Communication is the ONLY way to get things done in a group, no doubt about it. Every day, we use various media, including e-mails, phones and our bodies for communication and we rely heavily on our ability to communicate with others to go about our daily lives. However, often, we struggle to express ourselves in a way that results in a positive outcome or at the very least, gets our point across lucidly. Many obstacles come in the way of effective communication, most of which stem from our own physical self, i.e. our body language and voice intonation. How we perceive a problem and imagine a probable outcome greatly affects our ability to do anything about it. Whether it is communication on a personal or professional front, there are some basic rules to communicate effectively. The following five guidelines encompass the most basic rules of good communication-
Rule #1 – Prepare to communicate– The biggest cause of failure of any endeavour is lack of preparation. The same is true for communication. Whenever there is a matter that needs to be discussed, shared or brought up, be prepared with the facts of the matter, so that your communication is crisp and clear. This exercise will also help you alter your speech for your audience and compel you to think a little more about the problem on your own before sharing it with a larger group. It will also help you determine what is the outcome that you want from the communication and help you consider other possible outcomes that you should be prepared to accept.
Rule #2 – Take a neutral stand, physically – This is an important aspect to understand. By a neutral stand, I don’t imply that you should be ambivalent or unclear of what it is you want. What I mean here is that you should not start the conversation being either offensive or defensive. This is because, whatever stand you take, your audience is likely to take the opposite stand, and the conversation is likely to turn into a battle of words, without either side being empathetic to the other. Your words and body language should neither be aggressive, nor be too submissive, as either extreme is likely to bring unfavorable results. Instead, a confident, yet poised body language and voice is likely to draw people’s attention to you and make them more willing to give you a patient listening.
Rule #3 – Be civil– This seems like a no-brainer, but it still needs to be on the list. Many times in our conversations, especially with people who we are closest to, we end up taking liberties that we really shouldn’t. We must constantly remind ourselves to speak so as to grow, learn, share and improve. If the aim of speaking is to hurt, abuse, insult and oppress, such communication is likely to only spoil any possibility of a good outcome. Remember to always be current, and focus on immediate feedback, instead of dragging old issues into the conversation. Let bygones be bygones. Always ask yourself these 3 questions before speaking – Does it need to be said? By me? Now?
Rule #4 – Be a good listener – Communication can never be effective if one person only talks and the other only listens. Good communication comprises a conversation that allows freedom of speech and expression to each party involved. The ability to blank out the voice in your head, and simply listen to the other person, without thinking about your next response, is the key to understanding a problem in its entirety and to work out a lasting solution.
Rule #5 – Get closure – Finally, no communication can be considered effective if the involved parties don’t have closure on the issue. In such case, the problem is likely to persist and to keep causing conflict on an on-going basis. If you are taking the initiative to start the conversation, make sure that there is a peaceful closure to it so that there are no lingering thoughts or unaddressed concerns in the minds of those involved, which may lead to failure of the communication attempt.