We accomplish goals through effective communication. Although we might achieve outstanding results through other skills, they usually include a communication component. Typically, when things go wrong in business, they involve a breakdown in communication.
Effective communication is the basic process we need to master to accomplish goals through others. Great managers and leaders know not only what to say but, just as important, what not to say.
What Makes Communication Effective?
Effective communication—written or verbal—is defined by clarity, length, and completeness. It’s lengthy enough to completely make the point but not so lengthy that the meaning is lost. This leads to the three C’s of great communication: clear, concise, and complete.
Your communication should be so clear that anyone who reads or hears what you say or write will understand it. Unclear communication is usually the result of the communicator making poor assumptions about what the other person knows about the subject, having no real point, or not providing a logical flow to the message. Consider the following for making your communication clear:
- Focus on the recipient’s needs. When communicating a message, you need to know the recipient well enough that your message targets exactly what the person needs from the communication. If you don’t know the other person well, ask a few questions to gain that understanding. If that isn’t possible, then assume the person knows little about what you are trying to communicate and make your message clear and to the point.
- Have a point. Have a reason for your communication, something you want to say to the recipient. If you don’t have a real point, then don’t say anything.
- Flow matters. Effective communication has a logical flow, which means there is a beginning, middle, and end. Bouncing around in a communication confuses the other person.
Too many words cause misunderstanding and confusion—the shorter the better. Brevity brings clarity to your message and ensures the recipient will stay engaged long enough to get the point. Abraham Lincoln once said that a great speech has an excellent beginning, a strong conclusion, and short distance between those two. The Gettysburg address was only 272 words long, and Lincoln gave it in just over two minutes. Make your messages concise by:
- Editing – Reread your written communication to cut out unnecessary words. Eliminate unnecessary words from verbal communication by practicing ahead of time.
- Keeping it simple – The simplest answer or message is best. Trying to sound sophisticated by adding unnecessary words clouds your message.
- Placing your key point at the beginning – Tell the recipient the point of your communication soon as possible. For example, if you are sending an email, put the key point or what you want the receiver to do in the first sentence.
Your message needs to be complete enough to meet the recipient’s needs. Balance the complete quality of a communication with conciseness. Be concise but complete enough that the recipient understands the point. Make your message complete by:
- Considering the recipient’s perspective – Think about what you are writing or saying from the recipient’s perspective. Providing the person with all necessary information doesn’t mean going beyond that level, which will render your message too long. More isn’t necessarily better.
- Making no assumptions – Avoid assuming your recipient knows something about what you are communicating. If possible, ask a few questions up front to ensure that your message is complete and targets the person’s needs.
- Reviewing – For written communication, review it a few times before finalizing it to ensure it’s complete. If it’s verbal communication, try writing it before providing it. You can review what you wrote and ensure your message is complete.
Effective communication is powerful! The fast-paced business environment can cause us to communicate something poorly or, worse, fail to communicate anything. Ensuring that your communication is clear, concise, and complete will help make your communication valuable to the recipient. This will result in a more productive work environment.