1. What is effective communication?
Before answering this question, let’s establish the exact definition of communication.
Communication is the process of sending and receiving messages through verbal or nonverbal means, including speech or oral communication; writing and graphical representations (such as drawings, maps, and charts); and signs, signals, and behavior.
More simply, communication is the creation and exchange of meaning. Every communication process has a sender and a receiver, a message, and interpretations of meaning on both ends.
Effective communication consists in successfully delivering a message to a target audience. For the communication to be effective, both the sender and receiver will share the same information in a way that guarantees adequate reception and understanding.
Effective communication is crucial to the success of every business. Several messages are delivered daily vertically, horizontally, and from the organization to the outside. Because of that, people must communicate all messages properly. You need to remember that content, language, remarks, tone of voice, and non-verbal communication affect the effectiveness of messages.
2. Key effective communication skills
Excellent communication skills are a benefit in every aspect of our lives. Whether you order pizza or speak in public, listening and communicating are vitally important. Effective communicators improve work relationships and increase employees’ engagement and productivity.
Countless skills make a great communicator, some innate, others developed through continuous practice and experience.
To strengthen your communication skills, you should consider the common characteristics of great communicators.
- Be an active listener
- Pay attention to non-verbal communication
- Be clear and direct
- Be relaxed and self-confident
- Show empathy
- Give and receive feedback
- Be a people person
In the following lines we will expand in each of these skills, and find ways to improve your abilities for each one of them.
1. Be an active listener
Listening is a key element of effective communication. Active listeners better understand the message, even if the speaker is not highly eloquent. Effective communication is the foundation of a deeper connection. It is crucial to be an attentive listener if you want to build trust and boost your employees’ morale.
If you’re looking to improve your active listening skills, then start to practice the following these tips:
- Give your full and undivided attention to the speaker
- Focus. Avoid any distractions from your mind.
- Don’t interrupt the speaker with your thoughts, judgments, or solutions.
- Rephrase what you heard to summarise your understanding
- Get additional details by asking clarifying questions when the speaker pauses
- Keep an open body language and face the speaker
- Read the non-verbal clues.
2. Pay attention to non-verbal communication
Body language plays an essential role in effective communication. No doubt, words are important. Nonetheless, your tone, eye contact, facial expressions, and hand gestures are equally important. Using non-verbal communication while speaking delivers your message more conveniently and effectively.
Here are some of the most common methods of non-verbal communication and why each one is important:
Image via AmericanEnglish
- Facial expressions: Facial expressions are crucial in conveying emotions and attitudes. They can express happiness, sadness, anger, surprise, fear, and many other feelings. Facial expressions provide important context and add depth to verbal communication, helping others understand the true meaning behind spoken words.
- Body language: Body language encompasses postures, gestures, movements, and overall body positioning. It conveys information about a person's mood, confidence, interest, and engagement. For example, crossed arms might indicate defensiveness or disinterest, while open and relaxed postures signal approachability and attentiveness. Body language can either reinforce or contradict verbal messages, providing additional insight into a person's thoughts and feelings.
- Eye contact: Eye contact is an efficient way of non-verbal communication that establishes connections and conveys interest or attentiveness. It can indicate engagement, trustworthiness, and sincerity. Appropriate eye contact during conversations helps to build rapport and foster better understanding.
- Gestures: Gestures involve hand and arm movements that can emphasize or reinforce verbal messages. They vary across cultures, but some gestures, such as pointing, waving, or thumbs-up, have universally recognized meanings. Gestures can enhance communication, clarify meaning, and provide visual cues for emphasis.
- Proximity: Proximity refers to the physical distance between individuals during communication. Different cultures have varying norms regarding personal space. The distance chosen can convey intimacy, formality, respect, or comfort levels. Adjusting proximity appropriately helps establish rapport and demonstrates an understanding of social norms.
