We’re big advocates of the “C” word and believe that effective communication can solve a whole host of problems (often before they even become problems).

Effective communication means two or more people making a connection where they are able to exchange thoughts, feelings, ideas and feel understood.

We often take communication for granted, after all, we’ve said what we wanted to say, how did the other person not understand?

There are a number of factors that determine if communication is effective or not. There are internal factors affecting each person, interactional factors between the two people, and external factors in the physical environment.

Effective communication is definitely a skill and it can be learned and practiced.

We tend to assume that because we’ve said something that someone else doesn’t understand, it’s their fault – we knew what we meant. But the person receiving the message may hear and understand quite differently and that’s no-one’s fault.

Messages have to pass through our filtering systems of thoughts and feelings, for example if we come home frustrated about our workday, we may communicate anger even though it wasn’t meant, in turn the listener may expect us to be angry, so hears anything we say as angry.

The less conscious attention the speaker and listener pay, and the more emotionally charged the topic, the more likely there’ll be a misunderstanding.

The best way to counteract this is to get feedback – literally ask the other person what they heard you say. If it doesn’t match with your intention, you can clarify by sharing more about what your intention was, then ask for feedback again until you are sure they’ve understood.

Remember all our actions communicate – if you ignore someone, you aren’t not communicating, you’re sending a very clear message. Our body language, facial expression, tone of voice and voice volume all convey messages alongside our words and in fact body language researcher Albert Mehrabian found that communication is 55% nonverbal, 38% vocal, and 7% words only.

Your communication will always have content (the words you use) and feeling (expressed through non-verbal cues). When the content and feeling don’t match, this creates confusion, especially if the two are contradictory. There’s a classic example of the husband asking the wife what’s wrong and she says “nothing” but he knows there’s really something wrong because her tone tells him so.

Emails, texts, etc. can be equally confusing because there are no non-verbal clues that provide the feeling expressed, so they’re particularly susceptible to being taken out of context.

If there’s a discrepancy between content and feeling, we’ll almost always give more weight to the feeling.

So, remember to communicate with confidence, say what you mean and mean what you say, and don’t be too frustrated if your message isn’t understood – revisit it and explain further.

Do you have questions about communication?

Give us a call at CUBE HR 01282 678321, we’ll be happy to advise you and we have policies and templates available to meet every HR need.

Why not check out our blog on a similar topic Office Pet Peeves: What Drives Your Team Crazy

We also have a YouTube channel with loads of handy videos.