Need to Communicate Better? You Gotta Work for It!

To Communicate Better Is Like Weight Loss

Every new year, millions of people resolve to lose weight. Their motivation may range from improved physical health to heightened emotional security. But whatever their reasoning, very quickly into the process they understand that losing weight is hard work! It takes effort, sacrifice, personal discipline, and long-term commitment. To communicate better, like weight loss, also takes a lot of hard work, real effort, and some heavy lifting. But when the extra effort is made and the methods are well-applied, the impact that results from your efforts to communicate may be nothing short of transformative!

You Gotta Work for It

People who want to communicate better study, practice, and perfect their skills. They stay focused on the desired outcome. In short, they work to ensure others understand their message and its meaning. They recognize that people learn and process information in different ways and at different speeds. 

As you work to get your message across correctly, here are some important issues to keep in mind.

1. Check the pulse.

There is always a right time and a wrong time, a right place and a wrong place, a right way and a wrong way to communicate. Great communicators realize that to communicate better, “one size does not fit all.” As a result, they work to tailor… to customize their message for those who will be receiving it.

To accomplish this, you need to have your finger on the pulse of those who will be impacted (positively or negatively) by the communication offered.

Consider these questions as you formulate your message.

  • What are the key issues s/he is currently facing that can impact his/her reaction?
  • Has s/he ever heard or dealt with this type of message before?
  • If so, how has s/he responded?
  • How does this person handle good/bad news?
  • What kind of things have we dealt with together in the past that could resurface (for good or bad) during our time of communication?

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2. Anticipate and Manage the Barriers

A major part of successful one-on-one communication is being able to anticipate and manage the numerous barriers that continuously crop up. Consider the following categories of barriers and how to overcome them.

  • Sender Barriers
    • Be crystal clear on the intent of the message you send.
    • Consciously prepare for who you will be speaking with, what you want to accomplish, and how to best present your message.
    • Stay singularly focused. Trying to cover too much ground or mix too many varying messages confuses people.
  • Receiver Barriers
    • Work to align and deliver your message in a timely fashion; not too early and never too late.
    • Recognize that people may have an emotional reaction to your message. Anticipate this and allow the person some time to work through their initial emotional response.
    • As the initiator of the message, the responsibility for successful communication rests with you. Be ready to accept the responsibility for messages that fail.
  • Message Barriers
    • When communicating a problem, focus on the problem, not the person.
    • Bad news does not get better with time. Don’t procrastinate.
    • What should happen next… always include expectations of the next steps you expect.
  • Environmental Barriers
    • Privacy matters. If a negative response is anticipated, it is better dealt with in private.
    • When possible, “make the unknown, known.” Take proactive steps to shut down the “grapevine.”
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3. Test Your Message

Even the best-planned, best-prepared, and best-delivered message can, on occasion, be misconstrued. Expert communicators understand the value of “testing the message.” It goes something like this.

“What we have just talked about is so important that I want to make sure I haven’t done anything to confuse the message. Will you please tell me what you heard me say and what you know I am expecting as a result of our conversation?”

Notice that you are taking full responsibility that the message is received and interpreted correctly. 

Now that you have asked the question…

Stop talking.

And listen carefully.

If in repeating the message back to you, the person gets something wrong, accept responsibility for the confusion and correct any mistakes. For example,

“Thanks for catching my mistake. That could have been unpleasant (disastrous, confusing, hurtful, costly, etc.) for both of us. What I meant to say is…”

Meaningful communication requires hard work. But your extra effort can also bear exceptional results! Check out this list of eleven questions we’ve put together to help you avoid common communication issues! Go for it!

Phillip Van Hooser

Phillip Van Hooser, CSP, CPAE, Founder & Chair, Van Hooser Leadership. A seasoned leadership expert, keynote speaker, and author, Phillip Van Hooser is passionate about developing intentional leaders who can effectively engage and empower their employees to deliver powerful results. His most recent book is “Earning The Right To Be Heard," a primer for creating greater influence and opportunities. Connect with Phil on LinkedIn.


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