10 Steps to Developing Effective Communication Skills

Good communication lies at the heart of success in everything. Well, everything, that is, that involves two or more people. That means developing effective communication skills is one of the keys to business success!

To use a non-business example, think about two people taking a vacation together. You can imagine the many possibilities of this trip if it’s planned and taken without good communication. Tickets can be left behind, planes and trains can be missed, double hotel reservations can be made and prepaid, and much more. Such a trip has the potential of being a disastrously memorable experience. However, with good communication, that vacation can become a wonderful journey, one that’s fondly recalled for a lifetime.

10 Steps to Developing Effective Communication Skills

Good communication does not just happen. Communication requires planning, coordination, checking in to make sure that it’s working, and acknowledging – perhaps even celebrating – success when it happens. If you need help developing effective communication skills in your company, with clients, or in your personal life, consider what needs to be improved in each of these steps of the process:

 1. Define your communication goal. 

Communication that works well is:

  • Customer-focused or user-focused
  • Easy to understand
  • Engaging
  • Effective
  • Enough, but not too much

2. Be prepared for your communication to be complete. 

Good communication conveys several things about a shared effort or experience. Be prepared to provide the following information:

  • What is happening
  • Why it is important
  • Who is involved
  • When it is happening
  • How the work, experience or event will occur

3. Know your audience.

If you don’t know who they are, or don’t know much about them, find out. It makes a big difference in what you communicate, and how you do so.

4. Know what people need to do with the information. 

If people receiving and using the information need to be aware of something, they may need less detailed information than if they need to take action on it.

5. Communicate in the way that your audience will receive the information most easily.

Some audiences are web-, e-mail-, or text-based in their communications. Others need face-to-face communication for messages to be received most easily. Some communications require a group process for the information to be fully absorbed, and actionable. Developing effective communication skills means talking to people where and how they like to be talked to.

6. Plan how you will check to make sure communication is getting through. 

Many people send important information, but don’t check to make sure that it was received. Especially when communication involves very important or time-sensitive information, it’s essential to make sure the information was received correctly. This can involve questionnaires, interviews, observations, or in other ways, discovering that the message did, or didn’t get through. Plan accordingly.

7. Check to see if your communication is getting through.

Don’t assume. Check. Also, consider that one-time communication is often inadequate.

For example, if you’re communicating about a major change or significant action that must be taken, one guideline is that you need to communicate it seven times, in seven different ways for the information to get through to everyone who needs to use it. Just think about that: seven times, in seven different ways. Knowing that, you won’t be surprised if you have to repeat a message, or send it in a new way to make sure that it actually gets through.

8. Correct the communication that hasn’t yet been effective.

Improve or correct communication that didn’t work, or didn’t work as well as it needed to in order for the correct or desired actions to be taken by people involved.

9. Pause and notice that the communication worked, when it does.

Also, acknowledge the people who were involved in making the process successful.

10. Review and reflect so that you can repeat success. 

If this was an especially big communication effort, or an especially important one, take some time to review what worked and why. Pay attention, as well, to what didn’t work, and why that happened. Record the information so you can use it again. There’s no need to reinvent a process that works. And there’s no need to repeat a process that didn’t.

Good communication is not effortless. Often, it’s not easy. That’s why communication, when it works, is often worthy of quite a celebration.

About Jan Richards

Principal of J. G. Richards Consulting, Jan helps companies improve profitability and revenue as they decrease business complexity and costs. This occurs in many ways, including: streamlining business operations; project management for major change and process improvement teams; coaching leaders of major change programs; creating long-range visions and strategic plans. A WIC Board member, Jan oversees WIC's strategic initiatives and mentoring programs.

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