Communication can be tricky at times, especially if you're in a situation where you need to communicate difficult topics or discuss hard-to-grasp ideas. Good communication involves finding ways to write simply and clearly so that people feel they are individuals, not units.
There are many ways communication can be made ineffective and it's all too easy to let effective communication skills slip through the cracks. However, if you really want to make the most of your role and you want to continually strive to improve your relationships with others (and with yourself), you must stay on top of your communicating game. Pay attention to how you communicate with others and also pay attention to how others communicate with you.
Pay attention to what's going on around you and what choices you're making when it comes to communicating with others; being more aware will help you be more proactive in your effective communication efforts.
Now go on -- get out there and communicate!
The bottom line: Communication skills directly affect the success of your efforts. Through communication, you have the ability to make Scouting a great place for our volunteers to carry out their role. The following guidelines will help you achieve that success.
Whether you are drafting an event memo, responding to an email message from a leader, or developing a support programme that will last for several months, the time you spend planning these communications can make the difference between success and missed opportunity. A comprehensive communication plan will probably include more than one audience with more than one goal, as well as more than one communication channel.
Planning for effective communication starts with these questions. The steps below will help you answer them:
- Why are you communicating?
- What are you communicating?
- Who needs to receive the communication?
- How can you best reach your audience?
- How will you know whether you communicated effectively?
As more communication is done electronically, face-to-face discussion can easily fall by the wayside. While the speed and volume of communication increases with email, voicemail and instant messaging, some of the dialogue and personal touch can start to disappear.
Too many people take the easy way out and try and do everything via email and in a lot of cases consume more time on both sides of the equation than they would have by simply picking up the phone or going to see the person, Personal discussion is the foundation of communications, once this foundation is established, it enables all of the other forms of communication. Having a personal connection builds trust and minimises misinterpretation and misunderstanding.
Using email rather than personal discussion can also delay decision-making. In other cases, communicating via technology can be effective. Instant messages and email are communication accelerators.
Consider context and purpose
The key is to use the correct communication method at the right time. When give-and-take is required, there is no form of communication that works better than getting out of the chair and speaking to the person face to face, If personal discussion is not an option, the telephone or web conferencing is an acceptable second choice. If you aren’t concerned about the response, then email, memos and in some cases text messages work fine for pronouncements from on high.
With so much to do, it’s not always easy to find time for personal discussion. However, in the long term, face-to-face communication just might make sure that your message is clear and understood.
Pay attention to non-verbal cues
This is essential when it comes to effective communication. So much of what we say is actually not said, and if you want to understand what others are really thinking or saying you have to do more than just listen. You have to look and experience too. It's very easy to say something and not really feel it so it's very important that, when communicating, you look both at your own non-verbal cues and those others are sending you. There's a lot to be said for what's not really being said.
Intend to understand
Focus on the concept of listening to actually understand what is being said, rather than listening just to respond with what you want to say. This can be a tricky thing to do as to often we're not really trying to understand what others are saying but instead are trying to find a way to jump from their points to our own. Next time you're communicating, do what you can to really work on understanding what others are saying.
Be patient and open-minded
Communicating even the easiest of messages can be tough at times, which is why it's so very important to be both patient and open-minded in your interactions with others. Recognise that you might not necessarily be communicating as effectively as you'd like and remember to also be patient with yourself. No matter what the situation, there is a way to communicate -- sometimes it just takes time.
Be patient and keep your mind open for new ways of sharing and understanding. Remember:
- Rediscover the lost art of the telephone
- Plan what you need to talk about
- Give 100% concentration
- Check that it’s a good time to talk
- Start with some general chit-chat
- Talk in short bursts and check that they are with you
- Don’t talk to others whilst on the call (everyone hates it)
- Say yes regularly, its verbal nodding
- Finish by repeating what’s been agreed
- Follow up immediately before you forget
- Sometimes call when you don’t need to
Step 1: Clarify your communication goals
- Why are you communicating and what do you want to accomplish with this communication?
- Are you announcing a idea?
- Are you seeking feedback?
- Are you hoping to influence attitudes?
- Are you asking people to make a decision or take action?
- Are you aiming to achieve consensus?
- Are you building a shared understanding of strategy or challenging the culture?
- Why does anyone need your communication -- why should they pay attention?
Step 2: Know your audience
Think about who needs your information, who you need to hear from, and their roles in the District. Do your research to understand your audience(s), and then think about what you've learned. Ask yourself questions such as:
- How much do the audience members already know about my topic...do they need background information?
- What are the specific benefits for each particular audience? What aspect of this topic matters to them?
- If they are being asked to take action, how difficult will it be for them?
- Different audiences may require variations of your message.
Step 3: Craft your messages
Use concise language to tailor your messages to your audience members. Keep it simple, avoid jargon, and include references where readers can get more details if they wish. Test your message out on readers who don't already know the subject.
Writing concisely doesn't mean providing a summary or truncating your message. The key to conciseness is honing the essentials and editing out the non essentials. But how do you do that?
