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Communication is a Two-Way Street

Business leaders consistently list being able to communicate effectively as a major key to success. Industrial psychologists have documented that effective communication is the lifeblood of good relationships with business associates, customers, vendors and investors. Yet, the American Management Association reports that 90% of all problems in an organization is a direct result of poor communication. Marriage and family counselors also point to poor communication as a common reason for interpersonal conflicts.

Why is there such a failure to communicate?

One reason is that people fail to keep in mind that effective communication does not occur merely because a message has been presented. More important than what is said is how others perceive and respond to what is said. The greatest obstacle to good communication is the assumption that communication has taken place when it hasn't.

The dictionary defines communication as a process by which information is exchanged between individuals through a common system of symbols, signs or behaviors. This means that communication is a two-way street, involving a sender and a receiver. The sender's responsibility is to present a clear message. The receiver's responsibility is to (1) hear (2) interpret (3) evaluate and (4) respond to the message.

Good communication can occur when the sender and the receiver show mutual respect. The sender shows respect through the words used and the receiver shows respect through actively listening to what the sender has to say. It is a give and take situation with both parties doing some giving and taking during the process.

Steps to Effective Communication

Clarify your ideas before attempting to communicate them.

What specifically do you want the person or group to receive? Do you have a firm grasp of your primary idea, concept or message? People often spend more time beating around the bush than getting to the core of what needs to be communicated.

With empathy, acknowledge the rights and feelings of others.

Everyone has needs, wants, objectives and resources. When you relate to people in an acceptable way, you build credibility and trust. This helps create open, positive dialogue. Be yourself, but speak from the perspective and competency level of the receiver.

Be honest.

While using tact and good manners, make sure you are also honest. If you are not honest, integrity is lost. Communication is destroyed. Be compassionate in your truthfulness. Often, the manner in which you say something is more important than what you say.

Pay attention to your body language.

From 75 to 95% of communication is nonverbal. People respect and respond to good eye contact, smiles, cordial voice tones, good posture, enthusiasm and well-placed humor. And even though you are told, "Don't judge a book by its cover," people do judge you by your appearance.

Listen when someone else is talking.

The greatest communicators are not necessarily the greatest speakers. More often than not, they are the greatest listeners. Good listening is an absolute necessity for good communication. If there is no receiver, then the sender is wasting his or her time.