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The Art of Effective Communication In 7 Steps

The Editor-in-Chief of BlueSky Thinking, Matt Symonds sat down with IE Insights, the thought leadership platform published by IE University for an interview to capture his thoughts on the key 7 elements for effective communication.

Communication is less about what you say or write, and far more about how that message comes across to your audience. We’re inundated with news, with information, with texts and with emails. So the ability to communicate effectively is perhaps more important than ever.

Rather than simple information transfer, we have to learn to connect with our audience, and to keep that audience’s attention. Over 20 years ago, the Employability Skills 2000+ tried to identify the key skills for anybody to be successful in the workplace. Communication skills were at the top of the list. 

And now with the latest GMAC survey, over 80% say that those interpersonal skills are truly the key to a successful career. Whether with colleagues, potential investors, presenting data, or just talking to your customers, effective communication is at the heart of our professional lives.

We can also vary how we communicate. Rather than hiding behind emails and WhatsApp, try picking up a phone or connecting through Zoom and Teams. We all love that human connection, and there is so much more nuance and inference that we can pick up through a phone or video call, and through a person’s voice.

So how do we effectively communicate? 

#1 Listen

If I had a list, I think number one on the list would be to listen. In fact, I’d probably put it at number one, and number two, and number three. When I say listen, I mean really individualised attention. That person in front of you, at that moment, is the most important person in your world, and that they know that they have you with them. 

If we look at political figures, like the US President Clinton, and the French President Jacques Chirac, when they met people, they were truly with that person. And perhaps meeting them 15 years later, they would still remember details about their family, about their work, it’s a rare skill. 

So who is your audience? What do they care about? And how do they want to be addressed? 

#2 Think

Number two on my list is to think about what you want to say. Pause, take a moment before you actually speak or write something down. If you’re answering a question, think about what is really being asked. Those are your words, you take responsibility for them, you’re going to have to own those words, and taking them back can be very difficult. 

So take that moment to think before you commit. 

#3 Tone

Next I’m moving to tone, to body language. Is the tone of your voice consistent with what you’re actually saying? If I fold my arms have I suddenly become very defensive, and closed? If you’re giving a compliment, are you looking that person in the eye? Eye contact is really essential in communication, to show your presence and that you are really authentic about what you have to say. 

#4 Less is More

Number four is that less is more. Do you hide behind lengthy emails that just go on and on and expect so much of the reader? Be brief, be precise in what you have to say, but do come to the end. 

#5 Practice

Number five is to practice. Public speaking is difficult, it can be very daunting. And there are tactics that you can use in your own storytelling techniques, whether it’s the use of examples or anecdotes, using metaphors or comparisons. Try structuring your argument in three points – three really is a magical number. 

#6 Be persuasive

To be persuasive have you shared your convictions that people are then able to pick up. Share those ambitious goals, and show that you really believe in them. That’s certainly what your audience wants to hear.

Effective communication is less about what you say, what you write, and far more about what it means to your audience. It’s not that you have to dominate the conversation, but finding those moments and placing what you have to say.

#7 Knowing when to stop

And finally, the art of effective communication is knowing when to stop. 

You can view the full recording here.

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