Effective communication is all about conveying your
messages to other people clearly and unambiguously. It's
also about receiving information that others are sending to
you, with as little distortion as possible.
Doing this involves effort from both the sender of the
message and the receiver. And it's a process that can be
fraught with error, with messages muddled by the sender, or
misinterpreted by the recipient. When this isn't detected,
it can cause tremendous confusion, wasted effort and missed
In fact, communication is only successful when both the
sender and the receiver understand the same information as
a result of the communication.
By successfully getting your message across, you convey
your thoughts and ideas effectively. When not successful,
the thoughts and ideas that you actually send do not
necessarily reflect what you think, causing a
communications breakdown and creating roadblocks that stand
in the way of your goals – both personally and
In a recent survey of recruiters from companies with more
than 50,000 employees, communication skills were cited as
the single more important decisive factor in choosing
managers. The survey, conducted by the University of
Pittsburgh’s Katz Business School, points out that
communication skills, including written and oral
presentations, as well as an ability to work with others,
are the main factor contributing to job success.
In spite of the increasing importance placed on
communication skills, many individuals continue to
struggle, unable to communicate their thoughts and ideas
effectively – whether in verbal or written format. This
inability makes it nearly impossible for them to compete
effectively in the workplace, and stands in the way of
Being able to communicate effectively is therefore
essential if you want to build a successful career. To do
this, you must understand what your message is, what
audience you are sending it to, and how it will be
perceived. You must also weigh-in the circumstances
surrounding your communications, such as situational and
Communications Skills – The Importance of Removing Barriers
Problems with communication can pop-up at every stage of
the communication process (which consists of the sender,
encoding, the channel, decoding, the receiver, feedback and
the context – see the diagram below). At each stage, there
is the potential for misunderstanding and confusion.
To be an effective communicator and to get your point
across without misunderstanding and confusion, your goal
should be to lessen the frequency of problems at each stage
of this process, with clear, concise, accurate, well-
planned communications. We follow the process through below:
As the source of the message, you need to be clear about
why you're communicating, and what you want to communicate.
You also need to be confident that the information you're
communicating is useful and accurate.
The message is the information that you want to communicate.
This is the process of transferring the information you
want to communicate into a form that can be sent and
correctly decoded at the other end. Your success in
encoding depends partly on your ability to convey
information clearly and simply, but also on your ability to
anticipate and eliminate sources of confusion (for example,
cultural issues, mistaken assumptions, and missing
A key part of this is knowing your audience: Failure to
understand who you are communicating with will result in
delivering messages that are misunderstood.
Messages are conveyed through channels, with verbal
channels including face-to-face meetings, telephone and
videoconferencing; and written channels including letters,
emails, memos and reports.
Different channels have different strengths and weaknesses.
For example, it's not particularly effective to give a long
list of directions verbally, while you'll quickly cause
problems if you give someone negative feedback using email.
Just as successful encoding is a skill, so is successful
decoding (involving, for example, taking the time to read a
message carefully, or listen actively to it.) Just as
confusion can arise from errors in encoding, it can also
arise from decoding errors. This is particularly the case
if the decoder doesn't have enough knowledge to understand
Your message is delivered to individual members of your
audience. No doubt, you have in mind the actions or
reactions you hope your message will get from this
audience. Keep in mind, though, that each of these
individuals enters into the communication process with
ideas and feelings that will undoubtedly influence their
understanding of your message, and their response. To be a
successful communicator, you should consider these before
delivering your message, and act appropriately.
Your audience will provide you with feedback, as verbal and
nonverbal reactions to your communicated message. Pay close
attention to this feedback, as it is the only thing that
can give you confidence that your audience has understood
your message. If you find that there has been a
misunderstanding, at least you have the opportunity to send
the message a second time.
The situation in which your message is delivered is the
context. This may include the surrounding environment or
broader culture (corporate culture, international cultures,
and so on).
Removing Barriers at All These Stages
To deliver your messages effectively, you must commit to
breaking down the barriers that exist within each of these
stages of the communication process.
Let’s begin with the message itself. If your message is too
lengthy, disorganized, or contains errors, you can expect
the message to be misunderstood and misinterpreted. Use of
poor verbal and body language can also confuse the message.
Barriers in context tend to stem from senders offering too
much information too fast. When in doubt here, less is
oftentimes more. It is best to be mindful of the demands on
other people’s time, especially in today’s ultra-busy
Once you understand this, you need to work to understand
your audience’s culture, making sure you can converse and
deliver your message to people of different backgrounds and
cultures within your own organization, in your country and