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The 7 Elements of Effective Communication – Get Heard

The 7 Elements of Effective Communication – Get Heard

In our last post, we spoke about what are the possible impediments, or barriers to effective communication. In this post, we take you ahead with exploring some of the core elements for effective communication. To dive straight in –

1. For Effective Communication – Listen

In a number of our blog posts, relating to communication (and even otherwise), we have spoken about how and why ‘listening’ is an extremely important process of communication. Even if you are the one who needs to communicate, being indifferent or not paying attention what your audience has to say can render your communication process ineffective. As the honourable Dalai Lama said —

When you talk, you are only repeating what you already know. But if you listen, you may learn something new.

Listening and speaking go hand in hand, and during the process of communication the roles of a listener and a speaker are fluid. This means that a speaker may not necessarily be the only one doing all the talking. One of the key elements for effective communication require the speaker to be, first of all, a good listener.
Have a look at what the American Management Association (1961) says about the importance of listening “…Listening is one of the most important, most difficult – and most neglected – skills in communication. It demands that we concentrate not only on the explicit meanings another person is expressing but on the implicit meanings, unspoken words and undertones that may be far more significant…”

2. For Effective Communication – Be Clear

The elements of Clarity and Simplicity are in a way interwoven. However, these two aspects cannot be used interchangeably. If one were to explain what clarity in the process of communication means, it would be simply this – that there should be absolutely no room for doubt about what the message is.

One of the worst failures of communication is when your audience acts upon your message and delivers something that is opposite of what you meant to say, or absolutely not in sync with the purpose of communication.

Your words, ideas and logic should be crystal clear. Do not beat around the bush with what you need to communicate – given that at times the content of the communication might truly be tricky. Regardless, put it across with as much clarity as you possibly can.

3. For Effective Communication – Aim for Simplicity

Always, always keep it simple. Being verbose can be the death of effective communication. What is the point of using complicated jargon or terms which your audience might not be able to process? Always keep in mind the background, and language competency of your audience before proceeding to communicate with them.

Although, it is highly recommended that irrespective of the competency of your audience, you keep the language as simple as possible – unless you need to use certain technical terms to get your point across. Keeping it simple has the magical effect of making communication instantly effective.
Have a look at certain “Principles of Simplicity” for most effective communication. You can read the whole of this wonderful article here.

“Using jargon, big words and complex structures may make something seem important but it also makes is more difficult to understand.

• Metaphor or analogy can be used to simplify ideas by showing what they are like.
• Shorter sentences requires the person to spend less time remembering what was said and decoding the structure.

Simplification can be achieved simply by showing or doing less. Talk less. Show them fewer alternatives. Make the idea more stand-alone with fewer associations. Reduce time, space, actions and people to make plan more straightforward.

Sometimes things can be made easier to understand by moving things around into configurations that make more sense. You can move things in time as well as space. You can change who does what, where people go, when things happen and so on.

Sometimes things can be made easier by throwing away what you currently have and using something else that is easier to understand or accept.”

If one were to compress the entire bit about simplicity simply, it would be this – simple things are by nature easiest to understand, process and accept.

4. For Effective Communication – Be Confident

If you aren’t confident about what you’re communicating, it will never be effective. And there are no two ways about that. Whether or not you are able to communicate with confidence is what makes lends the information you are putting out its due authenticity. The onus lies completely on you to get your listeners/ readers to believe in what you are saying.

The only way that will happen is when you communicate with confidence. Well, how do you communicate with confidence then? Be sure of what you’re saying, i.e., ‘know your stuff’. Ask yourself enough questions about the content until you are satisfied that you know enough to be able to communicate confidently!

5. For Effective Communication – Be Charismatic

A charming personality goes a long way in aiding effective communication. In his article, “What is Charisma and Charismatic Leadership”, have a look at what author Ronald E Riggio has to say about “charismatic leaders”. “Charismatic leaders are essentially very skilled communicators – individuals who are both verbally eloquent, but also able to communicate to followers on a deep, emotional level. They are able to articulate a compelling or captivating vision, and are able to arouse strong emotions in followers.”