- Tone of voice: While not strictly non-verbal, the tone of voice adds a layer of meaning to spoken words. It includes aspects such as pitch, volume, speed, and intonation. Tone can communicate emotions, attitudes, sarcasm, emphasis, and urgency. By carefully modulating the tone of voice, individuals can convey their intended message more effectively.
3. Be clear and direct
Another vital skill for being an effective communicator is to be precise and univocal with your message. Your audience can comprehend you better if you provide sufficient details, facts, and figures. Use simple vocabulary, an active voice, and a well-defined message so others can improve their performance in a short time.
Here are some great to communicate clearly:
- Prepare in advance: By reflecting on the message you want to transmit, including arguments, key takeaways, and the flow of the conversation. Write these ideas in your agenda; this way, you will have a much more straightforward presentation; you know that you have stated our needs and haven't forgotten anything.
- Choose the suitable medium: Consider your message's most appropriate communication medium. While face-to-face interactions are often best for essential or sensitive matters, email or written communication may be suitable for less urgent or routine discussions. Use the medium that ensures your message is delivered clearly and directly.
- Use "I" statements: When expressing your thoughts or concerns, use "I" statements instead of "you" statements. This helps to express your feelings or opinions without sounding accusatory or confrontational. For example, instead of saying, "You never listen," say, "I feel unheard when..."
- Edit the emails. If you send an email and communicate the critical request in the email, the content should be scannable. Avoid long paragraphs or academic wording. Use bullet points and numbering lists to make it easy to read. Send one email per subject, don't write too many things under the same email.
4. Be relaxed and self-confident
Stress and anxiety can alter your message and cause you to be an ineffective communicator. Remaining calm during a conversation helps you choose the right set of words and the proper reply. Being relaxed ensures that you make excellent decisions and avoid time-consuming complications.
If you will have a difficult conversation, we have some strategies that can be implemented easily, that will bring maximum benefits:
- Prepare in advance the key ideas you would like to convey, if you will have a difficult conversation. Thinking before speaking, structuring the elements you want to discuss so that they have a clear flow, and starting with the most important ones is a good idea. Reflect also about the additional information that you might want to have printed so that you have your arguments better articulated. Remember what is overall purpose of the meeting, so that you miss the main point.
- Time matters. You can't keep your manager busy for 4 hours going trough all your ideas randomly. Be focused and on the subject, and cover as much ground in the time allocated, and if you need more time, schedule a follow-up meeting. And don't be late. It's better to arrive 15' earlier than at the last minute.
- Be ready for negative answers. Don't expect that everything will work perfect, so consider also how you will handle negative reponses to your requests.
If you want to improve your confidence, then start by embracing the following habits:
- Track your accomplishments
- Get out of your comfort zone
- Know your strengths and weaknesses
- Grow your network
- Re-evaluate your priorities.
Find out two more essential tips within the confidence section of the key leadership qualities guide.
5. Show empathy
You should not be angry or frustrated when your opinions contradict other team members. Delivering a message with empathy and respecting the receiver’s values, beliefs, opinions, and ideas are essential for an effective communicator. To be more empathic rather that offering a quick solution to the your colleague who needs some empathy, just listen.
Expert tips on beeing more empathic
- Boost EQ skills: By improving your emotional intelligence, you improve your abilities to understand other people, let go of mistakes easier, will be more difficult to offend and be more curious about other people.
- Put yourself in their shoes: Try to understand situations from the perspective of your coworkers. Consider their challenges, pressures, and emotions. Imagine how you would feel in their position. This perspective-taking exercise helps develop empathy and promotes a better understanding of their experiences.
- Validate emotions: Acknowledge and validate the sentiments expressed by your colleagues. Recognize their feelings are valid, even if you may not fully understand or agree with them. Avoid dismissing or minimizing their emotions. You create a safe and supportive environment for open communication by showing empathy and understanding.
