The problem of understanding how to communicate well is even more difficult today, given our hyper-connected communities.
Success in life is dependent of communication that gets across the critical messages without being drowned by noise or lost in translation.
Effective communication requires clarity around five key understandings: Intent, audience, messages, delivery, and feedback.
- Align communication to your Intent. All communication starts with intent. “Intent” is what we want to accomplish with our communication. The more clarity we have of our intent the better we can communicate. And the more the parties to the communication agree of the intent the more likely the communication will be effective.
- Know your audiences. For each intent, understand how your audience will help you achieve your intent. Who do you need to communicate to? Who do you need to hear from? And it is critical here to understand that all audiences are different depending on the context they live in.
- Adjust your message to fit your intent and audience. For each intent we will have different messages for different audiences. Our Facebook message will be different than our family dinner messages. It is often said a picture is worth a thousand words. We need to consider how messages will be conveyed—through infographics, videos, and other formats that are impactful to audiences. It is also very important to carefully consider the language and cultural fit of the messages we chose. We live in diverse communities and communicate with people with different backgrounds. So it is critical we construct our messages to be appropriate to the audience
- Pay Close Attention to feedback and evaluate your communications. We communicate to achieve an intent of some kind. We need to pay attention to the feedback to see if we will achieve our intent. If our intent is or order food at a restaurant, then getting feedback from the waiter that they understand what we want is critical to getting the food we ordered. Feedback gives us a chance to assess how well our audience understands our intent. We can then use that feedback to help us shape improvements to the communications for the next time.
Communication is Circular not Linear
One of the biggest mistakes we often make is to think that communication as a one way process – from you to the other person. Many people think of communication like a General giving orders. I, on the other hand think of communication more as a game of catch.
Once you add feedback to communication, communication becomes circular and stops becoming linear.
For me communication is less about changing the other person than changing myself. Clearly I have positions and viewpoints I want to communicate. But, I will modify your positions and viewpoints based on my communications with others. Conversations are part of the communications process, useful for establishing mutual understanding and revising priorities and messages. Communication, while appearing linear, is not meant to be a one-time effort. Instead it is a dynamic process with feedback that is reviewed and reshaped relevant, timely, and effective.