Employers and recruiters report the same thing. Effective communication is one of the hardest skills to find among employees. Nonetheless, it’s crucial in a business environment to be able to communicate your point clearly. This is true between business partners, but mostly directly with customers. In this short article, we are going to go over 5 tips that are going to help you to be effective and clear in your communication.
Concrete and Simple
“Simplicity boils down to two steps: Identify the essential. Eliminate the rest.” (Leo Babauta)
Ask yourself: What is the main thing I want to communicate? How can I communicate it effectively for my listeners? In what way is this beneficial for them? How will this be helpful for them as well as for me? These questions are going to create clarity in your own thoughts. Take time to polish your ideas. Strip them down to their core message. This can prove to be quite difficult. You could write down your idea on a piece of paper to see it clearly and materialize it, at least in a written form. You should also try mind-mapping.
Usually, the listener misunderstanding an idea is due to the speaker’s fault. Make sense out of the idea for yourself first. Then you can start making sense to others.
This can prove to be harder than it looks because we all have a so-called “curse of knowledge”. When you’re an expert in a subject, you forget to see specific details and start to see recurring patterns instead. On the other hand, a person with no knowledge of the topic doesn’t know these patterns and connections yet. To be specific and simple we must in some sense “unlearn” our knowledge and focus on the simple truths which can connect us with our listeners.
Don’t assume; Know your audience
Far too often we assume that if somebody doesn’t understand what we’re telling them, they are stupid or close-minded. That is rarely the case. We should first understand where is the other person coming from. It’s crucial to understand, that every person has his own view of everything.
Communicating is like an encounter of two worlds. We need to be careful to make it useful and not create a head-on collision.
The key to clear communication is not just knowing the subject itself, but understanding our audience. We fail to communicate clearly if we don’t know the listener.
We need to ask ourselves:
- What does this person know about the subject?
- What doesn’t he know about it?
- What details do I need to include to make the subject easy for them to understand?
and more importantly:
- What details can I leave out to make it easy for them to understand?
Let’s say that you’re a professor in a given field of study. You use a whole different vocabulary and expressions with your colleagues than the students that you teach. Why is that? Because you know that most of your students wouldn’t understand the professional terminology. You take into account the knowledge of your listeners.
You’ve experienced it. Talking with someone who is constantly interrupting you. Don’t be that person! When people tell you their thoughts and feelings, listen. And do it actively. This means paying attention, and really trying to understand the point the other side tries to make. That’s not the time to be thinking about your own arguments, but to listen to theirs. Ideally you should wait for a minimum of 3–5 seconds after a person seems to be finished with talking because he might not be. You could also miss some crucial detail, that he’s trying to communicate towards you. You would be surprised how much people will talk if you let them. After taking a pause you could use summarizing questions like the following.
“If I understand correctly, your point is …”
This way your speaking partner’s arguments are repeated loudly. They could agree with your interpretation of their argument, or make their point even clearer. This can prevent possible misunderstandings. Factual and effective conversation is only possible in an understanding environment.
Examples for association
Real-world examples can help tremendously with getting your idea across. When talking about abstract concepts, we lose the sense of real comparisons between different ideas. We should use metaphors and comparisons when communicating.
“X is something like …”
For associations consider the knowledge and background of the listener. Take into account the person’s interests, upbringing, job and the environment in which he lives. This way we can tap into the listener’s already formed associations, and build on top of that.
Take for example I want to explain the fruit orange to someone who is familiar only with the lemon. I could explain the latter as: “It’s like a big lemon in orange color.”
Be visual in your speech
They say a picture is worth 1000 words. Sight is our most important sense. Speech, the main form of verbal communication, is though only one sense. We don’t need to be limited to verbal communication when trying to make sense. If it is possible, use pictures.
Take for example the following comparison. We will try to explain it in 3 different ways.
- The size of the moon is 27% of the size of the Earth.
What does that look like? Is the percentage descriptive enough?
- Imagine the Earth as a football. In that case, the moon would be a tennis ball.
With this association, the comparison becomes more alive. There could be still some misunderstanding, as everyone has slightly different concepts of these objects. What kind of football ball are we talking about? Now let’s look at the third.
- Look at this picture.
There are no misunderstandings now.
Which one of the 3 explanations is the easiest to understand and the most memorable? The one with visual representation. Our visual capacity is the strongest from our senses, so try to use it in your communication as well. The more senses we use during conversations, the more likely they will understand us.
Communication is part of our everyday life. It is present in businesses, family life, relationships. To be good at it means to be successful in all areas of life. It is that crucial. Clear communication happens much sooner before we even open our mouths. It begins with listening, knowing others, understanding ourselves. And make sure to be open-minded, most of the time you can be wrong in your ideas.
A personal recommendation on books with effective and practical tips on communication: