Communication is part of our life from the moment we are born, and we can almost say that it is part of our DNA.We all communicate daily in various ways (verbal, non-verbal, visual, written, etc.), in various contexts (personal, professional), with several people or alone (and some of us with animals and inanimate beings 😀). We can say it is as natural to as breathing. Right now I'm communicating with you and it's so natural you hardly think of it as an actual action from me and you.
Before dwelling on some aspects of communication that I think are relevant, let's first define it.
The word communication is derived from the Latin word ‘communicare’ which means “to share, divide out; communicate, impart, inform; join, unite, participate in,".
“When we communicate,” says Wilbur Schramm, “We are trying to establish a 'commonness' with someone. That is, we are trying to share information, an idea, or an attitude. The essence of communication is getting the receiver and the sender ‘turned’ together for a particular message.”
In view of Wilbur Schramm’s definition, communication can be considered the most significant part of human expression and interaction, as we need this like we do oxygen. In summary, communication is related to every human activity and the words we say and/or actions we complete convey messages, emotions, and information. Even silence, and inaction, convey a message.
We wouldn’t expect something so commonplace like communication to be a complex topic, with a lot of scientific studies creating different communication theories paired with communication models.
But, let's keep it simple.
Why and how to communicate as effectively as possible?
Communication is the way of transmitting information to others and of receiving and interpreting what is returned to us. The process of communicating is not exclusive to humans, animals and plants have their different ways of communicating, and it is this sharing of information and knowledge that allows their evolution and survival.
In humans, social creatures in their genesis, communication has even greater importance and is indispensable in a professional or personal context, allowing the exchange of ideas, feelings, emotions, knowledge, and information among themselves. Human communication is therefore considered more complex, varied and with different objectives.
In general terms, we communicate daily for 4 main reasons:
- Providing information
- Receiving/Seeking information
- Persuading someone to do something
- Expressing emotions (by gestures and/or words)
Whatever the reason we communicate and the way we communicate (verbal, non-verbal, visual, written, etc.), three essential components are always necessary: the sender, the message and the receiver, with the objective of a mutual understanding. However, in the communication process, numerous barriers can interfere, some more noticeable than others, like distractions, emotional factors, cultural factors, physical factors, etc., which may influence the “decoding” of the message on the receiver’s side.
Effective communication involves minimising potential misunderstanding and overcoming any barriers to communication at each stage in the communication process. A skilled communicator must be aware of these barriers and try to reduce their impact by continually checking understanding and by offering appropriate feedback.
Despite the communication misunderstandings and barriers we come across constantly, communicating helps us in some important aspects.
Let's look at some examples both personal and in our workplace:
- Building trust and stronger relationships
- Developing our personality
- Solving conflicts
- Expressing ideas and needs
- Improving decision making
- Increasing productivity and motivation
- Knowledge sharing boosts
- Promoting team building
As mentioned before, good communication can be challenging but it prevents misunderstandings, provides information and guidance to people, including effective rules and laws.
To improve the effectiveness of communication with others, we're sharing some easy tips below, and challenge you to consciously try some of them in your workplace or everyday life, as a way to improve your communication skills and develop your emotional intelligence.
Easy tips to improve your communication skills
1. Develop your active listening power!
Active listening involves more than simply hearing It means paying attention and engaging with other people, responding and asking questions, showing that you are actually listening to what others have to say . Besides enhancing your listening abilities, this is also an excellent way to boost the quality and quantity of interactions with others.
2. Use feedback as a tool to improve your communication
Asking for feedback is a great tool to help you communicate better. How? Ask the person or people you are addressing (whether in a conversation, a classroom, a meeting…) what they understood from what you said, or to repeat back to you what you just explained. This is a great way to understand if your message was received as you meant it to be.
Also, asking for feedback is a good way to improve the quality of your communication. Reach out to people you are close to and feel comfortable with and ask them what they feel about your communication with them and use this information to improve.
Asking for feedback is valid for both personal and professional environments so do not be afraid to ask. You may be surprised by the response, in a good way.
3. Pause for a second before speaking
Take a moment (count to 5 for example) before answering. Let the other person finish and take a second. This will help you take in and understand what they are trying to say and avoid misunderstandings that are sometimes based on responding impulsively.
4. Develop empathy
Understanding how people feel by putting yourself in someone else’s shoes will help you understand how to communicate in such a way that the other person is able to decode your message. Also, it helps you improve your understanding of what the other person is saying.
5. Let your body communicate properly
Your body-language is as important as your verbal communication, do not neglect it. If you are saying one thing, but your body language is saying something else, your listener will likely feel that you're being dishonest.
In your next interaction, pay attention to your body language and try to identify if your body is acting in accordance with what you’re saying. Both verbal and non-verbal communication need to be tuned to share the message effectively to the receiver.
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