Communication is a requirement for almost any job and almost any life activity.

Here are the top 7 communication skills that will help you succeed in work and life.

1. Understand The Intent of the Communication
We all begin communication with an intent to achieve some purpose. The Intent of what you want to achieve is the most important thing to focus on when you communicate. And you should also think about the intent of the person and/or group participating in the communication.  The more both sender and receiver agree on the Intent of the communication the more likely the outcome of the communication will be successful.

2. Listening
#1 above is the Intent of the communication. In order to achieve your intent you have to listen to the other person. You have to listen to the community. You have to listen to the Experts. You have to know if they understand your intent.

I recommend practicing active listening. Active listening involves paying close attention to what the other person is saying, asking clarifying questions, and rephrasing what the person says to ensure understanding (“So, what you’re saying is…”). Through active listening, you can better understand what the other person is trying to say, and can respond appropriately.

3. Constructing the Right Message and the right channel to Achieve your Intent
Once you know the Intent of your communication you need to construct the message and pick the best channel to achieve your intent. For example, some serious conversations (layoffs, changes in salary, etc.) are almost always best done in person. You should also think about the person with whom you wish to speak – if they are very busy people (such as your boss, perhaps), you might want to convey your message through email. People will appreciate your thoughtful means of communication, and will be more likely to respond positively to you.

4. Short and to the Point
I use the “2” sentences and shup-up strategy.  Here is the strategy I use:

  1. I figure out my intent.
  2. I construct the best message and pick the best channel to achieve my intent.
  3. I make my point in as few sentences as possible and then shut up and listen.

The fundamental key to effective communication is to state your intent in as few words as possible. Think of communication like a faucet or fire hose with “Data” as the water.  It is important to meter the flow of information to the context.  And it is ALWAYS better to use the least about of water to achieve the goal.

Say what you want clearly and directly, whether you’re speaking to someone in person, on the phone, or via email. If you ramble on, your listener will either tune you out or will be unsure of exactly what you want. Think about what you want to say before you say it; this will help you to avoid talking excessively and/or confusing your audience.

5. Nonverbal Communication
Your body language, eye contact, hand gestures, and tone all color the message you are trying to convey. A relaxed, open stance (arms open, legs relaxed), and a friendly tone will make you appear approachable, and will encourage others to speak openly with you. Eye contact is also important; you want to look the person in the eye to demonstrate that you are focused on the person and the conversation (however, be sure not to stare at the person, which can make him or her uncomfortable).
Also pay attention to other people’s nonverbal signals while you are talking. Often, nonverbal signals convey how a person is really feeling. For example, if the person is not looking you in the eye, he or she might be uncomfortable or hiding the truth.

6. Feedback
Giving and looking for feedback is critical to communication success. Managers and supervisors should continuously look for ways to provide employees with constructive feedback, be it through email, phone calls, or weekly status updates. Giving feedback involves giving praise as well – something as simple as saying “good job” to an employee can greatly increase motivation.

Similarly, you should be able to accept, and even encourage, feedback from others. Listen to the feedback you are given, ask clarifying questions if you are unsure of the issue, and make efforts to implement the feedback.

7. Be “More Attractive” not “Less Repulsive”
My father used to say that “you catch more flies with honey, than vinegar.”  Essentially the moral is: on average its better to be “Attractive” then “Repulsive.”  That is particularly true about communication.

Communication is about information.  And the more information you have the better the communication.  You will receive more information if you are open and attractive than if you are closed and/or repulsive.  So as a general rule, since we want as much information as we can get, it is better to be open and attractive.  The question I would have is why would anyone think being closed are repulsive be better for communication?

There are specific traits the enhance attractiveness:

  1. Friendliness: Through a friendly tone, a personal question, or simply a smile, you will encourage your coworkers to engage in open and honest communication with you. This is important in both face-to-face and written communication. When you can, personalize your emails to coworkers and/or employees – a quick “I hope you all had a good weekend” at the start of an email can personalize a message and make the recipient feel more appreciated.
  2. Empathy: – Even when you disagree with an employer, coworker, or employee, it is important for you to understand and respect their point of view. Using phrases as simple as “I understand where you are coming from” (And of course actually understanding where they are coming from) demonstrate that you have been listening to the other person and respect their opinions.
  3. Open-Mindedness: – A good communicator should enter any conversation with a flexible, open mind. Be open to listening to and understanding the other person’s point of view, rather than simply getting your message across. By being willing to enter into a dialogue, even with people with whom you disagree, you will be able to have more honest, productive conversations.
  4. Respect: – People will be more open to communicating with you if you convey respect for them and their ideas. Simple actions like using a person’s name, making eye contact, and actively listening when a person speaks will make the person feel appreciated. On the phone, avoid distractions and stay focused on the conversation.Convey respect through email by taking the time to edit your message. If you send a sloppily written, confusing email, the recipient will think you do not respect her enough to think through your communication with her.

Models of Communication

In order to understand how all this fits together I offer the following.

Standard Model (Based on Shannon Weaver Model)

Communication-Model-1


Communication as a Process

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Putting the Standard Communication Model into a Process Flow.

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