Whether you are a leader, follower, neither, or something in between, communication is an essential part of life. You communicate with your spouse, people at the store, your children, friends, coworkers, neighbors, employees, and many others. Communication is a constant part of life. In this post, we are going to discuss what most people forget about effective communication!
Your communication with others will have a positive or negative impact on your life. It can lead to you accomplishing your goals and dreams or frustration and anger.
Let’s Learn About Effective Communication!
What’s important is knowing how to effectively communicate with each person. To be an effective communicator, we will focus on why you should know your audience, appropriate methods of communication, communication breakdowns, and the importance of listening.
Why You Should Know Your Audience
To understand why you should know your audience, here are questions you can ask.
Who is your audience?
Your audience is the person or group of people you are speaking with or directing your communication towards. When you talk to your significant other, he/she is your audience. While you speak to a large group, they are your audience. When you write an email or letter, the recipient is your audience.
Why should you know your audience?
To answer this question, let’s consider the following questions. Have you ever gone to a store to learn about a product and the store representative spoke to you as if you didn’t know anything about their product when you actually knew a lot about it? Or, have you spoken to someone that acted as though you knew exactly what they were talking about, but you didn’t have a clue? If you have experienced either of these situations, the person speaking to you failed to know their target audience before opening their mouth.
Find out all you can about your audience before you communicate with them. This is key teachings when you are in sales. Salesman that know their audience and speak to them appropriately are exponentially more successful than those that don’t. This is equally important to all professions and situations.
Effective communication requires that you know your audience.
How Can You Appropriately Address Your Audience?
When you know your audience, speak with them in a way that is appropriate for them. Don’t talk down to them or speak as if they know more than they actually know.
This goes a little further… When you speak with lawyers, doctors, engineers, businessmen, teachers or people in any other profession, learn and speak their vocabulary. For example, I recently took a class to learn more about a specific computer program. Before the teacher got into any of the material, he went through the vocabulary appropriate for the training. That allowed us to speak the common language of the program as we went through the training. When you know and speak the language of your audience, they will have a greater respect for you.
Appropriate Methods of Communication
There are many ways to communicate and each method has its own advantages and disadvantages. Therefore, select your communication method appropriately. Here are some advantages and disadvantages of each method.
- Advantage: You can communicate with one or multiple people at the same time and write your words out so you say exactly what you want to say. Also, you can communicate to people anywhere in the world at any time of day.
- Disadvantage: Emails can easily be misunderstood. It is hard to communicate tone and feeling in just a few short sentences or paragraphs of an email. Additionally, email etiquette varies significantly from one person to the next. What one person feels is acceptable may not be acceptable to others.
- Advantage: One-on-one meetings allow you to have a more intimate conversation without egos getting too involved. You can discuss individual accolades, challenges, etc. in a private setting.
- Disadvantage: In one-on-one meetings, your time is dedicated to one person so they get all your time and attention. That is great for that person, but your influence is very small and limited.
- Advantage: Casual discussions can be held with one or many. They are often done in a non-business setting such as “hanging out”, getting together for drinks, talking at outside non-business related functions, etc. When having a casual discussion people often have their guard down, which allows them to speak more openly and freely.
- Disadvantage: In a legal setting, casual discussions can lead to problems or other issues. For example, if a regulatory auditor has a personal relationship with a representative from a company they audit, that can present potential conflicts of interest.
- Advantage: This allows you to communicate with many people at one time. It is often done as a speech and is more formal. Public speaking is especially effective when you addressing a large group of people.
- Disadvantage: Since this is more formal, there is usually no personal interaction from the recipients. That makes it hard to know if they heard, understood and will act on your message. It also makes it difficult to follow up or hold people accountable afterwards.
- Advantage: You can send a quick text message to anyone anywhere from your phone. Text messaging allows you to carry on a conversation quickly and easily.
