Communication stems from two Latin words: Communicatio, which means ‘notice’, or ‘announcement’. The other word is Communicare, which means ‘make common’.

So communication means to transfer your message to a broader group of people. Effective communication implies that you’re able to bring your message across in such a way that it is understood by other(s). If you get others to take action through your messages, you’re really effective.

And that is where it gets more difficult. We all know how to talk. But most of us aren’t taught to make sure our message has landed. And contrary to what you might think, it all starts with listening…

7 elements of effective communication

  1. Active Listening. In effect, you should give full attention to the person speaking. Try to listen without thinking what to reply. Listen to understand the other person. This helps them feel heard, and helps you get a thorough understanding of the matter at hand. 
  2. Empathic reflection. Make sure you understand what’s being said. Understand the feelings and emotions behind the words. Read between the lines, what are they trying to convey? When using phrases like “…it sounds like”, you’re demonstrating understanding.
  3. Open ended questions. Open ended questions start with ‘why’, ‘how’, or ‘what’. They result in valuable answers. Any time you ask a question to which people are inclined to answer ‘yes’ or ‘no’, you’re getting nowhere. People like to talk, help them doing so by asking better questions.
  4. Be concise and clear. Whenever it’s your turn to talk (or write, for that matter), so so concisely. Make sure your sentences are short. Easy to read. Aim to write for a 5 year old. Skip jargon. Even though you’d expect professionals to know the jargon, your message comes across infinitely stronger if you’re using simple words. 
  5. Use non-verbal commmunication. Did you know 55% of our communication is non-verbal? Only 7% is through words, 38% is vocal. It helps to be mindful of your facial expression. Your posture. Tone of voice. These elements are the biggest driver of effective communication.
  6. Give constructive feedback. Aim to be of help. Not to hurt. Feedback isn’t at all helpful when you’re heavily criticizing the other. It’s helpful if you provide actionable takeaways. In case of feedback, you have a message to share. You want to be heard. You want people to take action. Act accordingly. Market your message. 
  7. Confirm understanding. Finally, make sure your message is understood as intended. Common practice is to summarize key points of your message. Then, try point 2 but in reverse. Ask the other party to tell – in their own words – what you’ve just told them.

Articles about Effective Communication

Here’s a list of all articles I’ve written to help you understand others and convey your message more effectively.