A Key to Success: Effective Communication

Why should a company provide effective communication training to staff? The reason is ineffective communication can be a business’s biggest downfall. It affects productivity, creativity, workplace relationships, and customer satisfaction. At least half of a person’s work day is spent communicating with colleagues, clients or customers for a variety of reasons. Communication comes in various forms; face to face, on the phone, or in writing. The key is to ensure all messages are clearly delivered. When a verbal, non-verbal or written communication is misunderstood or misinterpreted, it can impact the company’s bottom line.

It has been said that poor communication within an organization can become the organization’s biggest problem. Lee Iacocca said, “We can have brilliant ideas, but if we can’t get them across, your ideas won’t get you anywhere.” Sending a clear message is more than just deciding ‘what you’re going to say.’ The words are a small but important part of any message. Did the listener understand what you said? Did the speaker use company jargon?

Gestures, posture and facial expressions also cause messages to be misunderstood. Over half of what is said is sent non-verbally. If there is a mismatch between verbal and non-verbal communication, the listener may receive an unintended message. When an employee is asked to ‘please sit down’ as he/she enters the boss’s office, the words are wrapped around tone, volume, and non-verbal communication. The message can be positive, when paired with a smile and positive hand gestures or negative based on tone, volume, and gestures. Non-verbal communication often sets the tone of any meeting long before a word is uttered.

It takes only 3 seconds to make a first impression. The key is to make it a great lasting first impression. Your client, customer or patient’s first impression begins with their first phone call or in-person contact with your business. Were they greeted with sincerity and warmth? Was the person answering the phone or greeting them smiling? Was the person multi-tasking? Eye contact, a smile, and a handshake go a long way in sending a warm, welcoming greeting. As a company, you don’t want to lose a potential customer, client or patient because their first 3-second connection with your company wasn’t welcoming.

All employees should understand the importance of being an effective communicator. Since communication is a two-way process, listening and speaking are equally important parts of that process. Being an effective listener is as important as being an effective speaker. How many times have you heard someone say; “You weren’t listening to what I said.” Or “I told you that 2 weeks ago!” Poor listening can damage professional relationships.

People who understand the power of effective communication are more likely to have meaningful conversations. Those conversations can be the springboard to a company’s growth and expansion. Deep discussions are often the catalyst for new ideas and products and may lead to the development of effective and efficient policies and procedures. Advancing and honing a staff’s communication skills and strategies is another tool in building a successful business.

Effective Communication is Linked to Effective Health Care

Research indicates improving communication skills will improve the quality of patient care, patient safety and patient satisfaction as well as improve workplace relationships, productivity and efficiency. Many health care providers, although they are knowledgeable, seem to lack great communication skills. Many people change doctors, not because of the quality of care they received, but because of the staff or doctor’s poor communication skills. The doctor didn’t listen to them. The nurse was rude and curt. The receptionist kept them on hold. Many law suits related to medical error are filed due to ineffective communication.

Effective communication training can and will improve health care services. Being a great communicator isn’t an innate skill; it takes a lot of practice. Most people think of communication as simply ‘I talk and you listen’ and then ‘you talk and I listen.’ Communication goes much deeper than that. When doctors, nurses or support staff personnel are talking, they need to be listening to how the patient is taking in the information. Is the patient looking dazed? Is the patient looking confused? Scared? Stressed? The patient is actually talking while listening to the health care provider; sending non-verbal messages.

In the late 1960’s Albert Mehrabian, a psychologist and professor emeritus at UCLA, statistically concluded that only 7% of a message is the words, 38% is the vocal aspects that allow the words to be heard and 55% are the non-verbal behaviors of the speaker and listener. What isn’t said can be much more powerful than what is said. When the words and actions don’t match, usually the message communicated is the message being delivered non-verbally. “I am really glad we are having this conversation.” The words themselves send a positive message. However, if the words are paired with lack of eye contact and closed body gestures, the words are not credible and the listener gets the opposite message.

Effective communication is what builds trust between health care providers and patients. For that reason, it is important all health care providers hone their communication skills. Their words need to be clearly understood by the patient. Many health care providers fail at this level because they use terms and jargon the patient doesn’t understand. They don’t realize a patient’s health literacy level may be as much as 50% lower than their actual literacy level. A well-educated and literate individual may not understand the medical information being presented. In addition, the patient’s stress level and anxiety also impairs his/her ability to process what is being said.

About 1/3 of medically based law suits are related to malpractice. They are usually the direct result of miscommunication or ineffective communication. Effective Communication means being an active and reflective  listener. Is the health care provider actively listening when gathering information or taking a medical history? Is the provider checking for understanding when giving instructions regarding medical procedures or when explaining how to take a medication? Quality health care services are only delivered when all members of the health care team are Effective Communicators. 

Effective Communication Builds Patient Trust


Impacts Patient Care

Impacts Patient Safety

Impacts Patient Satisfaction

The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.

George Bernard Shaw

  7 % Verbal

  • Words are patient friendly
  • Avoid jargon, abbreviations
  • Explain medical terminology
  • Maintain cultural sensitivity

38 % Vocal

  • Enunciation
  • Tone
  •  Volume
  •  Rate
  • Pacing/Pauses
  • Wait time

55 % Non-Verbal  

  • Eye Contact
  • Smile
  • Other Facial Expressions
  • Posture
  • Gestures
  • Overall Appearance


  • Was the message received?
  • Was the message understood?
  • Did you repeat what the patient said?
  • Did you paraphrase what the patient?
  • Did you ask open-ended questions?


  “I’ve learned that people (the patient) will forget what you said

People (the patient) will forget what you did

But people (the patient) will never forget how you made them feel.”

Maya Angelou