Rules important for effective communication

Published 5:57 pm Tuesday, June 17, 2014

The Art of Communication is a well-worn term that means many things to various people. I want to share with you my personal perspective on the art of communication.

I communicate in many ways. I speak to various groups. I write a weekly column.  I write special articles, books, open letters and regular letters. I speak with radio and television news reporters; I host several radio programs from time to time. I appear on other radio and television programs. I teach Sunday School. I email and text. I talk on the phone, in person and in meetings. I practice the art of communication in many mediums.

Why do I communicate in so many mediums? In short, because each medium has a different audience, and I want to reach as many audiences as possible. I communicate with people on radio who I would never reach on television and vice versa. The same is true for other mediums. The art of communication requires varied mediums.

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I follow rules in practicing the art of communication.

Some are as follows:  communicate only when there is something to communicate; communicate measuredly – not too much and not too little; communicate so that people receive the message; and listen, listen, listen. The art of communication requires discipline.

I used to think that other people needed to know what I thought. Therefore, it was my duty to say it.  As a result, I stayed in intense struggle.

Painful experiences taught me to first determine if there is a need to communicate and then determine whether I am the proper person to make the communication. Now, I usually wait to see if I need to communicate. The art of communication requires patience.

Sometimes I perceive a need to communicate and think that I am the appropriate person to make the communication. However, I may not have the appropriate information and/or message to effectively communicate. In those instances I try to hold my peace.

If I know the situation before hand, I try to properly prepare. I also try to be generally prepared by being well read and/or otherwise informed. The art of communication requires preparation.

Even if there is a need to communicate and I have something to communicate, sometimes I don’t communicate. This is especially true if I have already addressed the issue several times. No matter how good the information or wise the message, people do not want any one person communicating on every point. They just close down, refusing to receive the message. The art of communication requires judgment.

The greatest challenge for me is to communicate in ways that people receive my message.

All of the rules that I discussed contribute to my message being received.

However, there is more. The central effort is to frame the communication so that people are open to receive it. That means I must lay communication foundations and build on them. The framing of the communication must draw people into the moment.  The art of communication requires the laying of foundations.

I also order my communication.  or example, I often number my responses.  People listen differently when I say, “ I have five points.”  They also read differently. I get teased about my numbering approach, but I realize that people really appreciate the approach. The art of communication requires order.

When I write, I go over the writing again and again.

That’s even true for everyday letters.  It is certainly true for my column. I try to find the exact words, the exact sentences and the exact tones to convey the messages. People around my offices joke behind my back about how many times I go over my column and other writings. However, I recall someone saying that the difference between a good writer and a great writer is how many times the writing is edited. I have a long way to go to become a great writer, but it is not for lack of editing.

Finally, I listen.

I learned that it is far more important to know what others know or think they know. I discovered that I can learn from anyone no matter their education, position, background or status in life. I learned to listen.

Real listening changes the entire dynamics of communication for the better. The art of communication requires listening.

We communicate everyday, but we don’t usually spend much time thinking about the art of communication. We just communicate. I hope this column will stimulate some to focus more on the art of communication.