - they don't "smile" or "frown"
while we're reading them. So when writing, always take time to do the
Review our style.
Avoid using slang.
Always check for grammar and
Check also for tone, attitude, nuance,
and other subtleties. If we think the message may be misunderstood, it
probably will be. Take the time to clarify it!
We should familiarize ourselves with our
company's writing policies. Another important consideration is to use
pictures, charts, and diagrams wherever possible. As the saying goes, "a
picture speaks a thousand words."
Also, whether we speak or write our
message, consider the "cultural context".
Avoid any potential for miscommunication
or misunderstanding due to cultural or language barriers.
Choose The Correct Channel.
Along with encoding the message, we need
to choose the best communication channel to use to send it. We want to
be efficient, and yet make the most of our communication opportunity.
Using email to send simple directions is practical. However, if we want
to delegate a complex task, an email will probably just lead to more
questions, so it may be best to arrange a time to speak in person. And
when our communication has any negative emotional content, we need to
stay well away from email! Make sure that we communicate face to face or
by phone, so that we can judge the impact of our words and adjust these
appropriately. When we are determining the best way to send a message,
consider the following:
The sensitivity and emotional content of
How easy it is to communicate detail.
The receiver's preferences.
The need to ask and answer questions.
Decoding - Receiving and Interpreting
It can be easy to focus on speaking; we
want to get our points out there, because we usually have lots to say.
However, to be a great communicator, we also need to step back, let the
other person talk, and just listen. This doesn't mean that we should be
passive. Listening is hard work, which is why effective listening is
called active listening.
To listen actively requires the we give our undivided attention
to the speaker:
Always look at the person, preferably
maintain eye contact as often as possible.
Pay attention to his or her body
Avoid any distractions.
Nod and smile to acknowledge points.
Occasionally think back about what the
person has said.
Allow the person to speak, without
thinking about how we'll respond to what they are saying.
Empathy listening also helps us decode
the message accurately. To understand a message fully, we have to
understand the emotions and underlying feelings the speaker is
expressing. This is where an understanding of body language can be
We need feedback, because without it, we
can't be sure that people have understood our message. Sometimes
feedback is verbal, and sometimes it's not. We've looked at the
importance of asking questions and listening carefully. However,
feedback through body language
is perhaps the most important source of clues to the
effectiveness of our communication. By watching the facial expressions,
gestures, and posture of the person we're communicating with, we can
Comprehension (or lack of understanding).
Level of interest.
Level of engagement with the message.
Truthfulness (or lying/dishonesty).
As a speaker, understanding our
listener's body language can provide us the opportunity to adjust our
message and make it more understandable, appealing, or interesting. As a
listener, body language can show us more about what the other person is
We can then ask questions to ensure that
we have, indeed, understood each other. In both situations, we can
better avoid miscommunication if it happens. Feedback can also be
formal. If we're communicating something really important, it can often
be worth asking questions of the person we're talking to so we can
insure that they've understood fully. And if we're receiving this sort
of communication, repeat it in our own words to check our understanding.
It can take a lot of effort to
communicate effectively. However, we need to be able to communicate well
if we're going to make the most of the opportunities that life has to
offer. By learning the skills we need to communicate effectively, we can
learn how to communicate our ideas clearly and effectively, and
understand much more of the information that's conveyed to us. As either
a speaker or a listener, or as a writer or a reader, we're responsible
for making sure that the message is communicated accurately. Pay
attention to words and actions, ask questions, and watch body language.
These will all help us ensure that we say is what we mean, and that we
hear what is intended.
I Wish You
David Balovich is an author, credit consultant, educator, and public
can be reached at
email@example.com or through the Creditworthy website.