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. Once one person understands the message, he or she can respond appropriately.
Why is it important?
Communication is the lifeblood of teams, departments, and organizations. Poor communication often causes inefficiency and frustrations. What happens when a manager doesn’t communicate clear expectations to an employee and then gets frustrated when the employee doesn’t deliver? Everyone is frustrated and, worse yet, the task was never completed and the organization suffers as well. Effective communication at the individual, team, and corporate level is a prerequisite for success.
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 evidence are you using to draw that conclusion?” Another skill is to paraphrase what we think we’ve heard. “So, you think we should change our marketing strategy and only pursue potential customers that have over $50 million in sales? 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 assert our own ideas with confidence. To build our courage and effectively share our ideas with others, we should also have hard data or compelling evidence that supports our position. Another way to make a persuasive argument is to use anecdotes or case studies to make our 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 a board of directors might need a different communication style than sharing ideas with your team. Observe your audience, consider their position and preferences, and adapt your content, tone and style based upon what is most appropriate.