How to Become an Effective Communicator
Updated March 10, 2023
Whether in your personal or professional life, interactions with others can form a basis for success. To build strong relationships, it is important to be an effective communicator. Communication can include verbal skills such as speech and nonverbal cues like posture and facial expression.
In this article, we'll discuss why effective communication is important and the best practice for becoming an effective communicator.
What is an effective communicator?
An effective communicator is someone who conveys their message thoroughly and is receptive and responsive to others' input. Those who are strong communicators speak in a clear, direct manner, using easily understood language. They are typically assertive with their feelings and viewpoints, but they are also open to suggestions from others. When listening, effective communicators make eye contact and use affirmative language like "I hear you" or "I understand your concerns."
Some common traits of effective communicators include:
Contributes actively to their workplace: Effective communicators are likely central to a business's operations. These professionals know the company's objectives and are adept at communicating with their colleagues. They also know how to listen to others and take direction as needed.
Are trusted by others: Since effective communicators speak honestly and listen closely, they are typically among the first individuals' others go to for advice. It can be easier to speak to someone openly when you know your input matters.
Express themselves freely: Individuals with effective communication skills understand the importance of being direct with their opinions or ideas. During important projects at work, for instance, an effective communicator will say when they think their team has a solid plan or if something needs to be adjusted. However, they make sure to remain assertive and respectful if they disagree with others.
Have their own style of communication: Part of being an effective communicator is having your input be memorable. For example, when your communications are unique, others may be more likely to remember your ideas when they need another perspective. Your style of communication can include the inflections in your speech, non-verbal cues, and the use of humor or personal stories.
Can make complex topics simple: When communicating complex ideas, effective communicators should know how to break down information in a way that most people can understand. A literature professor, for example, should be able to explain a poem for a class of students who do not regularly read poetry. A marketing manager may use effective communication to explain search engine optimization to stakeholders who aren't familiar with driving web traffic.
Why is effective communication important?
Effective communication can help personal and professional relationships function more cooperatively and productively. When you know how to make your points clear and understand the input of others, you will probably be a move valued part of a team. Workplace teams who can speak and listen effectively are better equipped to further the company's goals while maintaining strong relationships.
How to be an effective communicator
Being an effective communicator requires continuous practice. You can develop your communication skills by following these steps:
Know your purpose
Identify your audience
Have a plan
Use appropriate body language
1. Know your purpose
There are many types of speech, including persuasive, informative, instructive and others. Knowing what you hope to accomplish in communication can help you plan your strategy. If you hope to inform your audience, for instance, you may include statistics to give your message credibility. A persuasive speech may include more emotional appeals to help your audience identify with your message.
2. Identify your audience
It is also important to know who you're presenting to so you can make effective decisions for your communication. For instance, if you're a salesperson pitching a new product to a long-time client, you can probably be more casual and humorous than if you were a doctor presenting research findings at a medical conference. Many factors can affect the way you structure your communication, including the audience's age, professional statuses such as if they're your supervisor, whether you hope to sell them something and others.
3. Have a plan
To communicate in a way that engages your audience, it is beneficial to plan your input in advance. If you're a city planner pitching an idea for a new park, for instance, you should know where the park will be located, how the city can pay for it and other important points. You should also consider any possible objections your audience may have and prepare responses in advance. As a city planner proposing a new park, you might consider whether citizens will think other uses of funds are more appropriate, and come up with ways to address their concerns.
4. Listen actively
Active listeners are able to communicate their interest in what the speaker is saying. This can include maintaining an upright posture and eye contact and keeping other movements to a minimum. To demonstrate interest, you should also periodically let the other participant know that you understand what they're saying. In addition to verbal confirmation, you can also ask clarifying questions like "What would you like to happen now," or "How can I help you with your plan?"
5. Speak clearly
Speaking clearly includes a variety of factors, such as tone, volume and pacing. Make sure your tone is appropriate to the audience, for instance, being formal with a board of directors and casual with a group of friends. If you're speaking to a group in a large room, a loud volume is likely most appropriate. Additionally, ensure you're speaking at a pace that listeners can follow.
6. Use appropriate body language
Whether you're sitting or standing, keeping an upright posture conveys active listening. If you're in a small group, maintain eye contact so the speaker knows you're invested in the conversation. In any size group, keep distractions to a minimum, such as only looking at your phone in the case of an emergency.
7. Be approachable
In addition to practicing their skills within conversations, effective communicators should give the impression that they invite more communication. In a workplace setting, effective communicators are eager to hear their colleagues' input and will likely have an open-door policy or otherwise make it a priority to converse with others. When individuals know their viewpoints are valued and welcomed, they should be more likely to approach you with any concerns or ideas.
What to avoid to be a more effective communicator
Once you know the basic components of being an effective communicator, it can also help to know what to avoid. Here are some common issues to be aware of when working toward being a more effective communicator:
Rushed or slow pacing: An important part of effective communication is presenting your information in a way that the audience or another party can easily follow. When you speak too slowly, your listeners may become impatient. Rushed speech might not give your listeners time to process your message. Instead, maintain an even pace so your audience has enough time to process your information and come up with a question or statement in response.
Uncontrolled emotion: When you're speaking about something you're passionate about, it can be easy to let your emotions affect your communication. It is best to avoid showing anger, disappointment or others when you're communicating. When you can present your ideas objectively, it can be easier for your audience to think of how your input applies to them and how they can effectively respond.
Loss of focus: Time is valuable, and discussing off-topic issues can detract from the efficacy of your communication. For instance, if you begin a conversation with your team about a new construction plan, you will want to avoid discussing anything not directly related to completing the project. Maintaining a solid focus when you communicate can help your listeners understand your expectations for their actions after the discussion. When you are the listener in the scenario, losing focus may communicate to the speaker that you aren't interested in what they're saying. To foster a strong relationship, ensure they understand their input is important by maintaining eye contact and responding occasionally with phrases like "I see your point" or "Yes, I understand."
Inconsistency: For you to be an effective communicator, make sure that you maintain your position as consistently as possible. For instance, if you're a supervisor, being consistent may include sticking to the same management style for the duration of your role.
Interrupting: Effective communicators can read a situation to know when to respond. It is important to let other conversation participants convey all of their thoughts before you offer yours. This can show the other party that you are considering their ideas and the best way to fulfill their expectations for how to proceed after the discussion.
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