Some people say, you either have charisma, or you don’t. But we believe everyone has charisma. You just need to bring it forth. And the only (and the best) way you can do that is when you are absolutely sure about what you are trying to communicate, and the confidence and the conviction shows in your communication. And while you’re doing that, don’t forget to smile every now and then.

6. For Effective Communication – Consider the Environment

During the research we did for this post, one common aspect across all the material we read was, the process of communication will be effective only when there is trust between the communicator and the audience. In other words, the environment for the communication needs to be conducive, and trust is the most important factor for the same. The kind of rapport you share with your audience is something that will determine it.
“Environment” as an aspect of communication also means to choose the right place, and the right time before initiating the process of communication. Ensure that your audience is placed in a way that they can be receptive to what you are saying. Else, the communication could be just one-sided, and any communication which is one-sided can safely be called ineffective.

The American Management Association (1961) explains the aspect of environment in the following manner –

“Meaning and intent are conveyed by more than words alone. Many other factors influence the overall impact of a communication and you must be sensitive to the total setting in which you communicate.

Consider, for example, your sense of timing – i.e. the circumstances under which you make an announcement or render a decision; the physical setting – whether you communicate in private, for example, or otherwise; the social climate that pervades work relationships within the company or a department and sets the tone of its communications; custom and past practice – the degree to which your communication conforms to, or departs from the expectations of your audience. Be constantly aware of the total setting in which you communicate. It is essential that communication adapts to its environment.”

Makes a great deal of sense, doesn’t it?

7. For Effective Communication – Be Open to Feedback

Always keep the feedback loop open. And always seek feedback during the process of communication. Don’t just seek feedback, do incorporate it in order to show that the feedback is indeed valued. Besides helping you improve, the feedback you receive also helps you know if the message you wanted to communicate has been received in the intended manner. You might have to devise suitable methods to be able to receive, evaluate and respond to feedback. Think about this as a preparatory step before you initiate the process of communication.
Being mindful, during your communication is also a crucial aspect in order to make it effective. How can you be mindful during the process of communication? Well, first of all by being a good listener. Secondly, by being empathetic.

Be prepared that no matter how well you put across the message to be communicated, in case it is an undesirable message for the receiver, it may not be taken kindly. In which case, you must be prepared to ‘respond’ and not ‘react’. This will be possible only when you incorporate a sense of empathy into the process of your communication.

Have more to say about the elements for effective communication? Write to us.

5 Huge Body Language Mistakes That Will Ruin Your Chances At Work

5 Huge Body Language Mistakes That Will Ruin Your Chances At Work

The importance of effective body language in our professional lives cannot be stressed enough. Whether you are at a job interview or are giving a speech or an important presentation at your workplace, if your body language is positive and effective, more than half your job is done. Remember that body language came before speech and 80% of the message that you “get” or “give” in a conversation is read through non-verbal communication and not the actual words. We have written about the tips for effectively employing this powerful tool at work, and now we give you the biggest body language mistakes that you need to watch out for and avoid at work:

Body Language Mistakes #1 – Avoiding Eye Contact:

When you avoid eye contact, it reflects your lack of confidence. Maintaining a steady eye contact with your audience helps build a rapport, and makes you appear less shifty. Remember to take breaks in between maintaining eye contact, lest you appear to be staring. Looking at someone constantly, for an extended period of time could be interpreted as aggressive, but mostly it would be interpreted as creepy!

Body Language Mistakes #2 – A Weak Handshake:

Handshakes are tricky things and need to be ‘just right’, not too weak, and not too firm. A weak handshake indicates lack of authority and confidence, while an overly firm handshake would come across as aggressive. The best handshakes are described as brief, yet ‘firm’. Also, maintaining eye contact while shaking hands is a must.

