Communicating Effectively

There are many books on communication and just as many theories on how to do it effectively. Herein are a few of my notes, summarising the most important points of many of the others and a reference for some of the points made in other outlines.





what gets transmitted - the meaning


how it gets transmitted - the medium


language in which it gets transmitted - the method


using written or spoken language


pictures, drawings, signs, sounds, body language


TV, multimedia

If you hear that someone has been saying nasty things about you in the canteen, you can:

send a memo


send a messenger

go and knock on the door

go and kick the door in

The message will be the same, that you are unhappy, but the channel and the code vary! In the latter case, your non-verbal language will speak for itself.




Formal and Informal Communication


Barriers to Communication




Overcoming barriers


Effective Communication

Reading Effectively and Listening Effectively are dealt with in more detail on another page


Spheres of Experience

We all have different levels of knowledge of different subjects, depending on such factors as our age, education, training, experience .... The diagram below illustrates this in relation to vocabulary.

In terms of time, my children learnt that events happened after one or two sleeps - then nights/days - weeks - years. How old does a child have to be before it expects a birthday next week just because another child has just had a celebration? How old were you before you could really appreciate what was meant by a decade? Does a century or millennium mean much to you?

For money, small children will always accept a bright shiny small coin even if it is not worth as much as a larger duller one, or a bit of paper. How old were you before you could really appreciate what $1,000 meant - or $100,000? You may think you could easily spend $1m - three houses or cars, perhaps? The answer is that you have to have experienced the words, time or money, to hve brought them into your inner sphere of experience.

When talking or writing to other people, bear in mind that their sphere of experience of the words or subject may be less than yours, so adopt the appropriate channel and code to get your message across effectively. Of course, if their SEX is greater than yours be careful that you do not bore them! 

Know your subject - analyse problem

Know your receiver - what is required - SEX diagram

Develop skills - speaking, writing, listening, reading

Be aware of channels and codes - use appropriately


Levels of Comprehension

Affect listeners and readers, We operate on different levels at different times:

comfortable - can handle everything put before us

study - we need assistance - from references, supervisors

impossible - might as well be in a foreign language.

If your staff are always operating at the impossible level with your communications, then your business will go down the tube, and you may suffer workplace injuries. Then again, instruction manuals are there as references to help with procedures they find at the study level - but they should be expressed in comfortable terms. One good source of input for SOPs and job descriptions is to talk to the operators who find the work is at their comfortable level - they will express it at a level that another new operator will be able to understand.

I find in my current voluntary work that there are manuals of procedures written by bureaucrats which the majority of community workers would never understand - and the terible thing is that this tends to put them off. The goal of the organisation is to help those less fortunate than ourselves - not to provide a number of forms and reports for bureaucrats to check!


Transitional Devices

Transitional devices are words, phrases, clauses or sentences that improve the flow of communication by leading the reader or listener logically from one point to the next.

How many times do you read items or listen to presentations, in which there is no flow, where the writer/speaker jumps about from topic to topic, even going backwards at times to add more to previously covered topics ?

The somewhat unwieldy term transitional devices probably means that you will remember it, but you may feel happier with the simpler terms of connecting, or linking, devices.

The important thing is to ensure that you use them wisely. If what you are saying or writing is well thought out, then you will need few, because the structure of your argument will be obvious. But even in these cases, some well-chosen, apt transitional devices can greatly assist your audience.


Use transitional devices to:


Here is a list of common transitional devices - you can imagine how they can be expanded to longer phrases, clauses or even sentences:


for example

for instance














in short

to sum up

first, secondly






in other words

As I have just explained ......

As you will recall ........

The previous two points ....

Sometimes, a repetition of the last words of a paragraph, perhaps in a different format, serve as a link. Whenever you have to write or speak to an audience, be conscious of having to link what has gone before to what comes next.


Group Dynamics

There are many factors that come into play once communication involves more than two people at the same time and you are referred to other outlines on eg, teamwork, committees, conflict resolution and transactional analysis.


Visual Aids

There is more to say on the subject of visual aids than can be adequately covered in a short space, so I will merely give a few brief notes, refer you to books, and say that you can only learn how to illustrate your presentations by looking at other examples, in books and articles. Look critically at all forms of illustration, and ask if they are good or bad - ie, do they get the message across simply?


Visual aids consist of anything in addition to the spoken or written word that will help to get your message across. Do not forget that the aim of effective communication is to ensure that your message is received in the same way that it was intended. Consequently, you should not present visuals just for the sake of it - otherwise they may detract from your message rather than clarify it.

So the first step is to say - what have I got that would be better communicated as a visual display? Having thought about that, you should ask what kind of display will best suit that particular point - a chart, table, photo, graph [what sort?], drawing, map .... ?

Factors contributing to an effective visual aid are:


Select visual aids for specific purposes. Why one type of visual aid and not another? It all depends, as you have no doubt heard before, on the facts to be shown: sometimes a table of statistics looks effective, whilst at other times, a dramatic photo could make the same point more graphically.

Well may they say a picture saves a thousand words - but it has to be a good picture! Diagrams in SOPs and instructional manuals are often more trouble than they are worth because they are too small or too cluttered with information.