Category: Communication Skills

Challenges in Message Decoding

The communication process entails a number of steps that include coding the message by the sender, transmission of the message and decoding the message by the receiver. Decoding the message is a critical step since this is where the receiver tries to make sense of the message and act accordingly. If the receiver misunderstands the message, then the entire process of communication would have failed.

If the communication is in real time or face-to-face, clearing the misunderstanding will be a simple matter, since both the sender and receiver are present. The problem arises when the communication is not happening in real time, like in the case of an e-mail. In this case there will be a lapse of time before the sender realizes that the message was either not received properly or was not interpreted properly. In either case the process of eliminating the misunderstanding will a long and tedious one, and may entail costs in the business scenario.

Thus it is clear that decoding the message correctly is critical. The role of the sender is important in this, since it is the sender that needs to ensure that the message is as clear. However, the receiver should also ensure that he takes caution in interpreting the message.

A number of challenges may arise in interpreting or decoding the message. These are:

  • Attitude of the Receiver – Of all the barriers in interpreting a message, the attitude of the receiver is the most critical and most difficult to identify as a barrier. The receiver may be biased or prejudiced against the sender or the subject of the message. In both the scenarios, the attitude of the receiver will hinder the accurate interpretation of the message. The receiver may also be disinterested in the subject of the message and therefore not pay attention.
  • Emotional Dissonance – If the content of the message is in conflict with the emotions of the receiver, then he will face dissonance. This may result in misinterpretation of the message as the receiver may be guided by his emotions while decoding the message. Messages that may result in emotional reactions should be handled with care and transmitted personally if possible so that any misinterpretation can be managed immediately.
  • Physical Distractions – Distractions in the environment of the receiver may also make it difficult to understand the message properly. These distractions may include loud noise or breakdown of communication system or even extreme temperature. Care should be taken to eliminate or minimize any physical distractions from the environment.
  • Lack of Knowledge or Communication Skills – If the receiver lacks knowledge in the subject under discussion, he may not want to put in additional effort in trying to understand the message. In this case his lack of knowledge may prevent him from fully grasping the meaning of the message. At the same time if the receiver lacks adequate communication skills like proficiency in the language, chances of miscommunication are high.

It is important to know these barriers to be able to overcome them or avoid them altogether, to ensure effective communication.

The BizComm Model of Srengthscape provides key insights into barriers and other critical aspects of communication.

Filed under: Communication Skills

5 W’s And 1 H’s The Cornerstones Of Effective Communication

Communication is a very critical aspect of human life. A large part of our waking time is spent in communicating. However, we do not give thought to most of the communication unless it involves a critical business issue or when something goes wrong in communication.

Every communication is important, however insignificant it may seem, especially in the workplace. The communication may be as simple as sending a text message to a colleague requesting for data or preparing a lengthy technical report – with proper planning and care both types of communication can be made more effective.

So what does planning a message involve? Planning a message is essentially about understanding the purpose of the message and target audience. This helps in creating an effective message that defines the purpose and designed keeping the audience in mind, for increased effectiveness.

The planning stage becomes simple by answering some critical questions to define the objective and the audience.

These are the 5 W’s and the 1H. So let us analyze these questions.

What – In terms of the message content and the audience,  the “What” question answers:

  • What am I required to communicate?
  • What is in it for me and the audience?
  • What should be the source of my data?
  • What should the message be?
  • What action is the audience required to take as a result of the communication?

Why – The “Why” question deals with:

  • Why am I required to communicate? (understanding the trigger)
  • Why communicate now?
  • Why this audience?
  • Why is this communication important?
  • Why is my option the right one?

When – The “When” question is about:

  • When should the message be delivered?
  • When is the communication required?
  • When is the action or result required?

Where – This question answers:

  • Where is the venue or location of communication?
  • Where is the communication coming from?
  • Where can I get more information?
  • Where is this communication going to lead?

Who – This is a critical question for defining the audience:

  • Who is my audience?
  • Who will be affected as a result of my communication?
  • Who will take the required action?
  • Who are the stakeholders?
  • Who will support my idea?
  • Who is in charge?

How – The “How” question is about?

  • How am I going to communicate? (aids available and type of audience)
  • How am I going to convince?
  • How am I going to handle difficult audience or questions?
  • How did I arrive at a particular decision or idea?
  • How is going to help the stakeholders?
  • How should action be taken?

Answering these simple questions can give you a clear idea about the content of the message and the target audience and will help in making your communication more impactful. Depending upon the situation, a more detailed analysis with many more such questions will be required to make communication effective.

For more on Business Communication Skills look up the BizComm Program of Strengthscape.

