There are many sources of information on effective communications, so I’m not going to attempt to cover it all on one page - instead, I just want to emphasise the importance of effective communication in achieving your success.
Inevitably, your journey to success is going to involve other people – for support, advice, guidance, maybe even some favours along the way. And to be able to make your relationship with these people work – you need to communicate effectively.
Communicating is a two way process between you and whoever you are trying to communicate with – whether that’s one person or a group of people – and can be through a range of methods such as conversation, in writing or non-verbal means [body language and the like].
And like you physical image, your communications will project a particular image – do you sound confident and honest? Do you write with authority and expertise? Is your body language in sync with what you are saying? – they all affect the image you project and how people react to you.
So project the right image of success with the following communications tips:
- Get the right tone – people will respond better to you if you have a pleasant, down to earth tone in your voice. Communications will be less effective if you sound arrogant or too soft.
If a conversation is starting to get heated, refrain from getting angry and ask for a reprieve so everyone can calm down and start again.
- Choose your words – most people have a limited vocabulary so keep your choice of words to simple ones. Don’t be tempted to sound ‘intelligent’ by using big words! But also pick your target audience – if you’re talking to a professor, then you can afford to be a little more adventurous with your word choice.
And don’t use profanity or inflammatory language in normal conversation.
- Speak with a thinking mind – and engage your brain before opening your mouth! Because once it’s out there, you can’t take it back.
- Listen – I mean REALLY listen. Active listening involves showing a genuine interest in what the other person is saying. Look at them while they are talking, nod your head, respond to what they are saying and para-phrase the gist of their conversation so they know that you not only listened to them, but you understood them.
Read this article on effective listening for more information…
- Apologise when you mean it – and only when you mean it. Over-apologising can make you sound weak, so don’t apologise for things that aren’t your fault or that you have no control over. If you are late because you got stuck in the elevator, it’s not your fault! Just acknowledge why you were late – but don’t apologise.
And of course, if you did do something wrong – apologise with sincerity [but don’t grovel] by including a recognition of how your mistake impacted the other person.
- Don’t let your body language give you away – people naturally pick up on queues from body language, so make sure yours doesn’t send a different signal from what you’re saying. Maintain good eye contact and an open posture to show that you are interested.
This is almost the opposite when on the phone – people can’t see you and can’t pick up on what your body language is saying. So make sure you make reassuring “Mmmm” sounds when the other person is talking so they know you’re listening and para-phrase what they say.
- Writing reports and formal communications – Reports and formal correspondence need to be written in third party [don’t say “I wrote this report…”, write “This report was written…” ] and needs to use proper language. The red and green squiggly lines in Microsoft word mean something – so fix them!
But write clearly and concisely – don’t use 3 words when 1 will do and don’t use big words to impress the reader, it’s better to keep the language simple [keeping in mind the target audience] so it can be easily understood.
Keep one thought per sentence, and one topic per paragraph. And structure the report in a logical sequence – introduction, background, body and conclusions. Make sure conclusions and recommended are clearly developed and defensible.
It’s also a good habit to provide a summary of key findings, particularly if it is a long report. And always base formal correspondence on fact, and clearly state where opinion is included.
- Writing informal or personal communications – informal writing can include the first person, but avoid overly emotional correspondence. If you are angry about an issue and write it all down, sleep on it before you send it out – otherwise you may regret what you’ve said.
- Emails – emails are often written in a more casual language, which is quite acceptable. But be careful with the tone of emails – because people can’t hear your voice, it’s difficult to detect tone of voice and whether you are writing in anger, humor or sarcasm.
- Reading – of course, if you are given information to read, there are some tips too. I like to use the SQ3R technique [survey-question-read-recall-review] – survey the document to give you a quick overview of its structure and content, question what you want to get out of the document, read the document by scanning for information to respond to your questions, recall the key facts and finally review the information by expanding on your notes.
By reading intelligently, instead of reading the document word-by-word, you will get through the document quickly and still draw out the relevant information you need.
Communications in groups
Public speaking: public speaking can be daunting, but there are some things you can do to make it easier.
- Prepare! The more prepared you are, the less nervous you’ll feel and the easier the presentation will be. Have multiple copies of slides and handouts in case technology gets the better of you.
- Keep it interesting. Audiences can lose interest quickly, so maintain their interest by including humour [but only if you can pull it off], posing rhetorical questions and interacting with the audience whenever you can.
- Be passionate – there’s nothing more compelling than a speaker who is obviously passionate about the topic!
- Rehearse the presentation so you are confident you won’t go over or under time. And use a video camera so you can play back your presentation to yourself – you may be surprised what you look and sound like! Try to identify any distracting habits you have and iron out any bumps in the presentation.
- RSVP [rhythm, speed, volume and pitch] – vary the rhythm of your voice to keep it interesting and pause to emphasise a point; don’t talk too fast or too slow [aim for about 100 words per minute]; project your voice so the people in the back row can hear; vary your pitch so it doesn’t drone.
Getting the most out of meetings and workshops:
- Stick to the point – prepare an agenda and stick to it! If the meeting is going off topic, agree to take the discussion off-line and discuss at a later time.
- Participate – you’re there for a reason!
- Take notes – even if minutes of the meeting are being done by someone else, take your own notes of key points of interest to you.
- Identify actions from the meeting – the most important outcome from meeting and workshops is the action list. Every item discussed should have a corresponding action to make sure it is followed up.
And good communications is equally important with your family and friends, as well as being vital for your career.
50 One Minute Tips to Better Communication
Being able to communicate effectively is vital for anyone’s success. Read and Learn How to think of meetings as investments, how to use the F.A.S.T. formula to manage "meeting theft", how to revise, simplify, and clarify your business writing and tips on business presentations and teleconferencing.