While it's impossible to teach a person to be an effective communicator in the two minutes it will take you to read this article, there are certain commonalities that effective communicators possess. Do you think strategically about the following when you communicate?
- With what are you communicating? Have you considered such elements as age, gender, language barriers, and previous interactions with this person? Your considerations on the latter question may have no implications – but it's better to have considered them.
- What is the situation? Is the communication basically positive or negative? You prepare your communication differently depending on your responses.
- Have you set aside sufficient time for this communication? Think back to previous communication events similar to this one, make your best estimate, and then allow additional time reserves (also known as 'pockets'). There's nothing worse than being rushed during a key communication event.
- Is this a "telling" communication (your task at hand is to tell someone else information) or is it a "requesting / sharing" communication (you need information that someone else has). Get the mindset that will be serve the communication task.
- Are you prepared to change your mind during the course of the communication? Do you expect the other person to change his / her mind? "What?" You say? Change my mind. NEVER. Well … just ask and answer the questions I posed so that you know.
- Is the purpose of your communication to inform, persuade or entertain? Each of these involves a different mindset and it's helpful to think about your purpose prior to your meeting or other encounter, when possible.
- What exactly are you trying to say? Consider writing it down and being as succinct as possible; It will help you clarify in your own mind. You do not need to read what you wrote; It's the act of writing that is important because of the thinking you do when you're writing.
- Why are you trying to say what you're saying? Was the communication your idea or someone else's?
- What are you hoping to accomplish as a result of the communication? Be clear on your 'intention' and stay focused on that. Focusing on your intention is quite powerful. You can usually feel the difference in your approach and demeanor as soon as you get clear on the intention.
- Do you have an "agenda" (either hidden or overt)? Go ahead and acknowledge that for yourself – and the other person.
Effective communication leads to productivity. Ineffective communication detracts from productivity (and from relationships, reputation, and so forth). It's worth the time to think strategically through the questions above prior to your communications with others. Sometimes, it will become second nature, but if it's not at this point, then print out this list to have for a soft reference.