What is an effective communicator?
An effective communicator is someone who conveys their message thoroughly and is receptive and responsive to others' input. Those who are strong communicators speak in a clear, direct manner, using easily understood language. They are typically assertive with their feelings and viewpoints, but they are also open to suggestions from others. When listening, effective communicators make eye contact and use affirmative language like "I hear you" or "I understand your concerns."
Some common traits of effective communicators include:
Contributes actively to their workplace: Effective communicators are likely central to a business's operations. These professionals know the company's objectives and are adept at communicating with their colleagues. They also know how to listen to others and take direction as needed.
Are trusted by others: Since effective communicators speak honestly and listen closely, they are typically among the first individuals' others go to for advice. It can be easier to speak to someone openly when you know your input matters.
Express themselves freely: Individuals with effective communication skills understand the importance of being direct with their opinions or ideas. During important projects at work, for instance, an effective communicator will say when they think their team has a solid plan or if something needs to be adjusted. However, they make sure to remain assertive and respectful if they disagree with others.
Have their own style of communication: Part of being an effective communicator is having your input be memorable. For example, when your communications are unique, others may be more likely to remember your ideas when they need another perspective. Your style of communication can include the inflections in your speech, non-verbal cues, and the use of humor or personal stories.
Can make complex topics simple: When communicating complex ideas, effective communicators should know how to break down information in a way that most people can understand. A literature professor, for example, should be able to explain a poem for a class of students who do not regularly read poetry. A marketing manager may use effective communication to explain search engine optimization to stakeholders who aren't familiar with driving web traffic.
Related: How to Communicate Effectively With a Difficult Team
Why is effective communication important?
Effective communication can help personal and professional relationships function more cooperatively and productively. When you know how to make your points clear and understand the input of others, you will probably be a move valued part of a team. Workplace teams who can speak and listen effectively are better equipped to further the company's goals while maintaining strong relationships.
Related: Emotional Intelligence: Definition and Examples
How to be an effective communicator
Being an effective communicator requires continuous practice. You can develop your communication skills by following these steps:
Know your purpose
Identify your audience
Have a plan
Use appropriate body language
1. Know your purpose
There are many types of speech, including persuasive, informative, instructive and others. Knowing what you hope to accomplish in communication can help you plan your strategy. If you hope to inform your audience, for instance, you may include statistics to give your message credibility. A persuasive speech may include more emotional appeals to help your audience identify with your message.
2. Identify your audience
It is also important to know who you're presenting to so you can make effective decisions for your communication. For instance, if you're a salesperson pitching a new product to a long-time client, you can probably be more casual and humorous than if you were a doctor presenting research findings at a medical conference. Many factors can affect the way you structure your communication, including the audience's age, professional statuses such as if they're your supervisor, whether you hope to sell them something and others.
3. Have a plan
To communicate in a way that engages your audience, it is beneficial to plan your input in advance. If you're a city planner pitching an idea for a new park, for instance, you should know where the park will be located, how the city can pay for it and other important points. You should also consider any possible objections your audience may have and prepare responses in advance. As a city planner proposing a new park, you might consider whether citizens will think other uses of funds are more appropriate, and come up with ways to address their concerns.
4. Listen actively
Active listeners are able to communicate their interest in what the speaker is saying. This can include maintaining an upright posture and eye contact and keeping other movements to a minimum. To demonstrate interest, you should also periodically let the other participant know that you understand what they're saying. In addition to verbal confirmation, you can also ask clarifying questions like "What would you like to happen now," or "How can I help you with your plan?"
5. Speak clearly
Speaking clearly includes a variety of factors, such as tone, volume and pacing. Make sure your tone is appropriate to the audience, for instance, being formal with a board of directors and casual with a group of friends. If you're speaking to a group in a large room, a loud volume is likely most appropriate. Additionally, ensure you're speaking at a pace that listeners can follow.
6. Use appropriate body language
Whether you're sitting or standing, keeping an upright posture conveys active listening. If you're in a small group, maintain eye contact so the speaker knows you're invested in the conversation. In any size group, keep distractions to a minimum, such as only looking at your phone in the case of an emergency.
Read more: Nonverbal Communication Skills: Definition and Examples
7. Be approachable
In addition to practicing their skills within conversations, effective communicators should give the impression that they invite more communication. In a workplace setting, effective communicators are eager to hear their colleagues' input and will likely have an open-door policy or otherwise make it a priority to converse with others. When individuals know their viewpoints are valued and welcomed, they should be more likely to approach you with any concerns or ideas.