Is Effective Communication Synonymous With Being Long-winded?

November 2017

When people read the title of an article and identify that the topic is communication, the first assumption or reaction can be dreading the verbosity that more often than not will inevitably follow.  Communicating about effectively communicating, whether it be in articles, workshops, or presentations, tends to be complex and therefore wordy as it requires a look into this multifaceted area that carries such a heavy weight on the scales of success in most all aspects of life.  Do not let this reality cast a shadow of a doubt on one of the most important cornerstones of communication, namely that: effectively communicating, in any and all forms, does not always equate to or demand a lengthy or prolonged correspondence!  Communication is defined as “a process by which information is exchanged between individuals through a common system of symbols, signs, or behavior.”1   Nowhere in that definition does it make mention to an exercise in verboseness as a requisite part of completing the desired action.  Longer is not always better when it comes to communication and once that is realized, it can completely change 1) the way you approach communication as a whole and 2) the hesitance that some may have to try and make a change in an attempt for improvement (yes it is true, even minor changes can have major impacts).  In that vein, below are 10 short tips, which are tried and true from experienced professionals, on how to become a better communicator:

1. Do not be a know-it-all, even if you know it all:  A platform or opportunity for one thing, namely communication, should not be plugged with unnecessary information simply because there is a captive audience readily available.

2. When in doubt, get face to face or pick up the phone:  Email and text messages however convenient commonly can leave out necessary components of delivery that can only be seen or heard in someone’s face or voice. 

3. Your body language can be louder than your voice:  An example of this can be seen in the all too common scenario of someone being on their cellphone mid-meeting or conversation.  If you are texting while simultaneously engaging in a face to face conversation, your body language is communicating that your attention is elsewhere.  Additionally, when our attention is being pulled in different directions, we become increasingly vulnerable to mishearing information, which is never a smart choice.

4. Be mindful about not cutting people off mid-sentence:  Even the most clear of communications can be overshadowed by non-compliance with the most basic business etiquette principles.

5. People will hang on your words, so choose them carefully:  Proper wording is important to not only convey the desired message to listeners in real time verbally, but also as a point of reference in the form of an email or notes taken post interaction. 

6. There is no such thing as being too clear when verbalizing expectations:  The assumptions that so often become a necessary evil of unclear communication can bring along catastrophic downstream consequences and countless hours of rework.

7. Be proactive in setting the desired tone and let others follow your lead:  Set the tone for inclusivity by being open and free to both sharing knowledge and receiving knowledge, including accepting constructive criticism.

8. A response is of no use if it is not accurate: When put on the spot do not be afraid to request some time to adequately get back to someone with an accurate response to a question.  Over promising as a result of knee-jerk reaction communication, especially when it comes to time estimates, does not benefit anyone.

9. Non-communication is a form of communication in and of itself:  Make it a point to always respond back to someone, regardless of the nature or scale of the correspondence, in a timely manner. 

10. Leading with parroting or paraphrasing can pay dividends in the long run:  When discussing a topic where there seems to be a mismatch of understanding between parties, be sure to include a reiteration of what you just heard or as to what was earlier stated before moving forward with the correspondence.  Communication is like building blocks, and an understanding of the context of each block is required before the next one can be laid.