Communication is more than speaking or writing. To be effective, communication requires the creation of a common understanding of ideas, desires and observations among people. Communication is a two-way exchange that involves both a presenter and an audience. Communication includes written and non-verbal behaviors as well as speaking, and has as its goal to affect the knowledge or behavior of another.
Effective communication is key to maintaining good personal relationships with your spouse, parents, children and friends. Communication can include non-threatening sharing of information, or it may involve emotionally heavy topics that are likely to set off negative reactions in the person listening. Before you begin speaking with a significant other on a difficult subject, first check your feelings and the message you want to communicate.
Remove from your speech and body language triggers that suggest you mean something different from what you are saying. Effective communication is clear in content and respectful of the other person. Choose your words carefully and select ones that correctly represent your thoughts and feelings in a non-judgmental way. If you are not sure your message was received as intended, ask what was heard, and clarify. Effective communicators do not interrupt.
Business communication is more formal and often more specific than personal communication. Facts are more of a factor in business communication than emotions. Techniques that can assure communication that is more effective include 1:
• Understanding the perspective of the listener and using terminology with which they are comfortable • Using metaphors to make concepts more accessible to the listener • Using humor to lessen the potentially negative impact of difficult communications • Asking for feedback to make sure the information was received as intended.
Listening is an equal partner with speaking in defining effective communication. Effective listening is an active process that includes maintaining eye contact; providing positive non-verbal feedback, like nodding your head; re-stating what you have heard to make sure it is correct; not interrupting the speaker.
Public speaking is a unique type of communication and being an effective communicator to groups is challenging. Knowing your material and the audience are essential to effective public speaking communication. Since you will not have direct feedback on how your speech is received, pick a few people in the audience in different areas of the room and check their body language. Public communication requires speaking more slowly than conversational speech. You will also find that your public communication is more impressive if you begin by telling the audience what you will be talking about and then finish your speech with a summary of what you said.
Effective written communication requires organizing your thoughts into a logical order before you begin writing. Break the written document into sections and introduce the order and each section before plunging into the detail. Summarize each section’s key points before moving onto the next section. Readers find that communication is more effective when the writer uses an active voice, short sentences and includes examples.
- Image by Flickr.com, courtesy of Andrew Feinberg