Need Help with Effective Communication? Try These 10 Tips

When it comes to professional software development, effective communication is just as important as writing efficient code. A good developer’s expertise lies not only in the ability to implement algorithms and solve complex problems, but also in communicating with other programmers and translating technical information into “real human speak”.  Whether you’re working as part of a team, presenting ideas to stakeholders, or collaborating on open-source projects, you’ll need to harness the power of effective communication to get work done. 

What is effective communication?  It’s the process of conveying a message in a way that is clear, concise, and easily understood by its intended audience. Effective communication involves the exchange of information, ideas, thoughts, or feelings between individuals and/or groups, and it’s an important skill for both personal and professional life.  This article has 10 tips for communicating more effectively that you can use in both the workplace and at home!

Tip #1: Be as clear and specific as possible

    To communicate effectively, it’s best to use straightforward, simple language.  Using technical jargon or “SAT words” may make you think you’ll sound smart, but chances are high that you’ll confuse your listener by obscuring what you actually mean (and if not, you’ll come off as overly pretentious instead).  Your message needs to be clear and easily understood by its intended audience.

    Tip #2: Practice active listening

    Communication is a two-way street–in order to get your message across to someone else, you need to listen to what they’re saying, too.  Active listening involves paying close attention to what others are saying, don’t interrupt, and ask clarifying questions and/or rephrase your conversation partner’s statements to make sure you understand them.  Effective communication isn’t just talk–being a great listener will help you empathize with your communication partner(s) and reach understanding.

    Tip #3: Pay attention to non-verbal communication

    Speaking and listening is great, but humans also use non-verbal cues to communicate, whether we consciously realize it or not.  Facial expressions, body posture, gestures, eye contact, and tone of voice all play a significant role in communication.

    Tip #4 Put yourself in others’ shoes

    It’s important to do your best to try and understand the thoughts and feelings of others.  Being able to empathize, or “put yourself in someone else’s shoes”, helps to build rapport and trust between people.  In order to communicate effectively, you have to show that you care about the emotions of your audience.

    Tip #5: Choose the right method

    Not all types of communication are appropriate at all times–some messages are best delivered in person, while others may be suitable for email, phone calls, or text messages.  Important or serious conversations should always take place face-to-face, or, at worst, over the phone or videoconference.  Consider the nature of your message and try to take the preferences of your audience into consideration–no one wants to receive bad news via text message.  

    Tip #6: Choose the right time

    Similarly, keep your audience in mind when choosing a time to deliver your message.  Delivering bad news or criticism just before your communication partner has to give an important presentation at work doesn’t help anyone.  Some messages may be more effectively conveyed at specific times, or in certain situations. 

    Tip #7: Keep it short

    Avoid adding unnecessary details when delivering a message–instead, get to the point quickly and communicate only essential information.  You can always add details later if your audience asks for clarification, but presenting too many small details immediately can overwhelm your communication partner(s). 

    Tip #8: Ask for feedback

    It’s important to request feedback from your communication partner(s)–and to actually be open to receiving it!  Encouraging your conversation partner(s) to ask questions to ensure that you’re both “on the same page”.  If you have caused a misunderstanding, apologize for it and seek clarification to prevent it from happening again.  Seeking constructive feedback on your communication skills will help strengthen them over time!  

    Tip #9: Adapt for your audience

    Do your best to tailor your communication style to your audience, considering their background, existing knowledge, and any cultural differences that might hinder effective communication.  If you’re speaking to a group of children, you likely wouldn’t want to use the same words and phrases that you’d use around highly technical adults. 

    Tip #10: Avoid negativity  

    It’s important to maintain a positive and constructive tone while communicating.  This doesn’t mean you need to be sunshine, rainbows, and flowers while having a difficult conversation or delivering bad news–but it does mean that you shouldn’t fall into the trap of introducing negativity or non-constructive criticism.  Stay focused on solutions instead of problems, and identify opportunities for improvement instead of pointing out flaws. 

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