It calls for proper planning, understanding of human behaviour, choice of physical facilities and mechanical or electronic devices and the organizational context. It is necessary to understand the essentials of good communication and work towards achieving them. The first essential for effective communication is to be clear about the purpose of communication. Every communication has an objective. It is a means to an end.
One should be clear about what one wants to achieve through the process of communication. The objective of any communication is not just to receive or convey a message. The communicator has to ensure that the message reaches the receiver. Any message that is not backed by a clear and well- developed idea becomes purposeless communication entailing wastage of time and effort.
The urge to communicate should be preceded by clarity of purpose. Ask yourself what you want to achieve or accomplish by the communication: is it to impart information, express concern, enlist support, express displeasure or imbibe skills? The objective may not be one but a combination of these purposes.
1. Understand the Process of Communication:
Another essential for effective communication is the need to understand how the process of communication works, i.e., the principles and tools of communication. To appreciate the various steps involved in communication in terms of encoding, decoding, transmission, comprehension and feedback, it is necessary to have a good understanding of the mode, channels, types, instruments, methods and barriers relating to communication and the factors affecting it.
Good communicators, like good artists, use their tools effectively.
2. Be Clear About Your Target Audience:
The intended message cannot bring about the desired result unless it reaches the right person or group of persons. The message should address the target group. For communication to be effective, it should be properly focused. Be it a letter, a speech, a film or a presentation, make sure the receiver is connected with or is relevant to the purpose of communication.
Quite often, communication loses its effectiveness because it reaches an unintended audience. Good ideas and messages reaching the wrong persons will end up as an exercise in futility. The next essential step is to develop good communication skills. Effective communication presupposes the ability to communicate under varied circumstances. The skills of communication that need mastering are reading, writing, listening, speaking, body language and presentation. One must be clear about the merits and demerits of communication and which of them is to be used under a given set of circumstances. Each of them is a different skill and requires a conscious effort to develop it.
Be Well Informed:
Communication quite often relates to providing information. The initiator of the communication should, therefore, be well informed about the message he wants to pass on. The initiator should also have the right perspective about the message and be in a position to appreciate the context in which the message is being communicated. Limited information or limited understanding by the sender naturally limits the sender’s ability to communicate. This happens in an organizational context when the sender of the message is doing so based on incomplete information. People receiving the message often have their expectations about it and the person giving the message should take cognizance of it.
4. Plan Your Communication:
In order to be effective, any communication is to be well planned.
The message to be conveyed, the words to be chosen, the action to be sought, the feedback to be obtained, is all the areas that need to be carefully considered. These aspects will have to be evolved properly before deciding on the right choices. While some routine messages can be communicated without advance planning, all important communication in organizations/ businesses need organized effort. Inadequate planning can, and often does, result in ineffective communication. Good planning should take note of the target audience and pay attention to their attitudes and expectations, as well as timings.
5. Be Positive in Approach:
Yet another requirement for effective communication is a positive approach and the right mental attitude. The communicator should have faith in the process.
He/she should develop confidence through learning and practice. He/she should take responsibility for making the communication work. The communicator should learn to overcome barriers and look for positive signals.
He/she should not bring in a bias of his own. He/she should recognize the power of communication and strive to achieve results through the process.
6. Avoid Extreme Feelings:
Extreme and strong feelings are not conducive to effective communication.
Anger, depression and frustration adversely impact the thought process and thereby distort what is intended to be conveyed or what needs to be conveyed. A disturbed mind brings out disturbed thoughts and thus distorts communication. While addressing important communications, and reacting to provocative remarks, it is essential to wait till the mind regains its balance and the severity of feelings subsides. It is absolutely essential to realize that quite often the process of communication is irreversible.
A word spoken or a letter written in a fit of anger can do considerable damage. This is particularly true in work situations, market places, organizations and business. Restraint pays.
7. Be Sincere:
Effective communication demands a certain degree of honesty and sincerity on the part of the parties involved in the communication. It is necessary that the messages are given sincerely and truthfully. There should not be a deliberate attempt to mislead or manipulate the recipient of the message. If the receiver of the message loses faith in the communicator, the process of communication suffers in terms of credibility.