Stay on message: One of the obstacles to conciseness is losing focus. It’s easy to veer offcourse and take a side road that includes interesting but unessential information, background, history or a related idea.
Say it clearly – Say it once: If you’ve struggled to explain a difficult concept you may find yourself using words such as ‘in other words’, ‘in short’, ’to restate this’. These phrases creep in when you haven’t done a good job of saying something clearly. So rather than try to clarify your original attempt, you take a second stab. If you see these phrases in your writing, take a second look and see whether both explanations are needed.
Use plain language: Many people think that writing like a bureaucrat gives their writing power. That’s not true. Powerful writing uses plain and straight-forward language. Bureaucratic language tends to inflate your word count and confuse your reader.
Say it simply: For example, “Sometimes your writing forsakes the forest for the trees.”
Show, don’t say: A picture, figure, diagram is often worth 1000 words (or 10 or 50).
Write in the active voice: Structuring your sentence to emphasise the point of the action, rather than the object helps you write short sentences.
Be trustworthy and honest: When you're trustworthy and honest, communication becomes a lot less complicated. You don't have to think about what you're going to say wrong and you don't have to worry about uncovering a secret or a dishonest statement. If you remain open, honest, and worth of trust, you'll have a much easier time communicating with others and others will be a lot more willing to communicate with you. Words like "trustworthy" and "honest" are thrown around a lot, but they really are valuable and they are particularly important when it comes to communication.
Don't rush communication: When you're rushing and trying to get through your communication quickly that's when things can go wrong. Often when we're in a rush, we forget things or misplace things and the same goes for when we're rushing through any type of communication. So next time you find yourself communicating with someone else, slow down and really pay attention. Taking just a little extra time could end up making a huge difference.
Adapt your ideas to others: When we come up with an idea, we often have a set image of it in our minds and that image isn't always easily conveyed to others. If you really want your ideas to be heard, you have to work with the person you're speaking to and find a way to communicate that idea in a way they will understand. This means you have to take the time to get to know your audience if you really, truly want to be able to communicate with them effectively.
Know, Feel, Do: Overall: It’s extremely important to think through Know and Feel and Do, and not let cultural pressure force you to drop one or more dimension. For example, your culture may be extremely action-oriented.
So the cultural tendency may be to just “get to the point” on Do, and forget the others. This may get the desired actions — this time — but fails to engage and educate teammates on what’s behind those actions. So you’ll have to repeat Do, Do, Do again and again.
All three parts of the model are necessary if you are going to have a sustainable impact on people’s behaviours.
Know: Forget all the blah, blah, blah about context-setting and trying to explain the big picture. The most important thing to get across is how you listener’s actions, or thinking, or communication, or questions will change as a direct result of whatever you have to say. Clearly state the one thing that’s new and different from their perspective.
Feel: No, you can’t mandate how people should feel — “Be happy, dammit!” — but you do have to consider the emotional impact you want, and how to accomplish that.
Do: Even empowered people often need Next Steps defined fairly tightly. Don’t micro-manage their to-do’s. But do detail their suggested and immediate next steps.
- What do I want people to know, understand, learn or question?
- How do I want people to feel?
- What do I want people to do as a direct result of my communication?
Step 4: Choose your channel
A communication channel is simply the method or mechanism you choose to convey your communication. Your choice of channel depends on the audience you're trying to reach, whether you want an interactive discussion or just to provide information, and whether the message is long and complex or short and simple.
Once you have drafted your plan, make sure you have agreement from your team members who are assigned responsibilities in the plan as well as other stakeholders; otherwise, your communication plan may not be carried out.
- Make the subject line clear and concise Rather than "Announcement from XY” make it "New policy on lunch choices."
- Say what you want me to do right at the beginning Why should the recipient read your message? Is it for information, action, response? Is there a deadline?
- Leave your jargon out of it Avoid esoteric terms, abbreviations, and acronyms.
- Keep it short! Give readers the basic who, what, why, when, and what you want them to do, and then provide a link to background and details for those who want them.
Step 5: Evaluate the outcome
When it's all said and done, one of the best ways you can learn to communicate more effectively, particularly with specific individuals, is to ask for feedback. Take some time to speak to those who you communicate with frequently to find out how you can improve on your communication with them. Sometimes all it takes is a few suggestions and you'll be on the road to creating a better understanding with someone else. Check with members of your audience:
- Did they receive the communication?
- Was it clear and useful for them?
- Did it achieve your goal?
- What will you do differently the next time?
It's not always easy to ask for feedback, but it's worth it!
Step 6: Follow up after communicating.
Too often we assume that whatever we've attempted to communicate was received just the way we sent it and, unfortunately, more often than not that's just not the case. If you're communicating with someone (especially if it's important!), make sure that you follow up after you've communicated. Assuming that your message was heard and understood is a big no-no in the effective communication world. No matter how obvious your message might seem, it never hurts to follow up!