There are several techniques for effective communication – however, here we show you the most effective communication skills we have found over the years with the following three characteristics: Simple, practical, and powerful.
Table of contents:
1) Two sides of the same coin
2) Two-person situations
3) Open versus closed environments
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1) Two Sides of the Same Coin
Before moving on to specific techniques for effective communication, let’s take a look at two of the most important principles in effective communication.
It is the sender’s responsibility to make sure the communication is effective:
This principle is more about awareness than about technique.
In the communication process there are always two players: The sender (the person who sends the message) and the receiver (the person who receives the message).
Looking at this communication process from the perspective of what really gets communicated; what actually matters – what actually is communicated – is what the receiver hears, not what the sender says. In other words, the communication is receiver-based.
Hence, it is the sender’s responsibility to make sure the receiver receives the exact message the sender actually meant; it is the sender’s responsibility to ensure that the communication process is effective.
Let’s use an example to illustrate this point. If you send an email with an important message, and you assume that the receiver (or receivers) will understand your message, you are not being an effective communicator because you are not taking your responsibility in this communication process.
The only way to ensure that your message was understood as you meant it, it is by asking for feedback – otherwise you have no means to check for accurate communication. You could say something along these lines:
“I’m not sure I made myself clear; could you repeat in your own words what you understood?”
Whenever you play the role of the sender in any communication process, it is your responsibility to make sure the communication is effective.
If you use this awareness in your everyday activities, you will have at your disposal one of the most powerful techniques for effective communication.
Now, let’s take a look at the other side of the coin:
Seek to understand before being understood:
You might’ve heard about Stephen R. Covey’s “The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People” (Free Press, New York, NY: 1989).
The name of his fifth habit is: “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.”
Whenever you find yourself inside the communication process, Covey suggests to always convey the following words to the person you are communicating with:
“Please allow me to listen to you first, I understand what you are saying is …”
In one word: “Listen with the intent to understand.”
Call them what you will: Techniques for effective communication, effective communication skills, communication principles, etc., but always use the two sides of the same coin, and you will excel in all your communication endeavors.
The two sides of the same coin are:Communication is the sender’s responsibilitySeek to understand before being understood
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2) Two-Person Situations
Insightful questions are certainly great techniques for effective communication; however, not all questions have the same degree of usefulness.
There are two types of questions which executives all over the managerial spectrum use in an unconscious way: Guiding questions and hypothetical questions.
Guiding questions is when you literally put the answer in the candidate’s mouth. For example: “I am sure you know about …, don’t you?”
Hypothetical questions is when you ask the candidate what she would do in a hypothetical situation. For example: “What would you do if …?”
Both types of questions are not only useless and a waste of time, but potentially dangerous, because they may lead you to take answers (with no real back up) as facts.
Use them only if you know what you are doing, otherwise, stay away from them.
Indian Talking Stick:
This is one of the great techniques for effective communication when people begin to have trouble listening to and understanding each other.
Its source is from a Stephen R. Covey’s interview – we don’t know if this communication technique is written in one of his books.
“The idea is this, only the one who as the talking stick can speak and all you can do is listen until you can restate, that’s the only time that you can speak, when you can restate that person’s point to his or her satisfaction.
“As soon as the other person feels understood, then it is your turn.
“And you get the talking stick and the other person cannot speak except to listen, to emphasize and to restate your point.
“Now what begins to happen is that in the initial stages where people are talking back and forth, they’re often defensive and protective.
“They don’t listen emphatically, but because they don’t get the talking stick until they do listen emphatically, they genuinely try to do that.
“And then you see the energy changing from negative and defensiveness to positive and creativeness, and you literally see new solutions emerge, what I call third alternative solutions that are truly synergistic, meaning the whole is greater than the sum of the parts.”
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3) Open versus Closed Environments
This is another of the great concepts among the techniques for effective communication.
The characteristics of an open communication environment typically are:There is trust to express different opinions and disagreementsAll ideas are seriously consideredCommunication flows in all directionsEtc.
On the contrary, the characteristics of a closed communication environment are:People fear to express what they really thinkOne-way and top-down communicationThere is lack of true dialogueEtc.
Both environments represented in a continuum look like this, where the “I” represents the middle point between the two extremes:
Closed ––––––––––––––––––––I–––––––––––––––––––– Open
Not in a situation where the sense of urgency is extremely high – but under normal circumstances – an organization with an open communication environment tends to perform better than an organization with a closed environment.
In other words, in terms of a communication environment, you want your communication with all the people you interact with, within your team, and within your entire organization, to lean towards the right side of this continuum, you want it to be en open communication environment.
But, is it? techniques for effective communication
For instance, if your team is made up by your direct reports and yourself, and assuming your team has a rather closed communication environment; whose responsibility is it to move the needle towards the right side if this continuum? Is it the responsibility of your direct reports, or is it yours as their boss?
You get paid to manage and to lead your team; hence, it is your responsibility to create an open communication environment within the team you lead.
Now, what can you do to move the needle towards the right side of this continuum? techniques for effective communication
To find out what you must do in order to create a truly open communication environment within your team, check out our
communication for teams
page, where you will see five specific techniques to build effective communication within a team.
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