The ability to listen closely and articulate ideas effectively
WHAT IS IT?
Effective communication occurs when one person transmits a message that can be accurately understood by those who are listening. To understand what another person is saying is at the heart of meaningful dialog. Only once one person understands the message can he or she can respond appropriately.
WHY IS IT IMPORTANT?
Communication is the lifeblood of attorney-client relationships and successful legal practice. Poor communication can cause inefficiency, distrust, or frustration. What happens when an attorney doesn’t communicate clearly the status of a client’s particular case, and then the client expects a different time frame? Everyone is frustrated and, worse yet, the client’s view of the firm is compromised. Effective communication is a prerequisite for client loyalty and effective representation.
- Ask Questions
First of all, focus on becoming a better listener. We must seek first to understand before focusing on being understood. To improve our listening ability, we can develop two skills: asking probing questions and paraphrasing. Probing questions are open-ended questions that help us understand what another person is saying. We can ask, “Will you tell me more about how you arrived at that opinion?” or “What makes you think so?” Another skill is to paraphrase what we think we’ve heard. “So, you think that you should have the needed information by Tuesday? Am I hearing you correctly?” Once you’ve arrived at an accurate understanding, you can respond appropriately. The quality of communication is enhanced.
- Provide Support for Your Suggestions
Second, we need to be able to express our opinions and give advice with confidence. To effectively share our ideas, show clients that we are experts in the field, and build credibility with our co-workers, we should have hard data or compelling evidence that supports our position. Another way to make a persuasive argument is to use anecdotes or examples of other cases to make your point. Both methods can be effective but the bottom line is to provide support for your ideas when you are communicating them to other people.
- Adapt Your Style
Finally, we need to understand our audience in order to communicate effectively. Presenting to single mom worried about her children might look different than presenting to a businessman who was in a car wreck. Similarly, communicating with a senior-attorney or a new employee may require a different set of conversational skills. Observe your audience, consider their position and preferences, and adapt your content, tone and style based upon what is most appropriate.