Ten Commandments of Effective Communication

Everything we do is communication. Without communication we will not be able to interact in a civilized manner. Without communication we will not be able to create modern societies. Without communication we would not be able to create prosperity for ourselves. Without communication we would not be able to construct organizations necessary for the reproduction of material wealth. Communication is the most important building block of human civilization. According to the German philosopher Jurgen Habermas the social reality consists of two parts: system and lifeworld. The system consists of the political subsystem and the economic subsystem. The lifeworld consists of the private domain and the public domain. Communication in the system occurs strategically or is based on finding ways to find and refine various methods and techniques to make our lives wealthier and more efficient. Communication in the lifeworld is the opposite; it is based on symmetric relationships between people and is aimed towards finding consensus on many issues facing our social reality. Communication in the lifeworld is truly aimed at finding common grounds between all people involved. For this reason Habermas calls all interaction in the lifeworld communicative rationality.

If communication is so important then this implies a certain competency level in the strategies and tactics of communication possessed by all people irrespective of their education, social background, nationality, and common language. This is unfortunately not true because a large number of people do not have the proper communication skills necessary to become successful. Most of them are simply muddling through their daily lives using basic communication skills which are barely enough to keep their heads above the water. What are actually the characteristics of good communicators? Below are some typical characteristics which good communicators possess:

1. Good communicators pay attention to everything the other person is communicating;

2. Good communicators constantly think about the nature of their messages: they always think about when, where, and how they will deliver their messages;

3. Good communicators always try to find the right combination of words, body language, dress, and tone of voice before sending a message;

4. Good communicators try to avoid using the same words when sending their message to different persons because no one person is identical. Good communicators try to find out what is important for the other person;

5. Good communicators are always ready to be flexible or try to move on after delivering their message by reaching a decision, solving a problem, negotiating a compromise, etc;

6. Good communicators are fully aware of the reciprocal nature of communication which is a process of giving and receiving a message. Good communication is a like a dance which entails leading and following.

Although the above typical characteristics seem to be obvious and easy to understand, many people have difficulties applying them in a consistent manner. Communication is a process which is comparable to driving a car. The more you do it, the better driver you will become. Experience is the best teacher in communication. Moreover, the willingness to learn from your experiences is very important. Of course we make mistakes, but we try to learn from those mistakes and become better next time.

Having explained the above characteristics of good communicators, what are the ten commandments of effective communication?

1. Always try to give feedback based on facts and not on opinions and/or emotions which might upset or offend the other person;

2. Always try to empathize or to see a situation from the other’s point view. Try to accept the other person’s views without preaching and/or moralizing;

3. Criticize using neutral language and tone of voice;

4. Say what you mean without becoming sarcastic;

5. If you want something from others, ask, don’t command;

6. Give the other person a chance to speak, don’t slip into ‘railroading’;

7. Explain why something needs to happen, don’t threaten;

8. Don’t give advice or opinions if people don’t ask for it;

9. Be to the point, avoid vagueness at all cost;

10. Don’t talk down or up to others; avoid diverting the conversation to trivial matters.