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When I was in college, any research I performed was completed in a library, either a public facility or at the university.  It was a long process reading and interpreting the card catalog and then going to the proverbial search in the abyss of numbers.  Over the years, this process has changed and has been simplified to the point of one literally having multiple thousands of resources at the click of a button.  Back then, communication was accomplished in three major ways, face-to-face, telephone, or by letter.  Today, there are multiple ways in which we communicate.  Although the mediums have changed, the principles of effective communication have not.  If anything, they have become more important although most of us struggle keeping up.  Younger individuals, who have never known the luxuries of the older mechanisms of communication, can find it difficult to hone the skills of effective communication.  Between the various types of social media and acronyms and texting, the principles of effective communication often become lost.

Effective leaders and managers optimize people to get things done.  This requires they be adept at communicating effectively, which provides strength to any goal or directive and adds clarity to its purpose. Here is a five step process to ensure that your communicating with your people effectively.

Know Your Audience

Whether you are communicating with an individual, a team, or a large group, you must know your audience.  I once read a great book by a professor at a university in the western part of the U.S.  This book was a best seller and has been used throughout the world to teach leadership effectiveness.  However, the author, having a Ph.D., wrote on that same level.  Many found the book difficult to understand having to read sections several times to digest meaning.  Effective communicators put themselves in a position of knowing their audience and speak to their levels.  Being from the South, there are certain terms and phrases that have meaning to me and others but would not be understood by those from different parts of the country or world.  Therefore, phrases and cliches that are unique to you or specific to your culture can create blocks to effective communication.  Millennials process information differently than baby boomers or traditionalist.  Attempting to communicate the same way for both generations is lethal.

The Power of Paradigms

Paradigms are levels of thinking that control how we interpret the world around us.  They act as a filter for information.  We learn these paradigms through a variety of institutions, including parents, schools, church, peers, teachers, acquaintances, etc.  Effective communicators understand the power of these paradigms and work them to help people understand.  I often relate in seminars regarding paradigms, "If the only tool on your tool belt is a hammer, then everything looks like a nail."  Thinking controls behavior.  Therefore, if you want to change behavior, you must address the way one thinks.  Addressing paradigms is the best way to communicate through them.  Again, knowing your audience helps you communicate through the use of paradigm examples.

Know Your Message

You are the expert in subject matter.  If you are the leader and communicating to people, they expect you to know what you are talking about.  You should be the most informed person in the room.  You should breed confidence in your communication.  If you don't what you're talking about, why would you expect anyone to believe you?  Know your stuff.   If not, learn it before stepping out. Is your information relevant?  Is it appropriate and does it add value to the person receiving the communication?  Eliminate the fluff and be clear and concise.

Ask Questions

Clarity can come in many forms.  However, effective communication is not what I say to you, but what you hear me say.  Therefore, I must ensure that what I say and what you hear are the same.  One effective way of doing this is through asking questions.  Adept communicators watch non-verbal behavior and ask questions.  This becomes much more difficult in written communications, such as texts and emails.

Engage Your Audience

Whether you're speaking to one or a group, engage them in some way.  In one-on-one communication, ask for feedback and engage.  When speaking to a group, engage through questions, calling on one to speak, good eye contact, walking through the audience.  These are effective ways to engage your audience.  No one wants to sit and listen to a lecture from someone standing behind a podium.  I had one person say to me following a workshop, 'You wore my out trying to keep up with you.  You move more than any speaker I've every seen.  However, this kept me engaged and enthralled in what you were saying.?

The objective of effective communication is to convey a message, whether casual, business, etc.  Try these principles and watch your communication levels and response increase.

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