Effective communication therefore presupposes sincerity.
8. Be Consistent:
Communication is mostly a regular process rather than a one-time affair. In personal dealings, in organizational settings and business places, communication takes place almost all the time. The parties involved in the communication quite often are the same. When communication takes place on a regular basis, it is necessary to be consistent. It is necessary not to contradict one.
There may be scope for modification or correction, but not for contradiction. Further, when different methods of communication are used in conveying a particular message, contradictions have to be consciously avoided. The spoken message should be in tandem with the body language.
Non-verbal communication should supplement oral messages.
9. Appreciate the Time Factor:
In any communication, especially in business communication, time is of prime importance. Speed and timeliness contribute significantly to the effectiveness of communication. In today’s world, the value of time is well recognized. Organizations and businesses set goals which have to be achieved within a given time frame. Tasks have to be completed before the allotted deadlines.
All communications concerning such goals and tasks will have to appreciate the time factor. Quite often the message that is delayed is wasted. Therein lays the significance of the choice of the channel of communication. The channels selected should be such that the message is delivered well in time. There is another dimension to the time factor in communication. The process of communication should take just the right time. Long speeches that stretch well beyond the allotted time, lengthy written communication and unusually long films not only test the patience of the listener/reader/ viewer, but also tend to lose their force and get diluted in the process.
Communication should be in measured doses, since an overdose of even useful and relevant communication may be received without enthusiasm. The time the receiver of the communication allocates for the purpose has to be borne in mind to ensure effective communication.
10. Use Proper Modes and Channels:
We have already discussed the various modes, channels and types of communication. The method or type of communication to be used will vary from situation to situation.
Effectiveness of the communication will depend on the choice of methods and instruments. There are times when written communication cannot convey as forcefully as oral communication. There are occasions when a telephone call would be more appropriate than a letter. There may be messages which are important enough to be conveyed through fax rather than by regular mail. Similarly, some messages can go by ordinary mail, some by telex and some others by fax or even e-mail. Make the right choice and repeat the message, if very essential.
Be Cost Conscious:
The process of communication quite often entails costs. There are direct and indirect costs involved in sending messages. These costs vary depending upon the method of communication and the means of transmission. Since communication in an organization is ongoing, such costs can add up to a substantial amount. The results achieved by the communicator should justify the costs incurred in the process. If not, there is no effectiveness in such communication. Organizations should, therefore, make conscious efforts to make their communication systems not only efficient, but also cost effective through proper evaluation of available options.
Feedback is another important component of the process of communication. The person communicating the message calls for feedback to reassure him that the message has reached the target as envisaged. Feedback provides valuable information relating to the time factor, quality of the message, understanding of the receiver and the action initiated.
Such feedback helps in evaluating the efficacy and reliability of the types, methods and channels of communication used. Feedback helps in understanding the mistakes committed in encoding and decoding the message and losses in transmission. Mistakes, if any, can be dealt with by undertaking effective corrective measures.
Avoid Communication Overload:
To be effective, communication should always be in measured doses. The communicator should take care not to overdo or overstretch the communication. Communication is essentially a participative process, and if not within reasonable limits, the efficacy will suffer. Imagine receiving a 30-page newspaper everyday, or sitting through a non-stop 4-hour speech by a single speaker, or participating in a technical workshop from morning till late in the evening. Whatever be the merit in terms of context, the response is more than likely to follow the principle of diminishing returns. Effective communicators learn to limit their communication in line with receptivity and avoid excesses. In the foregoing paragraphs, we have made an attempt to list out the essentials for effective communication.
Since communication is essentially a two-way process, both the giver and the receiver of the message will have to conform to well-defined principles and norms. The spirit of communication is as important as the modalities. When we talk about leadership qualities and other people-related dimensions in the organizational context, it is the role model type of communication that is being emphasized. Unless one practices what one preaches, words become hollow and communication loses its shine. Effective communication strives to preempt any misunderstanding and accomplish complete and for clear understanding.