10 tips to communicate with the desired impact
We all know that it is very important to communicate properly. All our interactions depend on it, whether in our personal or professional sphere.
Yet, how often are we the subjects or authors of communications that do not reach their goal, that make things confusing and complicate situations that should have been very easy to manage?
In this article, I will explain to you how to increase the impact of your communication, whether you are sending or receiving the message.
What is communication?
The first thing here is to define what communication is. What usually comes to mind are the words that we exchange, orally or in writing.
In fact, the words themselves are only a tiny part of what you communicate. Already old studies (1, 2) have shown that people take into account three things to judge favourably a communication.
The formula described by the authors is Total Liking = 7% Verbal Liking + 38% Vocal Liking + 55% Facial Liking..
The most important is the visual communication: your body language, your gestures, your expressions and the way you look at your interlocutors.
You can then imagine the amount of information lost or created without real foundations with written communications.
The second criterion is auditory communication: the tone of your voice, the speed at which you speak.
Finally, the content of your message, the words themselves, form only the remaining 7% of what people take into account.
You can easily see that what you say is of relatively little importance. All this means that it is not on the content itself that you have to work hard to improve your communication but on nonverbal communication.
The minor part of the words themselves is what makes the purely written communication particularly complex because we will always try to infer feelings, motives behind the words we read in a message.
Good communication must be useful in all types of communication
If you do an internet search, you will find a lot of articles explaining how to communicate.
I must say that most reminds me of what I learned in my coaching training and what I use as a coach.
Some of these tips may be helpful but I think this is not the purpose of a communication.
A coaching conversation, while very powerful, is something special and it is not the way to communicate in our daily, professional or personal interactions.
The following tips will apply to all your interactions, keeping them natural.
1 – You cannot not communicate
The first thing to remember is that you are communicating continuously. Even if you do not say anything, do not move, you communicate.
You send signals, a reflection of your feelings that your interlocutors will take into consideration. When you are in a meeting and you have not said a word and stay in your chair without moving, you clearly communicate that you do not want to be there.
Your facial expressions will constantly say something about you. Think about when you meet someone in a public place.
You do not know this person; she does not try to communicate with you; but think of all that you can see and feel. You can see immediately if this person is in a good mood or a dark mood for example.
What impact does this have on you?
Now you begin to understand that you are communicating all the time and that it has an effect on others, whether you like it or not.
– Avoid being lost in your thoughts.
– Do not hide your emotions. Everything you show must be in agreement at all levels.
2 – The purpose of the communication is the answer you get
Now you have decided to communicate. Why? Because you want a certain answer. This is the purpose of any communication: to obtain the answer that one seeks.
This is where the problems begin: when we do not get the expected answer. Most of the time we will criticise others for not having understood and in return others will criticise us for not being clear enough. If you want to communicate effectively, do not play this game.
When you communicate, you are responsible for what you communicate and if you do not get the expected answer, it is that your message was not adapted to your audience.
As simple as that, do not look for excuses. Now we will see how you can adapt your message to achieve its purpose.
– Examine the answer you get. If it does not meet your expectations, choose other words, another angle of approach.
– Ask your interlocutor how he understood your message.
– Clarify what the person understood by asking; “It seems that – reaction of the person – …”
– Say “I think I wasn’t clear.” Or something similar.
3 – Find a common platform at the start
This step is intended to bring something in common with your interlocutors at the beginning of the communication. It can be as simple as a note about the weather, the room you’re in, or reiterate at the beginning of meetings why you’re all here.
This step is also important in written communication. If you send an email, mention something you’ve discussed recently with the person for example.
This will start with something neutral and something that everyone can agree on. So be careful in this step of not bringing a subject that could potentially be contentious.
It also allows, unconsciously, to place a mark that the interlocutors are on the same wavelength. It is also something to do during the communication. Summarise at regular intervals the points on which you have agreed.
– What do you know about your interlocutor that you can use: Children, pets are often a welcome topic.
– Remember something positive that you have discussed or that the person mentioned in an email and start mentioning this information.
– If you do not know the person, ask something general: Where she lives, what she does, what are her hobbies…
4 – Do not assume that people know, love or do the same things you do
This is a very common mistake. We think everyone is like us. There is a presupposition in Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) that says that the map is not the territory (3).
When you look at a map, you do not see the geographical reality of the territory. The map is a representation of this territory. That’s how our brain works.
We accumulate information about the territory around us through our senses. We then retain only the information that we think is useful. Each person follows this same process but as on a map, what the person will include in his representation of the world is completely different.
Which means that the way you perceive the world is unique. This is also true for your knowledge, experiences, tastes and all things where there is a personal element.
So when you communicate, do not assume anything about the tastes, knowledge and experiences of your interlocutors; and above all, do not think that they are like you, that they think the same thing as you do.
To communicate effectively, be ready to open your mind, to take into account that there are different points of view and that it is perhaps that of another person who will be the most useful.
– Never talk about something as a fait accompli. Ask: “Do you know …? Do you like to…? “
– When a person communicates something that surprises you, which you had not thought of, say it positively and appreciate this new information, this new point of view.
5 – Focus on what the other person is saying, not your answer
Have you noticed how much time you spend in a conversation preparing what you want to say instead of listening to what others are saying?
This results in communications that go nowhere because everyone simply wants to give their own ideas even if they have nothing to do with what is being discussed.
