How to Communicate

Oral Communication

Effective communication helps you to share information with others, build relationships and encourage trust.

Always make an effort to find the most appropriate language – this varies from individual to individual and often depends on the circumstances.  Don’t try to use words that you do not understand or would not normally use.  The best communicators use simple language in simple sentences, pitched at the level that receivers understand and can hear.  Many people tend to use more complicated language when talking formally or to a larger group.  This can be as a result of nerves but it may be because they believe that it is the thing to do.  A speaker could, for example, make either of the following two statements:

·        “Please clear your desks before leaving work to make it easier for the cleaners.”

·        “All staff are responsible for ensuring that work surfaces are empty of papers and other materials outside working hours.”

Which one do you think would be appropriate and effective?

Non-verbal communication

As we have seen, non-verbal communication is the way we send and receive wordless message by facial expressions, gaze, gestures, posture, proximity or position in relation to other people.  It is often called ‘body’ language’ because our body communicates our intentions and feelings, irrespective the words we use.  In fact, how we say something is often more important than what we say.  If you are nervous, for example, your voice and facial expression could distract from what you are saying.

Although facial expressions (like smiling when we are happy) are more or less the same the world over, many gestures are specific to particular cultures.  For example, in some parts of the world holding your hand up with the palm towards some could be interpreted as an insult.  So, it is important to be alert to anything that could cause offence and to realise that it is possible to be rude or threatening in non-verbal communication, just as it is in words.

How you sound

Your tone of voice, the emphasis you put on particular words, the speed at which you speak and any pauses are all important parts of communication, particularly when you are speaking on the telephone and cannot see the other person.  The way your voice sounds tells people about your feelings, mood and attitude towards what you are saying, or to the person to whom you are speaking – by sounding sarcastic, superior, submissive, helpful or open, for example.

Emphasis (the way you make words stand out) can have the same effect.  Try reading the following line aloud several times, changing the emphasis on the word each time.  Start by putting a heavy emphasis on the first word, then on the second and so on:

“I believe this is true.”

Each time you change the emphasis you change the meaning subtly.  For example emphasising the first word means that you believe it, even if someone else does not.  But emphasising ‘believe’ can raise doubt about your own belief.  Add to this the possibility of having your mouth set in a grim expression, looking or not looking someone in the face as you say it, leaning forward or turning away, or standing with your hands in your pockets.  All of these facial expressions, gazes, postures and gestures can affect how your message comes across.

Where you stand

Proximity also affects how well we communicate.  Old friends can stand much closer to each other than work colleagues.  People in power sometimes stand close to someone to emphasise the importance of what they are saying, especially if they want to show displeasure.  Tall people sometimes stand back from much shorter people to avoid them feeling overshadowed or threatened.  If you stand too close to someone who is not a close friend, you may be considered as rude, inconsiderate or harassing.  This is especially so if you touch someone who considers such physical contact to be inappropriate, and it can cause deep offence or anxiety between men and women.

Dress Code

Some organisations expect employees t wear uniforms, or have dress codes that state what people should or should not wear.  How people dress and present themselves may affect how others perceive them.  The way in which you dress and behave can provide a model for the rest of the team.