Resilience - Effective communication
Communication consists of three elements – the sender where the communication originates from, the message that is being communicated, and the receiver(s) of the message.
Communication occurs when one person speaks or writes a message which is received by one or more people. True communication is when the message is understood by the receiver(s). Effective communication occurs when the message received is the same as the message that was intended to be sent.
Clear communication is critical to personal and organisational development, however it can be challenging. This factsheet offers information and guidance in order to help managers improve their communication style within the workplace.
Why is clear communication important?
- It improves efficiency in activities
- It reduces frustration which can arise from misunderstandings
- It promotes a clearer, structured approach to work
- It can lead to enhanced understanding of other people and more effective management of relationships due to the requirement to put oneself in another persons’ place
What are the issues?
Communicating clearly isn’t as straightforward as it might appear. By comparison, it is easy to:
- Speak before thinking
- Send an email without considering the impact it will have or the impression it might make on the receivers
- Use words or phrases that you understand but others may not fully understand
- Assume that other people have the same amount of background information that you do
Why do communications go wrong?
- The message is not clear in the sender’s mind
- The words of the message do not adequately express the thoughts in the sender’s mind
- The words of the message are not consistent with non-verbal messages also being given out by the sender
- The receiver does not understand the words of the message
- Assumptions or prejudices in the mind of the receiver may hinder the correct understanding of the message
Improving your communications
1. Consider your message
Ensure that the message is totally clear in your mind and consider what you are trying to achieve. Identify any assumptions you are making and look for any underlying prejudices which might affect your view of the situation and the resulting message.
Think about your communication from the other person’s perspective. You can achieve this by asking yourself the following:
- How will this affect X?
- What problems might it give X?
- How does this fit in with what I know about X’s objectives?
- Does X have the necessary background knowledge to understand the message?
- Will X understand any jargon or technical terms?
- Is this the best time and place to be communicating with X?
- What is the best way to communicate with X? Write, email, telephone or face to face?
If your message is particularly complicated then it is worthwhile spending considerable time beforehand to ensure that you have considered all of the above and taken steps to minimise any potentially negative reactions. You may wish to ask your manager or a colleague to review the content before it is issued.
2. Consider your language
A simple rule to follow is KISS – Keep It Short and Simple. You can do this by eliminating unnecessary words from your communications (for instance say ‘although’ rather than ‘in spite of the fact that’). Try to use shorter, less complicated words and avoid jargon unless absolutely necessary. If you need to use technical language then consider your receiver and how much explanation they may require.
Try to use positive language and phrases rather than negative ones – they are easier to understand as well as being more persuasive.
Always avoid language which may cause offence or be construed as being patronising or discriminatory in some way.
3. Reinforce your message
The words you use in face to face communication only make up a small percentage of your overall message. Body language – in the form of posture, facial expression, tone of voice gestures and non verbal utterances – plays a significant role in communication. If your spoken words do not match your tone of voice of body language then the receiver is more likely to be influenced by these than the words you are using.