Filed under: Communication Skills

The Art Of Persuasion – Let us look at some strategies for effective persuasion

We persuade people around us all the time. Whether it is asking for help in a particular project or getting information from someone or marketing an idea or project, persuasion happens all the time.

But how many times are we able to get the desired result? If the answer is – not too many times, then we need to analyze our persuasion tactics. Persuading someone is not an easy feat to achieve. However, there are some simple strategies that can assist in effective persuasion and this goes a long way in getting the desired results.

Communication and persuasion are inseparable. When you persuade you are essentially communication with the person. Therefore, effective communication will eventually result in effective persuasion.

Let us look at some strategies for effective persuasion:

Be Genuine – For any communication to be effective it is important that the sender comes across as a genuine person. This becomes even more critical in persuasion, since trust is critical for persuasion. Do not provide any misleading or false information.

Be Direct – It is always a good idea to spell out exactly what you want the other person to do instead of beating around the bush. Being direct saves time and results in prompt action. Also being to the point is critical. If you provide too much unnecessary information, the important points might get diluted or lost.

Use the Golden Words – Any communication becomes more effective, if it is courteous. Again persuasion requires one to be more courteous, since you are persuading someone to do something that they would not normally do. Words like “please”, “thank you” and “sorry” go a long way building rapport and creating a congenial environment. Even if the work is a part of someone’s job description, using polite words does no harm.

Be Empathetic – Understand your audience before trying to persuade the. Know what are the positive triggers for them, understand their value system and analyze whether a direct or indirect approach of communication will click with them. Be empathetic, if the job requires extra effort from them or will cause inconvenience to them, apologize for it and offer to help in any way you can. Designing your message keeping the audience in mind will yield better results.

Outline Benefits – If the action is going to result in benefits for the other person it is important to clearly state these benefits. Tell them what’s in it for them. This will prompt immediate action.

Provide Facts – Nothing convinces better and faster than factual data. Provide all required facts and data and ensure that all the data is accurate.

Outline Action Plan – Persuasion will not be very effective if a clear plan of action is not outlined. You need to state clearly as to what action needs to be taken as a result of the communication. Otherwise, even though the person may be convinced he will not know how to go about fulfilling your request.

Keeping these simple things in mind will result in effective communication.

The BizComm Program of Strengthscape addresses Persuasion and many other aspects of Business Communication.

Filed under: Communication Skills

Rapport Building Through Effective Communication

Communication is the basis for all human relationships. We are able to connect with other people, build camaraderie and relationships by exchanging our thoughts, feelings and ideas. Rapport means having a close and harmonious relationship with others. It is communication that helps us in building and maintaining relationships with people around us.

Building rapport in the workplace is particularly critical, since having good rapport means better working relationships and higher productivity.

Since communication is the basis for human relationships and rapport, it is important to understand how effective communication can assist in rapport building. Here are some communication tips that will help you in building rapport.

Be a conversation starter. Don’t wait for someone to approach you, take the lead and start the conversation. Learn the art of small talk.

Address people by their name. Everyone likes to be remembered. Addressing someone by their name immediately creates a positive vibe and generates interest in what you have to say.

Being friendly always helps. A cheerful and approachable person will always attract people. Be easy going and allow people to come up to you and talk. You may be a good person, but having an intimidating personality will deter others from talking to you.

Ask appropriate questions. Asking questions is the best way to know a person, open-ended questions are particularly helpful in this regard. However, asking too many questions especially in the first meeting may make the other person uncomfortable. Also being culturally sensitive while asking questions is critical.

Be positive. Having positive ideas and outlook go a long way in building rapport. It is difficult be around someone who is always critical or complaining. People with positive energy are good at building relationships.

Watch and learn. If you are new at being a good conversationalist or find it difficult to talk to people, watch and learn. See how other people talk, what phrases they use to put others at ease and what kind f body language do they have. However, adopting someone else’s personality is not the answer. Learn from other people but adapt the learning to your own style.

Understand the other person while communication. Look out for non-verbal and verbal cues that will give you insights into their values, likes and dislikes and manner of working. Modulate your conversation and manner of communication accordingly.

Using these tips will make rapport building easier.

The BizComm Model of Stregthscape addresses rapport building and other nuances of Business Communication.

Filed under: Communication Skills

Conflict Resolution Through Effective Communication

Conflict is a dreaded word in any workplace. Yet, there is no organization that exists without conflict. Though conflicts have negative connotation, but if handled well conflicts can result in personal growth and effective inter-personal relationships. Therefore, conflict resolution is considered by many as a key leadership skill. Still many managers are at a loss when faced with a conflict.

