If you want to be an expert communicator, you need to be effective at all points in the communication process – from “sender” to “receiver” and back to “sender” – and you must be comfortable with the different channels of communication – face to face, voice to voice, written, etc.
When you communicate with someone else, you each follow certain steps of the communication process. You, as the source of the communication, plan and craft it into a message, and deliver it through a channel. The receiver interprets the message, and, in one way or another, gives you feedback on understanding or a lack of understanding.
By understanding the steps in the process, you can become more aware of your role in it, recognize what you need to do to communicate effectively, anticipate problems before they occur, and improve your overall ability to communicate effectively.
1. Planning the message
What is your message? Why this message? Who is your audience? How will you send your message? How to get feedback?
Before you start communicating, take a moment to figure out what you want to say, and why. Keep it simple and to the point.
- Understand your objective. Why are you communicating?
- Understand your audience. With whom are you communicating? What do they need to know?
- Plan what you want to say, and how you’ll send the message.
- Seek feedback on how well your message was received.
2. Crafting the message
Is your message clear and concise? Are you choosing the right words for the audience you are addressing? Are you taking into account the difference between spoken and written language?
When you know what you want to say, decide exactly how you’ll say it. Also, consider how you think your audience will perceive your message.
Effective communication means:
- Understanding what you truly want to say.
- Anticipating the reaction to your message.
- Choosing words and body language that allow your audience to really hear what you’re saying.
With written communication, make sure that what you write will be perceived the way you intend. Words on a page generally have no emotion. When writing, take time to:
- Review your style.
- Avoid jargon or slang.
- Check your grammar and punctuation.
- Check for tone, attitude, nuance, and other subtleties.
- Familiarize yourself with your company’s writing policies.
Consider using pictures, charts, and diagrams. “A picture speaks a thousand words.”
Also, whether you speak or write your message, consider the cultural context. If there’s potential for misunderstanding due to cultural or language barriers, address these issues in advance.
3. Delivering the message
What is the most effective communication channel for your message and your audience? Will you speak or write your message?
Along with crafting the message, you need to choose the best communication channel to use to deliver it. Will you speak or write your message. You want to be efficient, and yet make the most of your communication opportunity. When you determine the best way to deliver a message, consider:
- The sensitivity and emotional content of the subject.
- How easy it is to communicate detail.
- The receiver’s preferences.
- Time constraints.
- The need to ask and answer questions.
4. Interpreting the message
Active listening, undivided attention to the speaker. Empathic listening, understand the emotions and the body language of the speaker.
It can be easy to focus on speaking; however, to be a great communicator, you also need to step back, let the other person talk, and you just listen. That doesn’t mean that you should be passive. Listening is hard work, which is why effective listening is called active listening.
To listen actively, give your undivided attention to the speaker:
- Look at the person.
- Pay attention to his or her body language.
- Avoid distractions.
- Nod and smile to acknowledge points.
- Occasionally think back about what the person has said.
- Allow the person to speak, without thinking about what you’ll say next.
- Don’t interrupt.
Empathic listening also helps to interpret a message accurately. To understand a message fully, you have to understand the emotions and underlying feelings the speaker is expressing. That is where an understanding of body language can be useful.
5. Getting feedback
Getting feedback verbally and through body language. Asking questions and repeating the answers in your own words to verify your understanding.
You need feedback because, without it, you can’t be sure that your audience has understood your message. Sometimes feedback is verbal, and sometimes it’s not. Ask questions and listen carefully. However, feedback through body language is perhaps the most important source of clues to the effectiveness of your communication. By watching the facial expressions, gestures, and posture of the person you’re communicating with, you can spot confidence, defensiveness, agreement, understanding, interest, engagement, truthfulness, and so on.
As a speaker, understanding your listener’s body language can give you an opportunity to adjust your message and make it more understandable, appealing, or interesting.
As a listener, body language can show you more about what the other person is saying. You can then ask questions to ensure that you have, indeed, understood each other.
Feedback can also be formal. If you’re communicating something really important, it is worth asking questions to the people you’re talking to and make sure that they’ve understood fully. And if you’re receiving this sort of feedback, repeat it in your own words to verify your understanding.
Now you know what it takes to communicate effectively. The more you practice the 5 steps in the communication process, the better you get at it. Eventually, it will become second nature to you. Mastering the communication process will benefit you tremendously when you are marketing your product.
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