Tips for effective communication

The previous post is all about theoretical knowledge of communication. In this post, I will make it more practical by suggesting tips that can be used to improve the effectiveness of communication. The tips will be categorized into 4 sections: conversation, listening, writing and emails.

Communication

Tips for better conversation
  • Think before you speak: Some people response very quickly to other’s saying or questions, thinking that it would make them look smart. However,  a careful silence moment for preparation can make us sound more intelligent and prevent mistakes.
  • Be receptive to new ideas: By saying “Tell me more” instead of “That’s stupid” when hearing something that you do not agree to can help you to get more information and move the conversation forward.
  • Ask questions: This show that you are interested in the topic.
  • Listen as much, if not more, than you speak: You can not learn from the conversation if you are the only one who speak.
  • Use eye contact: Eye contact shows that you are engaged in the conversation. It should be noted that for some cultures, it is rude to maintain eye contact with the speakers. For other cultures, such as in the US, maintaining eye contact shows that you are a trustworthy person.
  • Mirror the other person:  Repeat what the other say in your own words “So you mean that …”.
  • Have an exit strategy: Sometimes, good conversation is a brief one, leaving others wanting more.
Tips for active listening:
  • Pay attention: This can be done by keeping eye contact with the speaker and avoiding having distracted thoughts. Research also shows that people listen more effectively when they do nothing else at the same time. So no multitasking while listening, including taking note. In addition, the body language of the speaker should also be checked to see if it actually matches with the message or not. If they do not match, the message should be confirmed with the speaker.
  • Show that you are listening: This can be done by nodding occasionally or by other facial expressions such as smiling. In addition, such small verbal comments as “Uh…”, “Yes…” should be used to encourage the speaker.
  • Provide feedback: This can be done by asking questions or reflecting what has been said by paraphrasing.
  • Defer judgment: Preparing for counter arguments while listening is strongly not recommended. This is also consistent with the first tip about no multitasking while listening. In addition, it is very important not to interrupt the speakers with counter arguments. Interrupting can be offensive and aggressive in some situations.
  • Silence can be a beautiful thing: It is totally fine to have a moment of silence for some preparation before you start your turn to speak.
Tips for effective writing:
  • Picture the receiver in your mind before you begin to write: This can help you to select the words and expressions that can be understood by the readers.
  • Choose simple words: For words that have the same meaning, simpler one should be used. For example, “car” should be used instead of “automobile”.
  • Be polite: It is always good to be polite in your writing.
  • Trim redundant words or phrases: “Having thus explored our first option, I would now like to begin to explore the second option that may be open to us.” should be replaced by “After considering option 1, I would like to look at option 2”.
  • Choose strong, active verbs: Instead of writing “It would seem to me that we might…”, “I suggest…” should be used.
Tips for emails:
  • Be concise: The shorter the email is, the better it is. It is also a good practice to have only one topic for one email.
  • Communicate “action steps” first, not last: Make the request in the first line (or even in the subject) of the email. Repeat the request again at the end if the email is long.
  • Number the questions or ideas: When there are multiple questions or ideas in the email, they should be numbered. This can help the recipients to address those questions or ideas more quickly in their replies.
  • Include deadlines: If the request in the email has a deadline, it should also be included in the email.
  • Use “FYI” for emails that have no actionable information: This is more convenient for the recipients to prioritize their emails.
  • Tell them that you will get to it later: This can minimize the anxiety of the senders and prevent them from sending the email again.
  • Avoid sending “Thanks!” emails: This can be arguable. Some people prefer receiving replied email with just the word “Thanks!” but for some people, this type of email is quite spammy because it has no value information.
  • Check before “Reply All”: This is to avoid sending sensitive information to some recipients who should not receive it or spamming unrelated recipients with irrelevant information.
References:

Bruno Kahne . (2008). Lessons of Silence. Available: http://www.strategy-business.com/article/li00076. Last accessed 26th Nov 2012.

Jocelyn K. Glei. (2010). Email Etiquette for the Super-Busy. Available: http://99u.com/tips/6975/Email-Etiquette-for-the-Super-Busy. Last accessed 26th Nov 2012.

Mind Tools. (2012). Active Listening: Hear What People are Really Saying. Available: http://www.mindtools.com/CommSkll/ActiveListening.htm. Last accessed 26th Nov 2012.

Talya Bauer and Berrin Erdogan (2009). Organizational Behavior. USA: Flat World Knowledge, Inc.

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