There isn’t a person walking this earth that cannot improve his or her effectiveness when communicating. Even phenomenal writers and speakers can become better if they choose to focus on it. I have noticed that the most influential leaders within an organization are also some of the best communicators.
Did you notice that I did not say the leaders with the highest title?
Organizational rank and conveying your ideas in an impactful way have nothing to do with one another. I have met countless executives who were unable to have a concise conversation about the weather or what they did the previous weekend. Please don’t be one of these people. If you are one of these people, make a strong effort to implement the points that I am going to discuss in this blog post. They will only help you to improve.
I enjoy writing and talking, but I believe conveying the message that you intend to is more difficult in written form. Without body language, vocal tone, and inflection it leaves an openness for interpretation. Let’s explore my checklist for effective communication.
1. Know your audience.
Would you have the same conversation at a college frat party that you would at a 5-year-old’s birthday party? If so, don’t waste your time asking me if you can babysit my kids. I hope you enjoyed the chuckle, but I think that you see my point as well. You must know your audience so you can appropriately select your language, phrasing, and style of speaking or writing. There is definitely not a standard approach that works for all people in all situations. There is a lot of common sense that comes into play here, but you may have heard that this is not as common as it once was.
Your audience will also dictate how casual or formal you should be in your delivery. Getting this wrong may cause the audience to tune out right away and your credibility may suffer as well. It pays to put a little work in to learn about your audience before attempting to communicate with them if you don’t know them beforehand.
2. Use simple and direct language.
It’s almost blasphemy that I even wrote this because I am the king of playing with words and inserting humor into every scenario that I can. Even when I am having fun, I focus on communicating in such a way that people know what I am saying. Adults do not have great attention spans, so it can be advantageous to break up speech or text into smaller thoughts or points. It’s easier to digest and retain from the standpoint of the people consuming the content.
No one will be impressed by your dramatic display of vocabulary and clever phrasing though. In fact, it is more likely that your audience will just get bored, distracted, and ultimately focused on the various technological distractions in front of them. The original intent of your message can get diluted in the boredom and the confusion, so it is in your best interest to avoid using complicated language.
3. Check for understanding.
The only way to ensure that your message was received correctly is to check for the understanding of your audience. There are a few ways to do this and it is based on the idea of asking your audience to explain what they heard back to you. It is important to point out that these questions need to be open-ended and not simple “yes” or “no” responses. This allows you to determine if you are on the same wavelength or not. With a little practice, you can find several different approaches that accomplish this without even making it obvious.
If you try this and just get blank stares, you will know that there is a very real breakdown in communication. It is all your fault too. I am being overly harsh for comedic purposes, but there is some truth in this too. If you realize that your approach isn’t working, simply ask for feedback and adjust accordingly.
4. Communicate with energy and charisma.
If you have no energy and you appear to have no belief in what you are saying, you are doomed. This will come through in your writing and especially in your speaking. If you don’t care, no one else will either. It can be very challenging to retain energy and charisma if the information does not excite you. You have got to get outside of your own head and find a way to find an opportunity to convey the positive points in your message. This is very easy to do about a topic or subject matter that you are familiar with and passionate about.
I am sure that you have seen the difference between the fantastic speaker and the disengaged one all from the perspective of the audience. Keep this visual in your mind and it will serve you well by keeping you on the right path. If you simply cannot find a way to deliver the message with energy and charisma, let someone else who can do it.
5. Evaluate the topic relevancy.
Does the message that you are trying to share have any real impact on the audience? Will they have a reason to care about what you are saying? If you answered “no” twice in a row, then we have a major problem. You should respect the time of others and your own, so the topic relevancy consideration is a courteous one. We live in busy times and everyone has a packed schedule. Before sending an email or engaging a group, consider “what’s in it for them” referring to your listeners or readers.
Give these checklist items a chance in your own communication flow and see if they help you to become a more effective communicator. As always, I would love to hear your feedback in the comments!