If you want to communicate effectively your answer must build on what has been communicated before. It is therefore important that you listen to what others have to share, evaluate this answer and then prepare your own answer.
Only in this way will your response be adapted and constructive.
This answer can go from “how does it contribute to what we discuss?
If your interlocutor talks about another topic; elaborate on the answer; give your opinion constructively…
– Look at the person speaking. We focus our ideas towards where we look.
– A useful technique is to repeat in your head what the person is saying. In this way, you are focused on the communication of your interlocutor and not on your own words. It works also by reading a written message. Read it as if you were reading it aloud.
6 – Focus on how the person says it
I explained in the introduction how important nonverbal communication is. It is therefore essential to pay attention not only to the content of the message but also to the way it is delivered.
What are the feelings communicated by your interlocutor?
How does he behave?
Do his words and his attitude express the same message?
We will see this in more detail in section 10. Even in an email you can infer feelings and state of mind by the turn of phrases, the words used.
But be careful, as noted in the introduction, do not analyse too much because you have limited information only in writing. Make a habit of watching how your interlocutors behave.
Use this information to gain a better understanding of your contacts and do not hesitate to share with them what you discover because it will allow them to realise the authenticity of their message and bring a new depth to your relationship.
– If you look at the person speaking, note the feelings that his behaviour expresses.
– Analyse how you feel. Are you comfortable? If so, it is certainly that the message is sincere. If not, ask yourself why.
7 – Take a break to prepare your answer
As explained in the title, do not hurry to answer. You do not have to answer quickly.
How many times have you spoken too fast and regretted your words?
I’m not talking here about taking five minutes to answer but to incorporate what I asked you to consider in the previous sections to prepare the best answer.
Remember that your response must be constructive and advance communication towards the desired goal.
8 – Use the same language as your interlocutor
It sounds simple but if you do not use the same language, you will not understand your interlocutor and he will not understand you.
You will probably understand each word but you will not understand the content and meaning of the message.
So how do you use the same language?
The easiest way is to use the exact same words as your interlocutor. It must of course sound natural and it is not appropriate to repeat everything your interlocutor says.
This is also valid for any written communication. The person with whom you communicate will feel heard and understood.
A second way of speaking the same language is to use the same sensory modalities to describe information (4).
We record the information received with our senses. Although we use all of them, every person will have one or two favourite senses to receive and analyse information.
This is reflected in the expressions and verbs we use. For example, if someone uses “I see” or “It’s clear,” that person probably has a visual preference.
Take note of this and use this to your advantage. But it also means that you should be able to adapt your own preferences to use the preferences of your interlocutor instead of your own.
– Trigger a reaction of your interlocutor by using its preferred meaning that you have identified: Do you see, feel? Does that make sense to you? Does it ring a bell?
– Identify your own preferred sensory modalities.
– Prepare how you would say things in a modality that is not your favourite one to use to fit with your interlocutors’ preferred sensory modalities.
9 – Summarise in simple terms and ask if your interlocutor is in agreement with you
As the title describes, take the time to summarise what has been discussed, the things you have agreed on, where there is still agreement to be found.
Do not hesitate to ask if your interlocutor has the same perception of the situation.
This will avoid many misunderstandings if everyone ends the exchange with a clear and identical idea.
10 – Be congruent in your messages
It is certainly the most difficult to accomplish. Carl Rogers (5, 6), an eminent therapist in the 1950s, defined congruence as a precise fit between our experience and our consciousness.
He has also extended this definition to our communication. It is the ability to be a unified person at all levels.
You are congruent when what you feel, how you behave and what you say express the same thing. Simple examples of incongruence are going to be saying “I’m sad” with a big smile or shouting after someone and saying that you are not angry.
Being on the same wavelength at all our levels seems easy but in fact it is very difficult for a person to recognise whether she is congruent or not. Congruence is linked to our awareness in the moment.
It is very easy not to be aware of our feelings for example but also the words we use and our behaviour. This means that we are the most misguided person to judge our congruence, which makes it difficult to be congruent.
On the other hand, your interlocutor will recognise very easily if you are congruent because he can study your words, behaviours and feelings.
To be congruent yourself, notice how your interlocutor reacts to your message. If he seems confused, you are probably not congruent.
A congruent communication leads to a better relationship and a better understanding with your interlocutor. Congruent communication is an honest communication that expresses all aspects of personal perception of all actors in communication.
– Practice the analysis of your congruence. Get used to being as congruent as possible.
– Also analyse how you feel when you are not congruent. You can practice this with friends or family, almost like a game.
– Always be honest in your communications. This increases congruency.
– Ask feedback from friends or family.
Conclusion regarding how to communicate with the desired impact
If you follow the previous ten tips, you will improve your personal and professional relationships by communicating more clearly, with a purpose and in a way that demonstrates your understanding and interest in others. To learn more about how to improve your communication or how to improve your public speaking, write to us now via our contact form.
Mehrabian, A., Wiener, M. (1967). Decoding of Inconsistent Communications. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. 6(1): 109–114.
Mehrabian, A., Ferris, S.R. (1967). Inference of Attitudes from Nonverbal Communication in Two Channels. Journal of Consulting Psychology. 31(3): 248–252.
Temaner Brodley, B. (1998). Congruence and its relation to communication in client-centered therapy. The Person-Centered Journal. 5 (2): 83-106.