Most people prefer to talk than to listen – which is why listening is so hard. Even so, getting your message across is about getting the other person to listen to you. Talking to yourself is not effective communications, even if you do it out loud. (Have you heard that line before somewhere?)

Ultimately, getting your message across is not just a matter of mastering public speaking techniques, it is about persuading the other/the audience to come to your point of view. It involves assertiveness, positive statements, effective use of questions, and especially communicating with conviction. You need to be convinced yourself of what you are trying to communicate if you want to convince anybody else. (We’ll get back to tact and diplomacy in future installments.)

Eight Essential Conditions

Here are the essential conditions to getting your message across:

Be prepared – clear communication depends on clear thinking, not just for the content of what you want to communicate, but also for the anticipated response of your interlocutor

[s]. Preparation also means priming yourself – pump up your assertiveness quotient.

Pick the right time and place – find the time when the receiver is less likely to be distracted by competition with other messages and noise.

Bring the right amount of energy and emotion to your communication.

Empathize – the ability to understand and be sensitive to the feelings, thoughts and situations of others. Good EI competency is related to this.

Be conscious of your language – and not just your words.

Master the art of timing and pace: the effective use of silence and space.

Repeat the message – without being pedantic: “Tell them what you’re going to tell them; tell them; tell them what you told them!”

Be descriptive – tell them the complete story: the content, context, what and how, who and why; use adjectives and metaphors; make it live and breath; avoid challenging the person you’re talking to – people stop listening when the information challenges their self-esteem, or basic beliefs.

Nine Common Barriers to Effective Communication

In getting your message across, recognizing and avoiding obstacles to delivering effective messages are important to being an effective communicator. These barriers are in turn mirrored by the listener:

Inattention, disinterest, distractions, or irrelevance to the receiver – be interesting!

The use of jargon – over-complicated, unfamiliar and/or technical terms become problematic when there are uninitiated participants in the conversation.

Emotional barriers and taboos – some people may find it difficult to express their emotions and some topics may be completely ‘off-limits’ or taboo. So stay away from these topics if you are uncomfortable with them, or your audience is. However, don’t be intimidated by ‘political correctness’.

Differences in perception and viewpoint – which is almost everybody; see also point 8. Just because you believe what you’re saying doesn’t mean anybody else does.

Physical disabilities such as hearing problems or speech difficulties – if you are afflicted you already know you are working hard to overcome them; if your audience has these difficulties, pay attention; accommodate.

Obstacles to non-verbal communication – not being able to see the non-verbal cues, gestures, posture and general body language can make communication less effective. This is why telecons – even videocons – are less effective than face to face.

Cultural differences. The norms of social interaction vary greatly in different cultures, as do the way in which emotions are expressed. For example, the concept of personal space varies between cultures and between different social settings.

Language differences and unfamiliar accents – work harder, be patient, slow down, don’t shout!.

Expectations and prejudices, false assumptions or stereotyping – differences in perception is the most commonly misunderstood barrier to communication. People often hear what they expect to hear rather than what is actually said and draw incorrect conclusions. Similarly the speaker mistakenly may leave out information she assumes the listener surely already knows.

A skilled communicator must be aware of these barriers and try to reduce their impact by continually checking for understanding and by offering appropriate clarifying feedback.

Now that you are prepared, and have anticipated the barriers you’ll face, you then need to engage the five keys to getting your message across, which we will talk about in the next instalment.[Did you notice the eight ‘thises’ and the five ‘thats’? Don’t you find that annoying?! I don’t mean to irritate my audience but that’s what you do in blogging, list I mean, not irritate.]

If you are interested in exploring these ideas further AFS Consulting has a program for you delivered in one-on-one coaching modality: Mastering the Art of Tact and Diplomacy. Check it out here: