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LEADING SELF: Effective Communication

Anders, a managing director at a large financial services firm, had an uncanny ability to move a roomful of people to his perspective. What Anders said was not always popular, but he was a master persuader. It wasn’t his title — he often swayed colleagues at the same hierarchical level. And it wasn’t their weakness — he worked with a highly competitive bunch. It wasn’t even his elegant and distinguished British accent — his British colleagues were persuaded right along with everyone else, and none of them had his track record of persuasion.

The ability to communicate effectively in speech and in writing is one of the most valuable professional skills.

What is Effective Communication?

Whether in a conversation, in an e-mail, or through a written memo or report, the goal of communication is usually to generate action, inform, create understanding, or convey a certain idea or point of view. The ability to communicate effectively in speech and in writing is one of the most valuable professional skills. Sending messages and information so they are understood as you intend and produce the effect you desire requires behaviors and skills that can be learned and honed through practice.

How can I communicate more effectively?

Communicating effectively relies on credibility. Mistakes in grammar and spelling, incompleteness, and errors in logic can have a negative impact on how others perceive your credibility. As a result, your ability to persuade or otherwise influence them is diminished. Productive ways to learn precise, professional oral and written communication skills include:

  • Ask someone such as a supervisor or close colleague to provide feedback on your strengths and weaknesses as a communicator.

  • Analyze the strengths and techniques of excellent communicators you know.

  • Imitate how strong communicators get their messages across.

How is listening a part of communication?

Active listening means being attentive to what is being said. It also involves observing the speaker’s behavior and body language. You can show that you are actively listening by paraphrasing what the speaker has said; this can confirm your understanding or identify the need for clarification. Reflecting what a person says can also be a way to focus on personal elements of the communication rather than on the message itself. Often there is an emotional aspect underlying what we say and showing empathy by explicitly identifying the feeling you sense from someone helps people feel understood.

How can I improve my written communication?

  1. Clear: Be explicit about the purpose of your message and provide enough information so people can understand your meaning.

  2. Concise: Stick to the point, be brief, and keep your sentences short.

  3. Concrete: Use facts, data, and examples to support your message.

  4. Correct: Check the spelling and grammar.

  5. Coherent: Connect your points logically to show your reasoning.

  6. Complete: Be sure the reader has everything they need to be informed or to take action.

  7. Courteous: Watch the tone to make it friendly and open rather than argumentative or insulting.

Source and inspiration: University of Colorado and Harvard University


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