5 Communication Principles

Article in Brief: Communication isn’t just about getting your message right.  In fact it’s much more complex.  Here are 5 principles that will ensure your communication is effective and leads to results.

By Jonathan Halls

Communication – My Bread and Butter

I’ve earned my bread and butter as a communicator just about all my life. It’s at the heart of what I do and have done in 25 countries around the world.

Because of my interest in communication, my ears pick up whenever I hear people talking about communication.  And you know what I’ve noticed?

More people complain about poor communication than affirm good communication.  They blame communication for things that go wrong at work, home, community organizations, churches, and political groups.

In fact, it’s rare that I hear someone say praising an organization for good communication.

What Makes Successful Communication?

So, one rainy weekend, in London, I decided that I’d heard enough people complaining about communication.  Sitting in the living room of my flat on Wimpole street, I decided to analyze what makes communication successful, through the lens of broadcasting.

Broadcasters live and die on their ability to be good communicators.  They have to be easily understood.  And fast.  And they have to be engaging.  Over the next few months, I wrestled with this question and worked through the issues.

I distilled what I believed were the main principles of effective communication into five key skillsets that people could easily learn.

I shared these with literally hundreds of broadcasters, journalists and media friends in London and Sydney. These are people who also had their professional success through communication.

I also wanted to be sure that my principles would work outside broadcasting in the real world.  So, I talked to hundreds of trainers and professionals who work with businesses.  I didn’t want to be overly academic. But then I wanted to be sure my ideas stood up to the scrutiny of people I respected.

Through this process I came up with what I call the Five Principles of Communication.

5 Principles Will Improve Your Communication Success.

The 5 principles that will super charge your communication success are:

Relationship– communication happens in relationships. It’s a two-way partnership that when effective, feels like it’s a one-to-one experience.  I refer to the person to who you are communicating as your communication partner because you are a partner with her as she makes sense of your message.  People who build relationships, whether in front of a crowd of people, or in a virtual meeting, are more easily understood than those who just ‘present’ or ‘broadcast’ their message.  That’s why my communication workshops explore relationship before the art of constructing messages.

Partner Centric– your communication partner understands your message by drawing on his memories which includes experiences, values, skills, language and much more.  The more craft your message using his language and terms he is familiar with, include stories and metaphors that speak to his experiences and education, the deeper you will drive the message.

Purpose– successful communication is purpose driven. It’s not waffle or an empty process that happens for the sake of itself.  In the business world, you don’t simply talk to your communication partner for the sake of talking.  You communicate with her because she needs to know some important information.  Or you need to create a business partnership.  Or something else.  Having a laser focus on the purpose of your communication enables you to hit your message target every time.

Context– too many people focus on content and forget context. Notice how savvy advertisers used soccer imagery for ads during the world cup?  Communication success depends on timing, geography & medium.  Understanding the emotional context within which your communicate your message can guide you in how you structure it as well as time it.  If he’s not in the frame of mind to listen, he won’t hear your message even if it’s the best message you have ever crafted.

Discipline– this word means two things.  It refers to an area of specialism, like an academic discipline like psychology.  It also refers to how much effort and dedication we put into do performing a task.  For example, she was disciplined at practicing the piano.  Communication is a discipline that is complex.  To be successful, we need to go deeper and learn it’s many dynamics.  And, we must work hard in a dedicated way to transform theory into practice.  Communication is not easy – it’s hard work.

As a professional communicator, I’ve found that incorporating these five principles into my communication efforts, whether it be email, a one-to-one conversation, or speaking in front of a crowd, makes it quicker and easier for my communication partners to understand the message.