Body Language Mistakes #3 – Exaggerated Gestures:

Exaggerated gestures are a sign of you having failed at effective verbal articulation. Be in control of your gestures, avoid being too forceful and gesticulating too often. It takes away from the real weight of the matter and is extremely distracting for the onlooker(s).

Body Language Mistakes #4 – Bad Posture:

While it is important to feel comfortable, it is more important to not get so comfortable that you appear lazy, nonchalant and uninterested. When seated, avoid slouching which makes you look lazy or leaning forward which makes you look aggressive. Sit as upright as possible, with your hands on your lap. When standing, maintain a comfortable posture while drawing the complete possible length of your height, but at the same time taking care to not appear stiff.

Body Language Mistakes #5 – Fidgeting:

Constantly fidgeting or fixing your hair/clothes, et al., makes you appear as though you are anxious, nervous, overly self-conscious or distracted. The nervous energy would definitely be visible to the onlooker(s) and succeed in doing the very opposite of what you intended to, distract them instead of holding their attention.

Being aware and conscious of your body language, and working on it is an effort worth making. Be it your professional, or personal life, your body language is something that will always create a lasting impression. It reflects your maturity, professionalism and confidence and speaks a great deal about how you carry yourself. After all, it is the language you speak with, without even speaking a word. Like Peter Guber says,

“Language is a more recent technology. Your body language, your eyes, your energy will come through to your audience before you even start speaking.”

What do you think ? What are the other big body language blunders that we consciously or unconsciously make ? We would love to hear back from you.

And here is a bonus : We came across this powerful Ted Talk by Amy Cuddy, a renowned social psychologist.who shows how “power posing” – standing in a posture of confidence, even when we don’t feel confident — can affect testosterone and cortisol levels in the brain, and might even have an impact on our chances for success. Check out the high power and low power poses that she demonstrates in the video as well. She shows us that we can actually fake it to become it (yes, no kidding!). Bravo, Amy!


Body Language and its Importance – Make it Work for you at Work

Body Language and its Importance – Make it Work for you at Work

Whoever said the only way to speak and communicate is through words? Even when you don’t speak a single word, your body language often conveys everything you want to say, sometimes even more than what you would want to say. What exactly is body language? All non-verbal communication made consciously or sub consciously. All leadership gurus and soft skill trainers would swear by the importance of proper body language. But why is body language so important after all?

Body Language plays a crucial role in communication – It can either complement your speech, or be a complete distraction to what you are saying, hence reduce considerably the effectiveness of your communication. It is a proven fact that 7 % of what we want to express is communicated through the words we use, 38% from the tone we use and 55 % comes from our body language. Hence, how effective our communication is depends heavily on how effective our body language is.

Body Language can earn you friends, or enemies – Your body language can help you be approachable or it can earn you unwanted attention. While you may not even be aware of certain flaws in your body language and may be doing it at a subconscious level, it is always best to try and be conscious and make an effort of checking yourself when you feel you could communicate better.

Signs of Positive Body Language:

  • Smiling (Discretion necessary here depending on the seriousness of interaction :))
  • Eye contact
  • A perfect handshake – not the death grip, not flaccid either
  • Affirmative movements like nodding head when required and reaffirming smiles.
  • Using hands – Use your hands to help emphasize your words, but don’t use them to the extent of it appearing as though you are dancing!
  • Slow and clear speech
  • Your posture reflects your confidence or lack of it How you carry yourself, whether your posture is straight and upright or bent and slouched determine whether you are confident and interested or disinterested. Leaning forward slightly implies interest, a willingness to comprehend
  • Slowly nodding – Shows a positive interest / comprehension / validation.

