Say goodbye to misunderstandings: the 5 keys to effective communication

The 5 keys to effective communication

Long lists of chaotic emails. Conflicts between teammates. Badly planned projects. Poorly developed ideas. Files everywhere. Late deliveries. Sound familiar? Don’t worry because you’re not alone. The good news is that averting problems that stem from poor communication with your colleagues or your bosses is possible. You simply need to learn to communicate effectively in order to drive up trust levels within the team, translating into an improved work environment and better results.

Although the aim of communication is to share a message or an idea, we don’t always manage to get across what we have in mind. Sometimes the message gets lost or misinterpreted, preventing us from communicating effectively. But, what do we actually mean when we talk about effective communication? Well, it’s the ability to communicate in a way that’s clear and can be understood, which is why it’s necessary to try and eliminate the potential for any misunderstandings.

Here are the 5 keys for learning how to communicate your ideas effectively and to start your journey towards achieving your goals and objectives.

1. Construct an effective message

When it comes to helping your listener or reader to correctly understand your message, the first step is to know what your intention is: what do you want to convey? With that in mind, develop your message:

  • Adapt it to the medium: We don’t express ourselves in the same way in an email as we do on the phone or in a work meeting. So adapt both your verbal language and your body language to the circumstances.

  • Be clear and concise: It’s important to use vocabulary that is as precise as possible to avoid any ambiguities. If you don’t, this can give rise to multiple interpretations, which can hinder communication.

  • Maintain a clear structure: Construct a message you can convey in an organized fashion so that you can maintain the coherency of the message and the sequence of ideas.

  • Stay on track: Going from one subject to another will confuse your listener. Being succinct and clear about the different points will ensure your message is better understood.

  • Take your time: Being clear and staying on track doesn’t have to mean keeping the message short. It’s not a case of writing a telegram or a tweet, it’s about explaining what you want to say in an adequate way. Take as long as you need.

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2. Be mindful of the context

Before you fire off a message, you also need to consider the surrounding factors, which can help or hinder understanding. In a professional setting, you need to think about:

  • External elements such as noise, environment and timing. If you think that a certain external factor could lead to problems in how the message is perceived – meaning the conversation will be a waste of time – don’t hesitate to try to postpone the conversation until a better time or find another way to converse.

  • The listener’s background. For effective communication, it’s necessary for your listener to share the same codes that will allow them to understand your message. For example, your listener may need to know about how an IT program works, the targets you want to hit or whatever was discussed at the last meeting.

  • Potential cultural differences. If you identify any potential differences, such as the way of perceiving body language or even the way of expressing formality, pay special attention to these so your message does not get lost.

3. Listen to your listener

Communicating effectively means more than just exchanging information. It’s about understanding the emotions and intentions behind the information. This is why, aside from knowing how to deliver a message, we also need to know how to actively listen to our listener. To do this:

  • Focus on your listener. Pay attention to what you’re being told and show interest so that the person you’re speaking to feels understood.

  • Avoid interrupting. Listening isn’t just about waiting for your turn to speak. If you do this, you run the risk of listening simply for the purpose of knowing what to say next. This doesn’t allow for effective communication.

  • Show interest in the needs and difficulties your listener is experiencing when carrying out a certain task.

4. Don’t assume

If we assume something, we create a reality within our minds which may be different from external reality. It’s for this reason that preconceived notions, prejudices and other beliefs can hinder effective communication and, unknown to us, can lead to us having select hearing and select memory. In other words, we discard statements that contradict our beliefs. In order to avoid such misunderstandings:

Don’t hesitate to ask and make sure you’ve fully understood the speaker’s message. It’s always better to ask than to assume.

Think about how your message can be received and adapt it to your speaker. This way you will avoid blunders and any potential conflicts.

Take into account any cultural differences or the listener’s set of values. This means being aware of any potential sensitivities, such as how being late is perceived, body language and any other relevant factors that can alter the way in which our message is received.

5. Watch out for nonverbal communication

The way you look, listen, move and react in front of someone says more about how you feel than your actual words do.

Nonverbal communication (NVC) includes everything from facial expressions to body movements, eye contact, posture, tone of voice and even the way we breathe.

Learning to use this will help you improve the way you communicate with others and improve relationships in the workplace. For this:

Look receptive and maintain eye contact with the person you’re speaking to. Smiling and pulling your shoulders back will help you feel more secure and to convey confidence.

Pay attention to your voice and the tone you’re using. This is because much of how we communicate a message comes from these two elements. (The actual meaning of the words we use counts for far less than we realise).

Remember that you can use body language to emphasize your verbal message. For example, smiling in order to convey a positive message.

As you can see, effective communication is fundamental not only for making yourself understood and communicating what you want to say with clarity, but it can also be a tool for success with all your projects. Avoiding misunderstandings will improve your relationships with your colleagues, facilitate teamwork and ensure you hit your targets. Who wouldn’t want that. In our everyday lives, we are communicating constantly and that’s why it’s important to do so effectively.

Translated by Jamie Broadway

Photo: Welcome to the Jungle

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