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COMMUNICATION: Deb's Top Ten Tips for Effective Communication

dmackin-7-07My team suggested that it might be fun for me to do my Top Ten Communication Tips for this week’s blog, as a change of pace from our rather “heavy duty” ones of late. So, imagine you’re watching one of the late shows on TV where they count down from ten – with drum roll included – (from lesser to greatest importance):

Number 10:  Accept that 87.5% of your success is based on your interpersonal skills.
We so want to believe that our content knowledge will win the day, but experts report that our success will actually be based on the strength of our ability to relate well with others.  Do we understand what motivates people? Can we build a bridge between our own needs and theirs? Are we willing to start a conversation with someone we don’t know well (that sounds so simple, but many people don’t do it)?

Number 9:  Recognize that impressions are made in the first 4-6 seconds.
Count out 6 Mississippi’s and that’s the amount of time we have to make that important first impression. Do we appear confident, yet approachable? Are we controlling over our emotions and our words? How’s the posture and tone of voice?

Number 8:  Pay attention to how social media is changing the way we communicate.
New language choices are emerging as more and more people instant message, tweet on Twitter, link in and share thoughts on Facebook. I decided it was important to play with these new mediums in order to stay current in the world of communication. The informality and degree of personal exposure is startling, yet predictive of what’s to come.

Number 7:  Get good at your elevator speech.
Whether it’s your personal vision or some change initiative you’re implementing at work, your ability to communicate the purpose (why), the picture (what it will look like), the plan (how it will be implemented) the performance measure (metric), and the part  (how you need others)– what we call the “elevator speech” – will be critical for your success. By the way, it should be short and memorized.

Number 6:  Prohibit triangling in your presence.
Triangling is when we talk behind others’ backs about things that are bothering us. Maybe we attended a lousy meeting and then stopped by a friend’s office to complain about it. It’s nasty business when we don’t say anything at the time, but spread negativity to others. Real teamwork requires a prohibition on triangling.

Number 5:  Receive feedback as a gift.
I see feedback as a gift because people could triangle or collect stamps (resentments) and instead they are choosing to come directly to share their feedback. What a present! Even if it’s bad news, I’d rather someone talk to me directly than spread gossip behind my back, and everyone I’ve ever asked, feels the same way.

Number 4:  Mirror the style of those around you.
Communication styles and Myers Briggs – plus many other personality tools – remind us that the best way to “catch the fish” is to bait the hook with something the fish likes. So, next time, rather than trying to make the other person be more like you, try to shift gears to be more like the other person. Just mirror their body language and tone of voice for starters and watch to see the relationship flourish.

Number 3:  Watch your body language signals.
Body language accounts for 55% of the impression we make on others. Remember, it’s not what you intend, but rather the effect it has on others that’s important. I may be relaxing with my folded arms, but the effect on others is that I’m close-minded. What is your body saying to others?

Number 2:  Mean what you say and say what you mean.
Most communication train wrecks occur because we either are not clear ourselves, or we don’t seek clarity about what the other person is saying. Instead we fill in meaning and make assumptions that may or may not be true. Just saying, “Can you give me an example of what you mean?” will go a long way to improve understanding.

Number 1:  Be a better listener.
We have two ears and one mouth for a reason:  to listen twice as much as we speak. When I’m actively listening, I’m demonstrating a willingness to change my mind based on what you tell me. I’m staying where you are, not trying to construct my rebuttal as you talk. Living two minutes in the other person’s world – paraphrasing what’s said, reflecting feeling and asking questions – can transform the relationship.

As I was developing these, I realized that there are a couple I could stand to work on in 2010. I hope you’ll use this list for some personal communication goal-setting of your own. You may also have a few Top Ten of your own; we’d love to hear from you about them.

  • Very nice Blog, I will tell my friends about it.


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  • I find the hardest to do is listening to a non team based player. At first, I listen intently and try to understand where there coming from. I listen with empathy and even give a synopsis on what was said. However, when I give my input they indicate approaches in which are proven success are not received well. “No, we don’t have time for that!” and such.

    I won’t be confrontation however, when all hope of them understanding Team concept and effective communication within a organization has failed…. well, I wish them the best in their circumstance and offer to keep my door open for discussion.

    It’s all about their “kingdoms”.

    • That realization that someone doesn’t intend to really consider other approaches can be very disappointing, especially when you know the techniques you’re suggesting do work. Your right to recognize that they represent only about 15% of people and sometimes the best strategy is to move on and work harder on the 60% that are “sitting on the fence” and more open to hearing your suggestions. Good luck!

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