- Disadvantage: The etiquette for texting varies widely. Some people text with acronyms, spelling errors, emojis, etc. and it is no big deal. Others stick strictly to the full sentences and correct punctuation. Knowing the right etiquette for the situation is more difficult in the texting world. Just like you wouldn’t show up in shorts and a T-shirt to a formal event, you don’t want to text with the wrong etiquette to your recipients.
Electronic Media Broadcast:
There are many forms of electronic media broadcasts. Nowadays, you can find Facebook live, YouTube, Snapchat, iTunes, Stitcher, Periscope, etc. Although there are many electronic broadcast methods and platforms, most fall into the realm of either videos or podcasting so that is what we will focus on here.
- Advantage: Videos allow you to broadcast and share your brand with interested people. They also allow you to be very creative with a variety of platforms and editing softwares. You can also be anywhere in the world and share your message.
- Disadvantage: Video broadcasts are less personal because they are usually meant for a wide variety of people. That makes it difficult to change your words or behavior quickly to address particular concerns people have.
- Advantage: Podcasting is similar to video because you share your message with many people anywhere; the difference is that your audience can listen to your message while they do other activities. This is great because people can make you a part of their commute, exercise, or other daily activities since they can listen while doing other activities.
- Disadvantage: Just like with video, podcasting is usually less personal since it is a a broadcast to a large audience.
The majority of the world’s problems, challenges, and setbacks are due to miscommunications on some level. With that in mind, choose your words and methods of communication very carefully. As is noted above, there are many forms of communication and there are advantages and disadvantages to each method.
Why do communication breakdowns happen?
Communication breakdowns usually happen because of one of the following reasons:
- Use of the wrong communication medium: Sending emails is an easy way to communicate, but there are times when you just need to pick up the phone or go talk to someone. The same goes for any other form of communication. Choose the right medium for the situation.
- Emotions: Our judgement and clarity can easily get swayed when we let our emotions get the best of us. Some prevalent emotions that lead to communication breakdown are stubbornness, pride, faultfinding, and arrogance.
- Misunderstandings: Have you ever played the game “telephone”? With this game you sit in a circle and one person says something to the person next to them. That person passes the message to the next person in the line and it continues until it gets back to the original person. By the time the message gets to the original person, it is often totally different from the original message. That happens because each time it gets passed, meaning is lost until the message is no longer the same. This same thing happens when messages get communicated through many different people before reaching the last person.
- Inattention: Have you ever sat with a group without distractions, but it was as if you weren’t even there because your mind was on something completely different? Inattention happens when you are there, but not THERE. You’re physically present but your mind is in a different place.
- Information overload: Information overload occurs when more information is presented than can be absorbed. For example, imagine I explained to you everything there is to know about aviation from its history to how modern jet engines work in a few hours. That would be okay if you knew a lot about aviation already, but if you didn’t even know what a plane was, it would be too much information all at once. Often we do that to others when we explain too much about a given topic all at once when they don’t have background knowledge.
This list only covers a few ways that miscommunications can happen, but there are many others as well. What’s important is that you know your audience and communicate with them appropriately so there are no miscommunications. Before saying something, think about how it could be misunderstood and the potential results.
Last, and probably most important, is listening. Listening is more than just sitting there saying nothing. You must actively participate as you listen. Boundless.com explains that, “The listening process involves five stages: receiving, understanding, evaluating, remembering, and responding. Active listening is a particular communication technique that requires the listener to provide feedback on what he or she hears to the speaker. Three main degrees of active listening are repeating, paraphrasing, and reflecting.” To be a good listener, actively pay attention and think about what the other person is telling you. A common mistake is to formulate your response as hear (but not listen) to others. Good listeners are quick to listen and understand and slow to speak.
Because communication is an essential part of life, think carefully before you open your mouth, send that email, record that video, or shoot off that text. What you communicate this very minute could change your life for good or bad forever.
Focus on making every communication experience a positive one for yourself and others. And finally, remember that the way you communicate will lead to accomplishing your goals and dreams, or frustration and anger.
I hope you enjoyed this post! If you have other ideas about any of the communication points mentioned above, please share your thoughts in the comments section below! I would love to hear your thoughts and perspective on this very important topic!