Elements of Effective Communication

George Bernard Shaw once said, “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that is has taken place.” People often say ‘I explained that.’ or ‘I told them…’ However, people don’t always take the time to check to see if the listener understood what they said.

Communication is much more than ‘I talk and you listen and you talk and I listen.’ In my opinion if you are an effective communicator, you listen while you speak and speak while listening. As a speaker, if you are listening to your audience, you will adjust what you are saying while talking. Your listener is talking to you non-verbally while you are speaking. The key is to pay attention. When the listener nods, smiles, frowns, or looks disengaged, the speaker must respond. Clarify your statement, re-explain what you are saying, or talk a little slower, louder or clearer. By responding to the non-verbal comments of your listener, you will be more likely to have a meaningful and productive conversation.

The basic characteristics of communication are broken into 3 parts: your words, the vocal qualities that accompany your words, and all your non-verbal behaviors. Words are only 7% of any message, but they must be understood. That means avoid any miscommunication; don’t use jargon or abbreviations when talking, writing or texting.

When speaking, the vocal properties of any message speak louder than the words. Could the listener hear you; did you speak loud enough? Could the listener understand you: did you enunciate clearly? What was your tone? If a speaker emphasizes or stresses one word versus another, the meaning of the statement can be interpreted differently. For example, “Tell ME what you want” versus “Tell me what YOU want” will send different messages.

It only takes 3 seconds to make a lasting first impression. Since more than half of what you say, you say non-verbally, first impressions are often the result of appearance, posture, gestures or facial expressions. Non-verbal communication occurs both during face to face interactions and when talking on the phone. People can tell if the person on the other end of the phone is smiling.

Warren Buffet said if you hone your communication skills you can increase your life long earning by 50%. Being an effective communicator isn’t an innate skill, it’s something that needs to be practiced and developed. People are not born great orators, but they can become great communicators by practicing.