Effective Communication

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What is Effective Communication?

Effective communication is about being able to convey a message to someone else in a good way. And yes, that can sometimes be more difficult than we initially think. It is more than just translating the thoughts into words in your head and then speaking them out.

What exactly is communication? Communication is the exchange of a "package" of information between a sender and a receiver. So these could be in a conversation between two people, a lion's roar at a pack of hyenas, or the ringing of your phone indicating that your mother wants to speak to you.

Since we assume that a person is reading this article, we will mainly talk about the former. It is important that communication comes about because there is a certain goal that you want to achieve. In the case of the roaring lion, his intention is to deter the hyenas in order to prevent a fight and thus any possible injury.

We communicate to a greater or lesser extent. When you are a guard at the Rijksmuseum, you'll exchange fewer words than someone who sits at the checkout of a large, busy supermarket. If you have to make a lot of use of effective communication, it's of course important that you have mastered this. For many things, the more you do it, the better you get at it. This also applies to effective communication. It is mainly something that you learn through practice. Not by an article like this, although we do tell you what to look out for, so don't stop reading.

What do you pay attention to when communicating effectively?

Reading our 6 tips answers this question..

# 1. Have a clear goal!

As we said, when you start communicating effectively, you should have a certain goal in mind. Whether you want someone else to do something for you, when you are a team leader, for example. Or maybe you want someone else to think about you in a certain way. We do this mainly unconsciously in the conversations on social occasions, keep an eye out for yourself which stories from your life you tell others. These aren't the stories of your blunders and moments that make you feel ashamed.

In any case, it's important to be aware of the goal you want to achieve. Sometimes there is no clear goal and the goal is therefore: fun. Also fine! Of course you don't have to make it official and write this down.

When the target just goes through your head, you already benefit a lot from it. Then your mindset comes into the right attitude so that you communicate more quickly towards this goal. Use it as a short reminder.

# 2. Talking is silver, silence is gold

Listening is a super important part of effective communication that is too often passed over too quickly. After all, how do you know what to communicate when you have not fully understood the other person's message.

We often "listen", but we are busy in our head with what we want to say later. Some are even already constructing the sentences. You may notice that you also do this when you feel the urge to interrupt the other person, or when you feel that your attention isn't completely there.

It is all about the latter when you really listen, then you have full focus and attention for someone. If you really listen, you have the attitude to extract as much information from someone as possible in order to fully understand the story.

You do this by letting someone finish talking and effectively by asking when someone has finished telling. Ask yourself if you really got it and if you haven't ask some "why" or "why" questions. If you're not used to doing this it can feel strange. Try to find the balance in this, you'll find out by simply doing.

The key to good listening is genuine curiosity. Difficult to train in humans or exercise. So this is a mindset that you'll have to discover for yourself. When you think you have a hold of the truth, it's difficult to be curious. Children are always curious, because they don't yet have a fixed (false) image of how the world works.

# 3. Use summaries

Another part of communicating effectively is using summaries? Yes, you can also use summaries in a conversation. A summary is useful when the conversation is long and different points are covered. A good summary goes through the main points of what has been said before.

You can use your memory by using a so-called mental coat rack. Imagine a coat rack on which you hang various main subjects that you remember in this way, this is called the Loci method.

Example:

Q1: What do you do in your work?

A1: I have two main tasks: I conduct performance reviews with the staff and I advise the management on policy. I also have contact with external service providers and I also keep track of correspondence with ministries.

V2: You mainly conduct performance interviews and you give policy advice. You also maintain contact with external service providers and maintain correspondence with the ministries.

The coat rack in the example above thus contains:

  • Two main tasks: discussions and policy advice
  • Two secondary tasks: contact with external parties and correspondence.

Those parts are immediately your parts that you highlight in the summary as you see in the answer given at V2.

You mainly use a summary when the conversation is long and complex. You use it as a control tool to find out whether you have received and understood all important points. By summarizing you give someone the opportunity to add to it in case you still missed something.

A summary helps to structure a conversation and ensures that you both have to put in less mental effort. By repeating certain subjects you immediately relieve your working memory.

# 4. Keep an open mind

When communicating effectively, it's important to keep an open mind. Many miscommunications arise because of misinterpretations. This is because of your own world view, also called paradigm in psychology.

When you hear a word or phrase, you give it a certain meaning through the associations you make. For example, when you hear the word "green" your brain goes to work and retrieves the corresponding meaning from your memory. This way you know which visual color belongs to which word. This all goes so quickly and unconsciously that you don't notice it yourself.