Signs of Negative Body Language

  • Tapping fingers – Agitated, anxious, bored, calculating.
  • Resting your palm on your chin – Critical, cynical and negativity towards the receiver.
  • Nose-rubbing or nose-touching when giving a verbal response – A sign of doubt, dishonesty.
  • Rubbing around ears when giving a verbal response – Performed while winging an answer, commonly associated with ‘I don’t know’ type response.
  • Rubbing the back of your head or neck – May suggest a disinterest in the conversation.
  • Staring blankly at the floor – May suggest a disinterest in the conversation.
  • Rapidly nodding your head – May display impatience / eagerness to add something to the conversation.
  • Rubbing your collar – Nervousness.
  • Biting your fingernails – Nervousness.

Our body language is mostly governed by our subconscious mind. A great way to find out how exactly our body language is, is by filming ourselves. Self-assessment is one of the most constructive forms of assessment. Though, one needs to be oneself and not alert towards the presence of the camera. The best way to be perfect, as we always say, is by practicing!

Decoding body language through non-verbal cues is also the best way to understand what the person in front of you is actually trying to communicate. Here is a helpful infographic by blogger/illustrator Yumi Sakugawa that gives some very useful body language tips.

5 Simple Practices to Help You Achieve Mastery Over Communication Skills

5 Simple Practices to Help You Achieve Mastery Over Communication Skills

We are living in the Communication Age and communication skills can be the make or break factor for your professional success. The ability to articulate oneself clearly and effectively, both verbally and in writing, is of utmost importance, no matter what job you have or industry you work in. It is an art and like every other art, you need considerable and consistent practice to achieve mastery over communication skills.  As Brian Tracy said,

“Communication is a skill that you can learn. It’s like riding a bicycle or typing. If you’re willing to work at it, you can rapidly improve the quality of every part of your life.”

Here are five simple everyday practices that will bring a noticeable difference to your communication skills and help you achieve mastery over communication skills.

  1. Make eye-contact while speaking:

    One of the most important things about effective communication is to make eye contact while addressing someone, or a group. We all have been in the situation where we’ve mentally screamed at the person addressing us by going “hello, my eyes are here!” or been the other person who finds it much easier to speak when looking at an inanimate object (because that’s less intimidating). I remember, in my school, we were all taught to stare at the wall while speaking so that we don’t get nervous. Now I know why it was one of the worst things I learnt. But, like they say, it is never too late to unlearn and re-learn. When you maintain eye-contact with the person you are addressing, he/she feels like you are not only being attentive, but are also interested and right there with them, and not drifting off.

  2. Remember the name(s) and mention it:

    Remember the name of the person you are talking to, and end the conversation by mentioning it. For example, “Alright Philip, it was great talking to you”, or in the middle of your conversation, “so Philip, what do you think about this?” When you refer to them by their name, instead of using generic statements, it does make an impact and the person being addressed understands you were attentive, which is crucial.

  3. Avoid using ‘fillers’ at all cost:

    All of us tend to use syllables which may range from among the following – “umm”, “like”, “so…”, “uh”, “actually”, when we find ourselves running out of words. Even when we have plenty to say, we end up using these fillers, because we tend to get nervous. Be conscious to avoid using fillers, and the only way you get good at it is by practice!

  4. Listening is the key:

    Do not listen with an intention to retort but with the intent to understand. When you listen and analyze carefully what the other person is saying, you will be able to coherently form logical and rational sentences in your head while responding, instead of simply jumping to conclusions just so that you can make your point and have the last word.

  5. Be precise and specific:

    Do not beat around the bush. A great way to avoid that is to follow the “BRIEF” acronym, for both, written and verbal communication. BRIEF stands for – Background, Reason, Information, End and Follow up. This will ensure you are clear and concise, while communicated exactly what needs to be communicated, and doing so effectively.

Practice does make for perfect. Remember these 5 tips and try to implement them whenever you get an opportunity, even when you aren’t at work. Do not shy away from conversation, express yourself regardless of the fear that you may fumble and also read a lot, especially newspapers, or at the very least the editorials of newspapers. Read some of our other posts on achieving mastery over communication skills. Good communication skills – spoken or written can open doors you never even thought existed. So go ahead, outshine the competition. Get the edge. That is some food for thought 🙂