Very few of us have the luxury of working totally alone, which means most of us must report to, supervise, and/or coordinate our efforts with others. The more frequently this describes what you do, the more routinely good communication will be central to your productivity and effectiveness.
Whether you are talking to individuals or groups, whether in person or interfacing electronically (by sending and/or receiving voice or text, for example), successful communication is a tricky business, with many opportunities to go wrong in both simple and complex ways.
Misunderstanding and confusion can be the result. These not only make it more difficult to solve real problems and achieve your goals, they can cause additional problems of their own.
That’s why it’s critical that you communicate accurately and effectively in as many situations as possible.
Here are some suggestions for improving the accuracy and quality of your communications:
When You Are Communicating
Before you actually communicate, think about all you’re trying to convey, and how you can get the other person to receive and understand your message most accurately. This thinking should include such issues as:
- What information are you trying to convey?
- What words will you use to convey it?
- What point of view do you want the other person to accept?
- How can you best get your message across? In person? By phone? Or by some form of written message?
Be on the alert for possible points of confusion, and eliminate them by clarifying, summing up, and clarifying again as often as necessary. It’s helpful to ask for immediate feedback so you can begin to gauge how accurately you got your message across and where any gaps or misunderstandings may remain.
Include in your message enough background information and detail to ensure your meaning is well understood. Does your audience (of one, or many) already understand the underlying concepts? Must you provide additional background and context? Be alert to cultural differences, technical jargon complexities, and any other barriers to effective communication that may exist.
Whenever you write something for others to read, check it over more than once to be sure you’ve made your meaning perfectly clear.
When necessary, bolster your message by adding a diagram, table, illustration, spreadsheet, or chart to help convey all the information you’re trying to get across.
When Others Are Communicating with You
When you are the audience for other people, listen intently without drifting off to plan your next words. As you think about what they are saying to you, note their body language and choice of words as well as their surface message.
When reading, focus your attention as tightly as possible. Take notes as necessary about concepts, questions, or possible rebuttals to their arguments or conclusions. The simple act of noting your thoughts will help cement the information into your memory.
When you don’t fully understand what someone is communicating to you, ask for enough additional clarification and detail to maximize your chances of receiving the message accurately.
By paying attention to both outbound and inbound communications, how accurately you’re conveying them and how well you’re receiving them, you can greatly improve your effectiveness, productivity, and relationships.