- Offer support and assistance: Be proactive in offering support to your coworkers. If someone is facing a challenge or going through a difficult time, express your willingness to help. Provide assistance, guidance, or a listening ear when needed. Small acts of kindness and support can make a significant difference and foster a more empathetic workplace culture.
6. Give and receive feedback
Giving and receiving feedback is one of the core skills for effective communication. You might not get all the feedback stating how good of a person you are. Sometimes feedback may be tough to swallow, but you must listen, understand, and act positively to improve your effective communication skills.
Effective employee feedback factors
Remember that giving feedback to your peers is a communication experience. And this interaction can boost the employee performance or not. Here are aspects that we would like to highlight in this sense:
- Clarity. Expressing the arguments simply, and straight to the point
- Timely. Share the urgent and important aspects first. Also respect other people time.
- Grounded. State the facts, not stories.
- Two-way. The feedback sessions should be a dialogue where both sides share their views and perspectives, not a monologue shared only by one side - usually the manager.
- Actionable. Have a clear solution with specific tasks and milestones.
7. Be a people person
To communicate effectively in a workplace, you must know your team members. Don’t waste time by spending your coffee or lunch break alone. Use that time to learn more about your colleagues, their hobbies, and what makes them happy or troubles them. The better you know and understand your team members, the better you communicate with them.
Here are some additional ways to be a better people person:
- Listen more than you speak
- Beware of your tone and body language
- Remember the details, even the ones not relevant
- Acknowledge success in public, criticize privately
- Smile and be positive to conveying a sense of good-will and trust
- Treat everyone equally, don't be biased, and always be respectful
- Moderate your feelings, and filter the thoughts you express according to your audience
- Radiate positivity in your communications (including remote ones)
- Get inspired by the leaders you admire (A YouTube search for Steve Jobs will help).
Related: People management skills to master in 2023.
We've made a simple image with the above mentioned ways to improve your communication skills at work. We hope you enjoy it.
Tips to cultivate effective communications within your workplace
When you want to become an effective communicator in your workplace, then we have a set of tips that you can start embracing in your daily communication with your coworkers:
- Set clear goals and milestones
- Hold frequent team check-ins
- Schedule 1 to 1 meetings
- Organize team-building activities
- Organize communication trainings
- Become a master at conflict resolution
- Assign a person to take meeting notes
- Offer constructive feedback
- Consistently engage in collaboration and teamwork
- Use the right tools (Slack/Teams/Mail/Zoom).
What are the 4 types of communication?
Depending on the situation and the context, you might choose a better communication type from the following four:
- Verbal communication: face to face, phone, videoconference calls
Verbal communication is the transmission and exchange of information between two or more people through the use of words and body language. Verbal communication can be used for both formal and informal conversations, and it encompasses both spoken and written communication.
- Non-verbal communication: emotions, body language, tone, and gestures.
Non-verbal communication is the transmission and exchange of information between two or more people through gestures, facial expressions, posture, eye contact, and other physical behaviors. This type of communication is often used to emphasize or supplement verbal communication.
- Written communication: letters, emails, memos, documents, sheets, chat, or instant messaging
Written communication is the transmission and exchange of information between two or more people using written words such as emails, letters, or notes. Written communication provides a tangible record that can be referred to later, while also providing clarity and accuracy of the information being communicated.
- Visual communication: charts, designs, illustrations, or pictures.
Visual communication is the transmission and exchange of information between two or more people through visual means such as images, drawings, diagrams, and other forms of artwork. Visual communication is often used to explain ideas more clearly than words alone can do.
3. What are the top attributes of effective communication?
Just delivering a message is not effective communication. Every message has a clear purpose to meet.
Here are the main attributes which make communication effective:
The message must be to the point, simple, and easy to comprehend. The receiver must understand the meaning of the message exactly as the sender wants to transmit it. There should be no room for confusion, misinterpretation, or ambiguity. The sender must choose precise, accurate, and familiar words. Avoid academic words, make it simple, straightforward language. If the message is clear, the receiver is much more likely to understand and act on it.