These meanings also leave a lot of room for miscommunications. Every person is unique and makes different associations with words. This is the different experiences you have had in life. After all, you learn through experiences.

The word green is a fairly simple word to which we generally make the same associations. Although you could argue that someone might think of a light form of green, while you yourself think of a dark version of green. See, there you can already see how difficult it can be.

This is of course even more confusing for more complex matters. You can imagine that when you talk about concepts such as culture, tradition or certain scientific theories, there is a chance that you have laid other meanings. Of course they'll be about the same, because words have the same meanings.

However, the difference in associations can be enough to generate miscommunications. Consider, for example, the immigration debate. When someone says immigration is good / bad for the Netherlands. Do we know what he or she means by immigration? What shape? What image does he or she have? Most, however, already answer with an answer to that proposition from the associations made in their own heads, which immediately creates a debate.

How can you prevent this now? To be honest, you can't completely prevent it. The associations that we automatically make in our unconscious part of the brain are so strong that you cannot turn them off. Therefore, you'll always keep to a certain extent that you have different images in your head than the other when you talk about the same thing.

What you can do is listen as closely as possible and ask questions as much as possible. First discover the image that the other has in his or her head and find out which associations someone makes with concepts.

Be aware of your own paradigm and that this paradigm is very different to the one you are talking to. When you are aware of this, you'll see that your communication skills are also making leaps forward.

# 5. Body language is communication too

Another part of effective communication is body language. This must of course match what you want to radiate. There are studies showing that a higher percentage of communication is non-verbal than verbal.

In many cases I can imagine something about that too. Just think of the situation where someone says very sweet words to you like "You look sweet and I want to give you a hug." What if this person says this in a threatening posture with eyes wide open, fists clenched and a raised voice. In that case, what do you think is the emotional reaction you show? Do you value the words or non-verbal communication more? I think that this situation would trigger a stress response for many, which would show that we value non-verbal communication more than the spoken words.

That isn't surprising, because the interpretation of non-verbal communication is probably much deeper in our brain than verbal communication. When we start from Darwin 's theory of evolution 's , this non-verbal communication has existed for much longer than the spoken word. That is why this way of communicating appeals to a much deeper part of our brain.

What is good body language now? That very much depends on the goal (see point 1) you want to achieve. If you want to come across as a strong team leader, this naturally includes powerful looking body language such as two legs firmly on the ground, making eye contact, a straight back and a deep voice.

An open, curious attitude involves other behaviors such as open arms, a smile and nodding.

I would especially advise using body language to dissect the intentions of others. Body language betrays many of these intentions because it's difficult to control. There are plenty of body language books in which you can find the many behaviors and their interpretations.

Body language quickly starts to look a bit strange if you force this. We all know the examples of politicians who look a bit clumsy and then try to appear strong in a made way. We all see through that so it doesn't work.

Body language must therefore above all be authentic. After all, it's an unconscious way of communicating that we have mastered for millions of years. Practicing a lot on this often doesn't make much sense because it's difficult to keep your body language under control. Sure you can do some basic things like during a presentation in which you want to appear powerful, not standing with your legs crossed, but with both feet on the ground.

The best advice is therefore to let your body free in communication and not pay attention to it. Remove your inhibitions to make movements as much as possible. Your body does the rest of the work and automatically communicates the message that belongs to your intention.

# 6. Self-confidence is important

An important quality of people who can communicate effectively is self-confidence. With confident people, communication often goes without saying, making it more effective. These people hesitate less and experience much less stress when communicating.

The advantage of this is that you have more space in your brain to be busy with communicating. If you aren't confident, all kinds of thoughts can pop through your head during communication such as "What would the other person think of me?" and "Does the other agree with this?" These thoughts all take up capacity that in turn comes at the expense of communicating effectively.

Confidence resolves those thoughts.

Unfortunately, it's not the case that you can improve your self-confidence by following 1 training or reading a book. This is a long term project. The good news is that you can actually increase your self-confidence and even anyone can.

How? By simply practicing and putting time into the topic you want to improve on to boost your confidence. As we mentioned earlier, effective communication is the perfect topic for this.

You gain self-confidence by achieving successes, small or large. By practicing a lot you achieve successes because you see that you improve. Your dopamine system fires the neurons and you feel good.

The art of practicing is therefore not to take on too much hay in one go. Focus on the little things you want to improve and move on to the next section when you've mastered this.

Tip: Effective communication is considered as an important resume skill and plays an important role especially with your job interviewer.

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