Effective Communication Principles

General Communication

Cultural Differences

A person’s culture can change the way you communicate with them. Some cultures prefer different types of communication; this could be more formal or informal, depending on the culture. Some cultures may be offended if you use a certain word or gesture, whereas other might be fine with it. For example, thumbs up in the UK would mean ‘good’, whereas in Iran the gesture is considered vulgar and inappropriate.

Audience

Not every audience is the same and therefore different audiences must be communicated with differently. If you were to talk to older people, you might be more sincere and slower with your speech, but if you are communicating with small children, your body language might be more animated and you might talk in a different tone of voice. You might talk informally with your friends, but when talking to your boss you are more formal. You also have to ensure that the audience is engaged. If you were teaching a class of children, talking with a monotone voice would be boring for them and they wouldn’t be engaged, but constantly moving and changing the tone of your voice would keep them paying attention.

Interpersonal Communication

Language (positive or negative)

The type of language you use in interpersonal situations can change someone’s perception of you dramatically. If you always moan and never sound happy, this will give off a negative effect to people around you, and they might not want to communicate with you. On the flipside, if you talk with a happy tone of voice and a smile, then this will show the recipient that you are trustworthy and will convey a better sense of understanding than someone who is negative.

Speed of response

This mainly depends on the method of communication. If you are talking face-to-face with someone, you will generally respond straight away (unless you are communicating with a negative mind-set), but if you are emailing someone, they may not respond for minutes, maybe even hours. This is not due to them being negative or trying to avoid conversation with you, this is because it takes time to send emails, receive them in your inbox, read it and then type a reply.

Written Communication

Grammar and Spelling

Grammar and spelling are critically important in written communication. Poor grammar can lead to miscommunication and give the recipient a poor understanding of a situation. For example, if you were to say ‘I didn’t do nothing’, that is a double-negative. As you said you did not do nothing, this implies that you did do something, even if you really did do nothing. This can cause confusion as both the source and the recipient will look at the situation differently. Poor spelling can make you look uneducated and will impress no-one, making it very important to be able to spell correctly when putting together a formal conversation in an email, for example.

Structure

The structure or layout of the written message can instantly tell someone the formality of the message. For example, an email that starts with ‘Dear Sir/Madam’ would be formal, and an informal email might start with ‘Hi’. Nowadays, a lot of the time an informal message will simply be a text or a message through social media. Emails are still commonly used for formal circumstances, such as emailing your boss or someone with high authority.

Barriers to Communication

General Barriers

Physical – A physical barrier to communication would be the recipient being very far away from the source, such as being in another country. To overcome this you would need to phone, email or message them to communicate with them, because you can’t verbally communicate across that distance. Another scenario could even be trying to talk to someone through a window. If you shout loud enough they might hear you, but this is not an effective way to communicate and they might not understand you very well. To overcome this you could open the window or go through to the room they are in and talk to them face-to-face, or if you can’t get to them then you could use written communication or the internet.

Systematic – A systematic barrier is caused by a problem in a system that makes the system difficult to understand and follow. One example of this is within a company. If an employee’s role within the company’s system isn’t explained to them fully or correctly, they may not know what it is they are supposed to be doing and this could cause issues. One way to get around this is for the source to make sure they properly explain the receiver’s role and make sure they understand it. If the receiver doesn’t understand their role, then they could ask for help from the source. Another example of a systematic barrier in communication is when a set of instructions is unclear. If someone is trying to put something together using a guide or manual and the source doesn’t give the right information, this could lead to injury of the user or could damage whatever they are building. To overcome this, the user could search online for more guides or ask someone for help.

Interpersonal Barriers

Poor Communication – Poor communication can lead to the receiver not understanding what they need to do or what the source even said. This can be a large barrier when it comes to education or the workplace. If a teacher or manager does not explain the information properly or their speech isn’t clear then the learner or employee may not understand what was being said and they might feel as if they can’t complete their work because of a lack of understanding. One way to overcome this as a speaker is to speak slowly and clearly, making sure everyone can hear you and understand you, and to overcome this as a recipient of information is to ask questions or ask the source to repeat what they said.

Non-verbal – Some interpersonal barriers may not be verbal barriers caused by the source, but non-verbal barriers instead. Examples of non-verbal communication is eye contact (or a lack thereof), posture, being distracted, facial expressions, body language and hand gestures. These are especially prevalent in (but not limited to) schools and other places of education among the students. A lack of eye contact can show that someone isn’t listening to the source, but could this also be due to shyness or public anxiety. Poor posture such as slouching or leaning back in a chair can show that the recipient is bored, whereas sitting up straight or leaning forward shows that the receiver is attentive and interested. Some expressions such as nodding your head can show that you are engaged, but a lack of head nods can show the opposite. Another form of a non-verbal communication barrier is communicating over the internet. When doing this, neither person can see the facial expressions or body language of the other person and effects like sarcasm are much harder to recognise.

Written Communication Barriers

Language – A language barrier can cause obvious problems when trying to communicate with someone. If you don’t speak the recipient’s language not only do they not understand you, but you can’t understand what they say back to you. There are many scenarios in which this is a problem, from ordering food to asking for directions. There are also many ways to overcome this barrier. The first and most obvious is to learn the language in question before visiting the country; however this takes time and can have a cost attached to it as well for online courses, dictionaries or lessons. Another solution would be to use technology: Google Translate can translate text from hundreds of languages into your own language (with varying degrees of accuracy) and there are a multitude of applications available for smart phones and other hand held devices such as tablets. A less common way to overcome this problem is to have a person to be your translator. They will be able to accurately translate what is being said from both the source and the recipient as they are fluent in both languages.

Jargon/Slang – Jargon is a word which describes any technical terms used in different industries such as the IT industry that are not widely known. For example, someone within the IT industry might understand that RAM means Random Access Memory, but someone outside of the industry might think that means a sheep with large horns. Even though both people are speaking in the same language, their understandings of the same word might be completely different. This can be overcome by the source avoiding these technical terms and instead using more user-friendly terms that can be easily understood. Going back to the previous example, the source could just say ‘the memory’ rather than the RAM as it is widely known what memory means. Slang terms are similar to jargon in that a lot of the time they are a shortened version of a word a group of words and are not widely understood. One example would ‘BRB’, which when said aloud to someone could cause confusion because they don’t understand the term. Again, to overcome this problem the source must simply use the simplified version of the word/words, which in this case would be ‘be right back’.