Communication skills play a key role in conflict resolution. Most conflicts arise out of miscommunication, poor articulation or misinterpretation of a message. However, communication is also the strongest tool at hand for conflict resolution.

Effective communication helps in avoiding conflict and also resolving them, once they have arisen.

So let us look at some ways of using communication as a tool for conflict resolution.

  • Be clear and concise in your message. Beating around the bush or talking about unrelated issues will sometimes escalate a conflict or not result in a resolution.  Be direct and to the point while resolving conflicts. Articulate your message clearly so that there is no scope for miscommunication.
  • Communicating courteously is imperative during conflict resolution. Conflicts may escalate if others perceive your communication as being rude or discourteous. Using words and phrases like “please”, “thank you” and “I apologize” can go a long way in ensuring a courteous conflict resolution. We realize that many times conflicts may arise due to discourteous communication to begin with.
  • Back your stance with solid logic and concrete data. If your point of view is based on logical argument, it will be easy for the other person to come around to your idea.
  • Be empathetic. Conflicts can be resolved if you are empathetic to the other person and understand their point of view. Remember that conflict resolution is not about getting your opinion heard, it is about giving way to the best idea. Using phrases like “I understand” show that you are empathetic to the other person.
  • Use positive body language. Maintain eye contact, maintain a friendly and non-threatening posture and voice. Your body language and verbal communication both should emanate positivity and convey the same message.

The BizComm Model of Strengthscape encompasses many strategies for effective communication in various scenarios.

Filed under: Communication Skills

Stages in The Communication Process Enhancing Effectiveness

Let’s go back to the basics and talk about the communication process. We know that communication is the exchange of ideas, thoughts and feelings and forms the basis of all human relationships. Communication becomes critical on business organizations since organizational goals can only be achieved through effective communication.

Since communication involves an exchange, it goes to show that communication is a two-way process and involves at least two people. It is important to understand the process of communication to better analyze the challenges in communication. So how does communication take place?

We will discuss the not only the process of communication but the challenges in each stage.

  • The first step in the communication process is encoding the message. This is the stage in which the sender thinks about what he wants to communicate and converts his ideas into words. Articulation is critical, since a poorly worded message can result in miscommunication. While encoding the sender should consider his audience and the medium of communication available.
  • After encoding the message is transmitted through the appropriate medium. Choosing the right medium is important, else the message may not get transmitted properly or there may be distortion in the message. For example, giving a set of complicated and important instructions verbally, may not be a good idea, since the audience may not be able to retain the message. At this stage the sender should also consider the availability of technology with the receiver and various other aspects about his like his educational background.
  • Once the message is transmitted through an appropriate medium, the receiver comes into the picture. The receiver decodes the message to try and understand the meaning of the message. This is again a vital stage, since mistakes here will mean breakdown of the communication process.  In verbal communication, both verbal and non-verbal cues will have to be decoded for complete comprehension. Educational background, cultural differences and the context of communication play a significant role in decoding the message. While decoding the receiver must let go his or her prejudices otherwise the message will be distorted.
  • Most people assume that the process of communication gets over with decoding. However, there is a last and again a very important step in communication, and that is providing feedback. The receiver, after decoding the message, must provide feedback to the sender. This ensure that the communication was successful. At this stage if the sender feels that the message was not decoded properly they can clarify the message or if the receiver feels the need for additional information, he can ask for it. Without feedback it may be difficult to gauge the success of the communication process.

The communication process will be incomplete even if one of these steps is missing and it is important to ensure clarity in each stage for the success of the communication process.

To learn more about enhancing effectiveness at each stage of the communication process look at the BizComm Program of Strengthscape.

Filed under: Communication Skills

6 Ways To Ensure Ethical Business Communication

Ethical questions pervade all aspects of business environment today. The communication process being an integral part of any business environment must therefore also consider ethics.

We know that Communication must result in an understanding response. At every stage of the communication process we must make decisions on how to make it more effective. Ethical communication ensures transparency in communication and a greater trust between the sender and the receiver, which in turn lead to effective communication.

Another benefit of Ethical communication is better relationships and rapport. Ethical communication results in goodwill both within and outside the organization. People generally prefer to deal with organizations that are perceived to be ethical.

