Effective Communication

Communication can be defined as the two-way meaningful exchange of ideas, emotions, information, attitudes and, most importantly, experiences.

In this world, everyone needs to communicate. Communication is central to human existence. One starts to communicate right after birth and a child's first cry is, perhaps, the most sought after communication. It is now well known that verbal as well as written forms of communication are but just a small percentage of the overall process and hence non-verbal communication (gestures, postures, looks, deportment, etc.) assumes greater importance. However, both are inter-related and often performed simultaneously. Also, both can be taught as well as learnt.

To make this complex yet critically important subject easy to comprehend and to make the process of communication, particularly verbal communication, more effective, ten easy to recall (user-friendly) words of day-to-day English, all starting with the letter 'C', have been adopted by the authors and called the Ten Commandments of Effective Communication. The readers will also come across several other commonly used words in English language, again starting with the letter 'C', during the course of reading this piece and elsewhere and many of you may also recall several such words which complement/supplement our Ten Commandments. Thus, the ten commandments propounded here are not the last word. Readers are advised to change, exchange, interchange these with those which suit the occasion and/or their style. The only being advocated cardinal rule here is to use only those words that begin with the letter 'C' for convenience and comfort.

Ten commandments of effective communication


1. CLEARLY: Whatever may be the content, unless it is delivered in a clear voice, will be an exercise in futility. The golden rule is to avoid grunts, huffs, etc. Rehearsals as well as role play helps. Use of natural accent of the speaker further adds to the clarity. (It is advisable not to assume a foreign one as then the focus is more on accent than on content). Vary tone/tenor, pitch and volume, as required by situation, to add more punch to the message you wish to convey. Avoid mumble and jumbles.

2. COHERENTLY: Besides clarity, coherent delivery of the message is perhaps as important. The cardinal rule here is to express yourself rationally & logically and, if possible, fluently. Command over the language to be used is an asset and hence in the beginning itself clarify the mode of communication to be employed . Coherence helps in making the process of communication smooth.

3. CORRECTLY: This is most important, particularly if your message includes data, figures, coordinates, etc. It is always better if you carry consult prepared notes. Thus, homework is vital. Of course, for the rest of the text/content, use appropriate words, phrases, etc. Again, as stated above, communication could be perhaps in vernacular, if not well versed with foreign language; even English.

4. CONCISELY: In most of the communication, it is always advisable to cut the bull and come straight to the point. Avoid beating about the bush. Even a humorous piece loses its punch if it is too long or has too many interruptions. To start with, define the subject clearly, albeit in brief. If possible, give a summary of what you wish to convey so that everyone remains focused on the main theme.

5. CRISPLY: If first four 'Cs' are followed in tandem, it becomes apparent to communicate crisply thus saving on time, effort and perhaps, money. Command over vocabulary and judicious use of phrases, helps. Crisp communiqués carry more punch and are more effective. You do not have to be curt to be crisp. Be cordial instead.

6. CREDIBLY: Credibility of the communication should be beyond doubt and it is almost synonymous to correct & coherent communication. Wherever factual information is to be conveyed and use of statistics & data is unavoidable, quote reference(s). If necessary, back-up material should be available to help you carry the day in case the credibility is in question.

7. CONVINCINGLY: Any communication can become convincing if it is delivered with a smattering of examples, case studies, experiences, role plays, etc. These should be backed up with references to establish credibility. Clarity of purpose and sincerity of the one delivering the communication apparently add to making the communication more acceptable. Hence practice it before-hand, whenever you can.

8. CONCLUSIVELY: Conclusive here also means all-inclusive. It is better to re-cap the entire communication towards the end, of course in brief. This helps in zeroing on to the vital, critical issues in the communication. As mentioned above, clear definition of the subject or the purpose of the entire process aids in concluding properly.

9. COMPLETELY: An effective communication must have a well defined ending, linked to subject. You can gauge the level of all the 'C's mentioned above by asking for a . There are several ways to check completion and the easiest is to ask if the message had reached the audience. Structured questionnaires are sometimes used for this purpose, particularly if the communication is to be used further.

10. COST-EFFECTIVELY: This dimension has not even been touched upon in most of the material available on effective communication. In today's world, however, it has assumed critical importance. It is not easy to make instant cost-benefit analysis of most communications but it is possible to have a fairly good idea. Of course, for any communication to be fruitful, benefits accrued should be more than cost involved. This is particularly true for lectures, training, interactions, etc. for which one has to pay to attend. In addition, your Communication should preferably be either Contemporary or Classic depending on the receiver's background and also on the ambience. For example, to a young generation next audience, a Contemporary (chic) style and delivery will perhaps be more in order while a group of freedom fighters who took part in India's struggle for independence would appreciate the Classic approach. Here, Creativity could play a crucial role. One need to be imaginative and a judicious mix of both these modes may help the sender to carry the day, particularly if the audience consists of a mixed bag. However, try and avoid use of clichés and too much jargon.

Obviously, for communication to be effective, it must lead to a mutually acceptable and/or logical conclusion. This also bring about another critical aspect, and that is of Continuity. Thus even though one feels that the communication is complete, it is perhaps only the current phase that is concluded and that too for the time being. The process of Communication is very much on all the time if connectivity of the sender and receiver is ON.