How To Become an Effective Communicator

By Indeed Editorial Team

Updated November 16, 2022 | Published July 26, 2021

Updated November 16, 2022

Published July 26, 2021

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

Effective communication is a critical skill in every workplace and for every position. You can develop and practise communication skills to become competent. Understanding the qualities that make up effective communication can help you develop this essential skill. In this article, we discuss what communication is, include the common traits of effective communicators, and explain how to become an effective communicator in eight steps.

Related: Four Types of Communication (With Examples)

What is effective communication?

Effective communication is the process of exchanging information and ideas with others around you in the best manner possible. It requires you to adapt to the situation and audience and remain flexible in your communication style and approach. Effective communication also requires you to modify your vocabulary or terminology to suit the audience.

Why is effective communication an important skill to develop?

There are many reasons effective communication skills are critical to develop. As an employee, effective communication is an essential trait to creating and building lasting professional relationships with colleagues and supervisors based on openness and trust. This is especially important when working within a team environment, as effective communication promotes strength and productivity for groups working together. As an effective communicator, you eliminate unnecessary problems before they arise by providing clear and concise information to others around you.

Effective communication also contributes to better performance, higher productivity, and increased employee engagement in the workplace. When communication is clear and open, it helps maintain a harmonious workplace, encourages innovation and creativity, and promotes collaboration and cooperation between departments. Effective communication is also a critical component to managing a diverse work environment and helps improve crisis and change management.

What are common traits of effective communicators?

An effective communicator ensures their message is clear and concise, and they tailor their approach to the audience. They also are responsive to those around them by actively listening to other's ideas, concepts, and challenges. Finally, an effective communicator asks questions to confirm understanding and to clarify their message. There are several common traits of effective communicators that include:

Making complex concepts simple

All effective communicators can break down complex concepts into simple, easy-to-understand ideas. They adjust their vocabulary, approach, and style to the person or group they are communicating with. An effective communicator watches for signs of confusion or misinterpretation of the information they are presenting and clarifies before misunderstandings happen.

Focusing on the interaction

All effective communicators stay focused on their interaction. They eliminate outside distractions to focus on the people their communication. They silence their cell phones or turn them off to give their complete attention to the discussion. An effective communicator also completes the communication before moving on or ensure they follow up quickly.

Balancing the actions of speaking and listening

All effective communicators understand that the best communication is two-way and not one-sided. They balance the actions of speaking and listening so that communication is equal between the two parties. This enhances the feeling of rapport and trust. They understand that listening is an equally important function for effective communication.

Awareness of non-verbal cues and body language

Effective communicators are exceptional at recognizing types of non-verbal communication. They are aware of their audience's body language, including posture, stance, hand movements, facial expressions, and eye contact. An effective communicator identifies non-verbal cues and adjusts their message to clarify the information, engage the other person, or summarize their point. Effective communicators are also aware of their body language and non-verbal cues to ensure their message is clear and well-received.

Knowing when to speak up

All effective communicators know when to speak up and say something. Whether it is a disciplinary issue or workplace inclusion, an effective communicator uses the opportunity to stand up for others or to address the uncomfortable problems at the moment. For example, a manager sees an employee acting inappropriately. A manager who is an effective communicator knows it's better to address the issue right away instead of ignoring it and hoping it resolves itself.

Asking the best questions

All effective communicators know the art of asking the best questions. They are masters of asking discovery, investigative and probing questions to gather more detailed information and receive deeper insight. An effective communicator asks questions whether they are the sender or receiver of the information. They are skilled at knowing when to interject with a well-planned question and word the question to have maximum impact.

How to become an effective communicator

As with any skill, you can practise becoming an effective communicator. Remembering that communication requires sending and receiving a message, focus on both aspects when practising your skills. Here are the steps you can follow to become an effective communicator:

1. Identify the purpose of your communication

Before you being communicating, identify the purpose of your communication. For example, ask yourself if you are the sender or the receiver. You'll also want to establish the desired outcome of the communication. For example, you are the sender, and the desired result is to express your gratitude for a job well done by a colleague. When you identify the purpose of your communication, you can organize your thoughts, expectations, and anticipate specific responses or questions that may come up.

2. Understand your audience

Once you've identified the purpose of your communication, you need to understand who your audience is that will receive the message. By understanding your audience, you can tailor your style and presentation to have the most impact. For example, if you are a marketing director presenting your pitch to a potential client, your style may be formal, polished, and high-energy. Or, if you're a supervisor completing an employee performance review, you may be more casual and relaxed to create a comfortable environment for your staff.

3. Create a plan for your communication

The next step to becoming an effective communicator is to create a plan for your interaction. For example, make a list of the critical points you need to cover or a list of questions you'd like to ask. Planning your interaction allows you to be well-prepared and organized. This also allows you to take responsibility for the communication and direct the exchange more effectively.

4. Provide a clear message

While delivering information as a speaker, you can provide a clear message to the receiver. Tailor your news to the audience and avoid confusing jargon, technical terminology, or advanced vocabulary unless appropriate for the individual or group you are addressing. Clarity also includes organization in your message, so provide simple, step-by-step information when possible. Be aware of your body language and facial expressions, ensuring that your non-verbal cues match your message.

5. Ask questions to clarify understanding

As the person delivering the message, it is your responsibility to confirm that the receiver understands the information. Asking questions to clarify their comprehension is the most effective way to do this. For example, ask if your message was clear or if you need to elaborate or further explain any part of the discussion. This provides you valuable insight into the effectiveness of your communication so you can continue to improve your skills.

6. Pay attention to the interaction

Whether you are the sender or receiver of the information, you need to pay attention to the interaction. This means giving your complete attention to the other person or group and minimizing distractions. Practising proper cell phone etiquette, for example, is one way to show your focus on the conversation. In addition, you might find it helpful to talk in a private space or area with minimal traffic so that you eliminate interruptions. When you focus on someone, you create an environment for open, honest, and respectful communication.

7. Practise active listening

During effective communication, both parties take part in active listening. Active listening is giving your full attention to the speaker, asking key questions, and using non-verbal cues to encourage the speaker to continue. For example, making eye contact with the speaker lets them know your focus is on the conversation. In addition, asking clarifying questions to confirm your understanding and adopting an open body posture encourages the speaker to continue. For example, you may nod your head to show you're listening, or you may use small phrases, such as "go on" or "I understand."

Related: Active Listening Skills: A Key To Effective Communication In The Workplace

8. Stay open-minded

An effective communicator stays open-minded throughout a discussion and comes to the conversation without judgments or biases. When you remain open-minded, your thoughts are clear without being clouded by perceptions and expectations about the other person or group. You can stay objective and empathetic within the communication, trying to put yourself in the other person's situation. Practising empathy encourages open and honest communication that is respectful and kind. Staying open-minded also requires having a level of self-awareness of your emotions and remaining calm and composed during volatile discussion topics.

Related articles

7 Ways to Communicate Effectively (Plus Benefits and Tips)

Explore more articles