So here are 6 ways of ensuring ethical communication are:

  • Provide Correct and Complete Information – Withholding crucial information can damage business relationships and public image of the company. Information is important and proper information should be provided to all stakeholders – be it clients, customers or employees.
  • Lay Down Rules – Having a well-defined ethical system within the organization helps. Let people know that ethical issues are taken seriously by the organization. This will instill awareness towards ethical questions. There are less chances of going wrong if policies towards critical issues like Ethics are laid down in black and white.
  • Say what you Mean – Overpromising is a quick way to lose your ethical standing. Don’t over promise to either external people or employees. Communication should always reflect clearly what you want to communicate. Hiding behind the garb or ambiguity will do your organization no good.
  • Don’t Burn Bridges – Take care while drafting any communication to not offend the reader, this goes both for internal and external communication. The idea behind effective communication is to build relationships and rapport. This cannot be done if your message offends the reader. Even negative communication like rejecting a job applicant can be done in a polite manner.
  • Uphold Human Rights – Ethical communication is not just about providing correct and accurate information, it is also about keeping in mind human rights and upholding human dignity. Freedom of speech and sensitivity towards social issues like women’s equality, child abuse etc. should be kept in mind while drafting any message.
  • Be Culturally Sensitive – Being culturally sensitive is also crucial. Understand and respect the value systems of different cultures.

Ethical communication is an important tenet of communication. The BizComm Module of Strengthscape delves into Ethics and various other aspects of communication.

Filed under: Communication Skills

5 Tips To Improve Your Communication Skills

What are Communication Skills?

Basic Communication skills are a skill that everyone can learn. It is like riding a bicycle or typing. According to Brian Tracy, ‘If you are willing to work at it, you can rapidly improve the quality of every part of your life’.

Have you ever wondered how old is this communication system? No!

It is as old as the evolution of mankind. But, if we compare it to our present communication it is not the most effective way of communication. Effective communication skills are important for organizations to grow these days. It is important in our social life as well as workplace to get our ideas across to our clients and colleagues. Some important tips of improving communication skills can be listed as:

[1] Listen more, talk less

  • Communication is a two-way process, in which both the speaker and the listener need to be actively involved.
  • Everyone wants to be heard. To be an effective listener you need to maintain an eye- contact with the speaker, do not judge them and be patient.
  • Do not have a divided attention.
  • It is important that you decode and interpret the message the same manner the speaker wants you to. For this you should try to put yourself in their position and understand them.
  • Ask questions to the speaker to ensure that you have understood them.
  • Remove all distractions and do not let anyone interrupt you.
  • Give the speaker sufficient time to explain them and do not interrupt until they invite you or take a pause.
  • Make a few notes so that you can use it later.

[2] Body language

  • Every gesture has a different meaning in different cultures. It is important to make a note for the cultural differences if travelling to a different nation.
  • Always smile when you meet new people as it makes you attractive and trustworthy, along with improving your health and stress levels.
  • Always offer a firm handshake, as it is a symbol of confidence.
  • Do not keep your hands folded against your chest as it shows disinterest.
  • Use power poses to reduce stress levels and increase testosterone levels. This will make you feel more confident and powerful.
  • While meeting people avoid keeping hands in pockets.
  • Dress appropriately for the situation. Avoid ill-fitted dresses, as they will make you feel down.
  • You should avoid scratching your neck, nose or eyebrows. Fidgeting is a sign of anxiety and nervousness and shows lack of confidence in us.

[3] 7C’s of effective communication

  • Completeness- Try to provide all the information which is required along with some extra information.
  • Conciseness- The message should be able to convey the thoughts using fewest words with all relevant information.
  • Consideration- Always keep in mind the target group for whom the message is being written.
  • Concreteness- The message should be specific for a particular audience, not general.
  • Clarity- The message should be clear and receiver should be able to understand it easily. Use familiar and easy words for this.
  • Courtesy- We should not only be aware of the perspective of others, but also their feeling. Be polite in your message for it to be effective.
  • Correctness- The message should not contain any grammatical or vocabulary errors. The facts and figures used should be accurate.

[4] Picking the right medium

  • It is important to select the right medium of communicating a message.
  • Serious conversations like layoffs, changes in salary, etc. should be done in person.
  • If you wish to speak to a person who is very busy, you should convey your message through email and take appointment.
  • If making a telephonic call or video call, ensure that there is no disturbance in the connection as well as you do not have any distractions.

[5] Feedback

  • Give feedback to your employees through emails or phone calls on regular basis.
  • Ask for your feedback from your sub-ordinates and colleagues.
  • It will enhance productivity and help in identifying the problems.
  • It will be helpful in creating a healthy environment in the organization along with motivating the employees.

These are a few ways which can help you enhance your communication skills. These tips of effective communication can help us perceive the world and work miracles, and change our lives.

Filed under: Communication Skills

Mastering The Art Of Small Talk

When we talk about Communication Skills most people only think of effective speaking, listening and writing skills. In all this we forget a very important aspect of business communication – Small Talk. So what is Small Talk and why do I need to master this art?

Filed under: Communication Skills