The Gettysburg Address by Abraham Lincoln is an example of clarity in communication, and also the most memorable speeches in history with only 272 words.
Tip: When writing an email, by having a clear title, you will get a better and faster response. The same is clear when you write a memo, follow-up on a request on Slack or draft a agenda for the next meeting.
Effective communication must not be false, manipulated, or exaggerated. The information must be free from errors and grammatical mistakes. Lack of proper grammar and syntax affects the effectiveness and credibility of the message, creates ambiguity, and raises doubts.
Tip: Before sending your email, double-check what you have written, make sure that the call to action is clear, and that the message what you want to convey is well articulated.
Brevity is the quality of using a few words while speaking or writing. Conciseness is a crucial virtue of communication. The message must be communicated using simple and short words instead of metaphors, allegories, and repetitions.
As George Orwell wrote in his essay Politics and the English Language, if it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.
Effective communication must be complete in all respects. The sender should transmit a comprehensive message and ensure that the receiver will not need new information, details, or clarifications.
Communication is the base for decision-making. If the information is incomplete, it may lead to wrong decisions and waste time and resources. Effective communication builds the reputation of the company.
Tip: Pick the phone, and share the details verbally. Calling the person might be more effective, convey the details more clearly and easier than writing a long email.
Before you convey your message, consider the potential effect of your words on the other end of the communication channel. Empathy is a critical pillar of good workplace communication. Being thoughtful about other people’s feelings is a healthy attitude, builds strong teams, and paves the way for smooth and effective communication.
Being polite is a soft skill we learn when we are children, and it is crucial in everyday life and a corporate setting. Practical and good communication generates trust, goodwill, and happiness. To achieve this goal, both the sender and receiver must be thoughtful and appreciative of the other’s point of view. They should show genuine consideration, humbleness, and respect towards each other.
4. The importance of effective communication
Effective communication is beneficial not only in the workplace but also in virtually every area of your life. Dynamic communication builds bridges and connects people. Being an effective communicator at work is vital.
Excellent communication in the workplace helps you avoid unnecessary problems and promotes better performance. Communicating effectively in the workplace increases overall productivity and creates a strong team. When employees consult with each other and consider different perspectives, they will be interested in cooperating more, innovating, and finding the best solution together.
As an HR manager, team leader, employee, or employee, it’s essential to master effective communication. Business is done with people; however, work is done with people. People share tasks, discuss milestones, agree on specific roadmaps, negotiate, question unclear elements, seek advice, and present results. You can say that such communications are encountered at work and in your day-to-day activities beyond work.
Moreover, depending on your role, you will handle:
- One-to-one or peer-to-peer meetings
- Lead or attend team/project meetings
- Sharing the project status or recent updates
- Present or listen to presentations or public speeches
- Host virtual presentations
- Collaboration on cross-functional tasks
- Send emails to one colleague, manager, or multiple coworkers
- Lead events or attend conferences as an exhibitor or participant and engage with speakers.
Especially within the knowledge economy, communication is essential; however, think about industries, construction, and manufacturing; once again, you need to communicate efficiently, or else you risk making mistakes and disappointing management or customers. Handling each situation like a pro is necessary if you want to be respected and successful. Stats from Linkedin highlight that communication is the number one soft skill.
6. The benefits of effective communication within the workplace
The culture of effective communication at work can result in:
Now you have the right set of skills, tips, and attributes to become a successful communicator. It’s now time to practice, constantly these new abilities. Some of them will feel natural; others may be a bit forced at the beginning. Don’t try to implement them all at once; just take your time. And remember that some of us are more inclined towards verbal communications and will take the phone at any moment to discuss any problem at any hierarchical level; others will prefer to write an email. And if your communication strategy within the workplace is effective, you will encounter easier team buy-in, less conflict, clearer direction, less misunderstanding, and increased levels of engagement.