Do you wonder why people don’t seem to listen to you? If your conversations are always brief and meaningless or people don’t follow through on your instructions, you may not be communicating effectively. As a key life skill, effective communication is needed to reach people, make changes, and achieve your goals.
Effective communication happens when the receiver gets the message the sender wants to give. The receiver is whoever you are speaking to, either individually or a group of people. The message is what you want or need to convey.
Your message might be that you care enough to talk with them, or it might be instructions that need to be followed. While there are many barriers to effective communication, understanding the basic principles, and practicing the right techniques can make you an effective communicator.
The Principles of Effective Communication
The standard principles of effective communication are true no matter who the sender and receiver are or what the message is.
According to scientists, effective communication is based on these principles:
First and foremost, effective communication is courteous. If a sender yells at or belittles the receiver, the message can become clouded with the receiver’s emotional response. While the receiver may do what the sender wants, the communication isn’t truly effective. The receiver will resent the lack of courtesy and may do less than needed, respond without courtesy, or eventually stop listening to the sender.
Effective communication needs to have clarity and be concise. It’s impossible to send an accurate message if the sender isn’t sure of what they want to convey. Before you speak, know what you want to say and how you want to say it. Stick to the message without adding unnecessary information or useless other details.
For communication to be effective, the message must be correct. You will not achieve your desired outcome if the information or instructions you give someone are wrong. When you communicate, you should also offer a complete message. You may need to break down your message into understandable parts, but without knowing your goals, the receiver will have a hard time acting on your message.
Effective communication relies on the credibility of the sender.
If the receiver doesn’t trust the sender or see them as an authority on the message, they will not accept the message in the way that the sender wants. Without credibility, the message may not fully be understood or acted on by the receiver. A sender builds credibility by making their communication clear, concise, complete, and correct.
Techniques for Effective Communication
The skill of effective communication takes practice. Researchers have found these techniques help build effective communication between a sender and a receiver for all types of messages.
• Non-verbal Communication
Scientists who study language and communication believe that over 50% of all communication is non-verbal. Non-verbal communication is what you don’t say. Instead, it’s your body language, tone of voice, posture, and facial expressions.
As an example, try saying, “I want you to come here” while smiling. Then say it with a frown. Try a loud and then a quiet voice. Although the words are the same, the first way is an invitation and the second way may be perceived as a failure. A loud voice makes the message a command, while a soft voice makes it a request. No matter what your message is, how you say it affects how someone will receive it.
Asking questions allows the sender to clarify anything the receiver doesn’t understand about the message. When the receiver asks questions, they show that they want to understand but are unsure of the message. Questions allow both the sender and the receiver to share the correct message for the situation.
Clarifying is a technique used by the receiver to show the sender that they understand the message. When clarifying, the receiver repeats the message back to the sender in the receiver’s word and from their viewpoint. This allows the sender to clarify any misunderstanding of the message.
Feedback is another useful and important technique for effective communication.
Feedback must be courteous, or the receiver may misinterpret the message as sarcasm or rudeness. Thanking a person for explaining something, offering positive suggestions, and telling someone you appreciate that they listened to you are examples of positive feedback. If you do need to provide constructive criticism, a courteous manner is always better received than a message that includes negative verbal or non-verbal communication.
Effective communication is a key life skill for success. Effective communication strengthens your relationships by promoting better understanding. You can improve your professional life by effectively communicating your ideas and vision.