L33T - Communication

By Leighton Jones


The following is a brief newsletter providing further information on different communication skills and potential barriers to communication.

Effective Communication

Communication may be defined as the sending, receiving and or exchange of information, ideas and opinions.

Effective communication is defined as communicating effectively and efficiently. The skills necessary to accomplish this can be placed into one of three categories, which are detailed below.

General Communication Skills

Effective general communication requires an individual to be able to adapt the content of their information to the unique specifications and requirements of their audience. Ensuring that the information conveyed is actually understood.

If you were for example talking to an average customer with no specialist knowledge you will have to adapt the language you use, simplifying and explaining information in a manner in which they may understand. Therefore the language used should be simple, direct and accurate. Although on the other hand when communicating with fellow colleagues you may use technical language, abbreviations and even acronyms to converse efficiently.

Effective general communication can also be properly achieved by engaging your audience to ensure their attention is maintained. Through simple methods such as questioning and answering you can purposefully involve others in the conversation, causing them to become an active participant and creating an open dialogue ensuring everyone receives and understands the information communicated.

Acknowledgement of any cultural or religious beliefs of your audience is essential, these differences can impact the ways in which individuals actually communicate. Without knowing you may be easily confused by or even offend others.

Interpersonal Communication Skills

Interpersonal communication is basically the exchange of information, opinions and ideas through essentially face to face communication. Although it may be accomplished through various channels of communication such as telephone or video calls and well as simple conversation.

Effective interpersonal verbal communication should be inclusive of those with impairments such as partial or total loss of hearing. This may be accomplished by employing methods such as signing or lip reading as a speaker you should slow down your speak to ensure others may easily follow your words.

Having positive body language, standing or sitting in an upright posture and maintaining a calm facial expression when addressing others in a group or directly can assist in assuring you capture the attention of your intended audience and your message is delivered and received. Having affirmative body movements such as simply nodding at relevant time’s showcases that you’re listening, attentive and acknowledging. This can allow information to flow naturally.

Active listening, to listen attentively and carefully to any and all speakers ensures that you completely understand any and all information conveyed. Whilst also allowing you to ask questions, furthering the conversation and elaborating upon the finer details.

The use of positive and negative language can be effective and persuasive motivators, complimenting or reprimanding individuals.

Written Communication Skills

These are non-verbal forms of communication which instead make use of the written word to convey information.

Correct grammar and spelling, regardless of the content or nature of the communication

are essential.The absence of any errors removes the possibility of misunderstandings whilst also conveying a professional image of yourself and the organisation that you are a representative of.

Structure, regardless of the format of the document (letter, newsletter or memorandum) a sensible structure should be utilized in to order present information clearly. This can be accomplished through the use of planned company specific templates.

Audience, it is important to acknowledge and tailor the communication to its intended audience using language appropriate to them. Such as when producing business documentation it should be in a formal tone, using a professional structure and correct language (absence of spelling or grammatical errors). Whereas if you were simply writing a brief text message asking a colleague who is also a personal friend a question, you may use an informal tone, abbreviations and even colloquialisms.

Simple language, in order to ensure information isn't misinterpreted or recipients aren't confused it is best to refrain from the use of overly technical or verbose language. Instead sentences should be short and concise and paragraphs brief. If the use of technical terminology or language is inevitable proper explanation should be provided to ensure understanding.

Adapt for the sake of visually impaired individuals, whether partial merely requiring a larger display font size or more severe and total cases require alternate braille versions. Possibly even an audio descriptive assistive software, such as the iPhones voiceover function.

Barriers to Effective Communication

Barriers to effective communication describe any and all factors that can impede or hinder communication. In order to facilitate effective communication you must endeavour to remove or at least reduce the affect of these barriers.

General Communication

Physical disabilities, such as hearing problems, speech difficulties or being visually impaired. Dependent upon the condition of each individual they may be unable to comprehend specific forms of communication and each will require a different type of assistance. Whether it braille, audio description or a translator.

Mental disabilities, those with learning disorders will have a limited understanding of language and will probably be unable to understood complex language/speech. You may therefore be required to simplify the information you are attempting to communicate.

Or those with Attention Hyper Activity Disorder may simply be incapable of paying appropriate amount of attention to you. In response you may have to make use of different techniques to engage the individual and hold their attention.

Language barriers, individuals may be incapable of speaking or understanding the same language. In which case it may be necessary to use some form of translator. But then things are going to inevitably 'lost in translation' as certain aspects of the communication won't translate exactly into another dialect. Even something as simple as misunderstanding regional accents and possibly the colloquialisms unique to that region that an individual may unconsciously use and expect other to know. This can be easily avoided by speaking clearly at an appropriate speed, using simple language.

Cultural diversity can in some instances be a barrier to effective communication.

Cultures have their own rules about what is considered socially acceptable in some instances physical interaction as simple as a handshake may be interpreted as offensive. Muslim culture for example dictates physical contact between opposite genders, even casually is not allowed in public. Simple transgressions such as this may offend and antagonize your audience. You should therefore preemptively study, acknowledge and respect any such cultural.

Interpersonal Communication

Poor body language can be detrimental to verbal exchange, it may make an individual unapproachable and impede the progress of communication. Such as persistently avoiding eye contact whilst talking which can create an impression of disinterest or dishonesty. Or crossing your arms which may create a guarded expression making conversation uncomfortable.

Poor listening skills. It's impossible to have an appropriate exchange of information and create an open dialogue without paying the proper amount of attention to speakers. You should therefore remain silent and attentive whilst others are talking and ask questions when appropriate in order to clarify any possible confusion.

Cultural variations, such differences can create difficulties whilst attempting to communicate. For example certain expressions and sayings specific to your own language may not directly translate into another. You should therefore keep language simple and direct. Furthermore certain seemingly natural physical interactions such as handshakes may be considered offensive and intruding to another. You should therefore before meeting have ensured you have at least a basic knowledge of their culture or a separate third body (such as a translator) present to advise.

Dependent upon the emotional state of those delivering or receiving the information, they may either be an unreliable speaker or an inattentive listener.

Perceptual barriers, the individual or audience may already have preconceived notions or opinions on matters that mean that regardless of the information they receive or you present they may just immediately and unconsciously form a biased opinion. In order to overcome this you must attempt to provide an accurate, unbiased and persuasive delivery of information.

Selecting an inappropriate channel of communication, using technology such as mobile telephone's or Skype. May reduce the quality of communication.

External factors (often uncontrollable). Such as surrounding noise level or weather can impair conversation. Both of these issues may be avoided if you preemptively schedule with the other party, to ensure both a sensible location and medium of communication is chosen.

Written Communication

Use of inappropriate language, whether it be the repeated use of technical or expert language/terminology without explanation. You cannot make the assumption of the recipients knowledge as the use of such terms will confuse your audience. Language should therefore remain both simple and sensible, with explanations of technical or expert terminology and technique being provided.

Spelling and grammatical errors. Having these present within your document can create an unprofessional image of yourself and your organisation. Readers may therefore disregard or simply be incapable of understanding what you have written. You should therefore proofread and use a writing program that has built in grammar and spell checkers.

Structure, if not presented in an appropriate and sensible format with informed logically ordered readers may be unable to actually understand what you have written. To avoid this you could have pre-planned a layout or simply used a company template.

Formatting your written communication correctly. Including all necessary information such as contact information if the recipient wishes to contact you. You should have a 'signature' at the end of your documents containing the authors name and all appropriate information such as email addresses.

Individuals with special needs such those learning developmental disorders may requiring the use of simple language or those with visual impairments incapable of actually reading, will require a larger font or even audio descriptive technology to read the information aloud.