What is effective communication? 13 steps to improve it

How often does your team experience communication breakdown?

Does important information tend to get lost somewhere along the communication funnel?

Do employees rely on the grapevine for major company news and updates?

Research shows that 86% of employees and managers agree poor communication is the leading cause of workplace failure. That’s why it’s essential to achieve effective communication in the workplace.

Here, we’ll show you how to make communication effective by following 13 tried-and-tested steps.

But first, let’s see what effective communication is and what benefits it can bring to an organization.

13 steps for effective communication - cover

Table of Contents

What is effective communication?

Effective communication is the process of successfully exchanging information, ideas, opinions, or other types of messages between two or more people, resulting in mutual understanding.

Participants should not only be able to understand the message being conveyed, but also the emotion, intention, and purpose behind the message.

For communication to be effective, all participants need to feel content with the outcome of the conversation. In other words, apart from reaching an understanding, they also need to reach an agreement about the communication objective.

Effective communication in business

On a broader scale, effective communication in the workplace means creating an environment of trust and understanding within the team that ensures people can communicate freely. 

It’s about fostering a culture of transparency where the assertive communication style is encouraged and endorsed and feedback is welcome.

The ability to communicate effectively is actually a multifaceted skill that requires continuous practice and honing — but it brings a lot of benefits. 

Benefits of effective communication

Effective communication in a team brings the following benefits:

  • Easier and better problem-solving — Streamlined communication helps team members find the best solution to any problem in record time.
  • Easier and better decision-making — Good communication ensures decision-makers have all the information necessary to make the decision with the best possible outcomes.
  • Better business relationships — The success of your collaboration with third parties depends on effective communication.
  • Increased engagement A global survey on employee voice has shown that 92% of highly engaged employees also feel heard, as opposed to only 30% of the disengaged.
  • Improved productivity — Improved internal communication can raise employee productivity by 25%.
  • Better team culture — Great communication builds trust among team members and helps them create a healthy environment to work in.

To achieve these benefits, we present 13 steps you can follow to ensure effective communication.

Step #1: Follow the 7 Cs of communication

The first step towards effective communication is to follow the 7 Cs of communication. 

These 7 Cs of communication are the most important characteristics of effective communication. They include:

  • Clarity, 
  • Coherence, 
  • Confidence, 
  • Correctness, 
  • Conciseness, 
  • Concreteness, and 
  • Courtesy.

C #1: Clarity

Clear communication implies the communicator highlights a specific piece of information only

A clear communicator focuses on pursuing a specific goal and delivering a specific message.

Being clear in communication helps:

  • Make understanding easier and faster, and
  • Enhance the meaning of a message.

How to communicate clearly

To communicate clearly, you’ll need to:

  • Lead with your main idea,
  • Minimize the number of ideas per sentence,
  • Avoid jargon, slang, and absolute language, and
  • Speak in short, direct sentences.

C #2: Coherence

Coherent communication implies the information transmitted is logical and consistent. 

A coherent communicator connects all points discussed and ensures they all are relevant to the main topic.

Being coherent in communication helps:

  • Give credibility to your ideas, and
  • Avoid confusion, dissatisfaction, and exhaustion in the listeners/readers.

How to communicate coherently

To communicate coherently, you’ll need to:

  • Organize and present your ideas in a logical order, and
  • Connect your ideas through the use of transitional words and phrases (e.g. “as a result”, “so far”, “furthermore”, “in contrast”, “for example”, etc.).

C #3: Confidence

Confident communication implies the communicator is in control of the communication process. 

A confident communicator gives extra credibility to their words by stating thoughts, beliefs, ideas, and opinions assertively.

Being confident in communication helps:

  • People appear more assertive,
  • Give more credibility to the information presented, and
  • The information presented seems more professional.

How to communicate confidently

To communicate confidently, you’ll need to:

  • Maintain a clear and stable voice volume,
  • Maintain eye contact,
  • Listen to others attentively,
  • Look for compromises about points discussed,
  • Express gratitude when appropriate,
  • Offer apologies when you’re wrong, and
  • Positively acknowledge the contribution of others.

C #4: Correctness

Correct communication implies there are no errors in communication. 

A correct communicator shows their respect to fellow communicators by ensuring grammar, pronunciation, and vocabulary are up to par. 

Being correct in communication helps:

  • Improve the impact of the message,
  • Enhance professionalism,
  • Enhance comprehension, and
  • Avoid misunderstandings and confusion.

How to communicate correctly

To communicate correctly, you’ll need to:

  • Think about what you want to say before you say it,
  • Proofread written communication with care, and
  • Use a comprehensive grammar manual (or an online writing assistant).

C #5: Conciseness

Concise communication implies the information is communicated in the fewest words possible. A concise communicator sticks to the point and keeps things brief.

Being concise in communication helps:

  • Save time and money,
  • Underline your main points better, and
  • Make the message more comprehensible to listeners/readers.

How to communicate concisely

To communicate concisely, you’ll need to:

  • Avoid getting distracted by additional issues — stick to the topic at hand, and
  • Give only a reasonable amount of information at a time.

C #6: Concreteness

Concrete communication implies the information is presented in a specific, definite, but also vivid manner. 

A concrete communicator provides a clear picture of what they want to convey.

Being concrete in communication helps:

  • Strengthen the confidence of your words,
  • Maintain the audience’s interest,
  • Avoid misinterpretations, and
  • Speed up the course of action.

How to communicate concretely 

To communicate concretely, you’ll need to:

  • Support your ideas with facts and figures,
  • Use clear, unambiguous words and phrases, and
  • Provide detailed steps for actions you want to be undertaken.

C #7: Courtesy

Courteous communication implies the information is delivered with respect. 

A courteous communicator is open, friendly, and honest.

Being courteous in communication helps:

  • Build and maintain a good rapport among teammates,
  • People feel heard, acknowledged, appreciated, and
  • Build a more loyal and productive team.

How to communicate courteously

To communicate courteously, you’ll need to:

  • Be positive, polite, and sensible,
  • Be enthusiastic and reflective,
  • Consider the viewpoints of others,
  • Focus the message on the audience, and
  • Show respect to fellow communicators.

Step #2: Establish trust among teammates

To build effective communication in a team, you’ll need to build trust in that team

After all, teammates who trust each other communicate more. 

And, teams who communicate more have a better chance of:

  • Solving issues faster, 
  • Making decisions easier, 
  • Avoiding conflicts, and 
  • Exploring their creativity.

According to Paul J. Zak, the author of Trust Factor: The Science of Creating High-Performance Companies, and his article The Neuroscience of Trust, people working in high-trust companies report the following benefits:

  • 106% more energy at work,
  • 76% more engagement,
  • 74% less stress,
  • 50% higher productivity,
  • 40% less burnout,
  • 29% more satisfaction with their lives, and
  • 13% fewer sick days.

How to establish trust among teammates

To establish trust among teammates, you’ll need to:

  • Be transparent — you can achieve this by:
    • Being accountable for your responsibilities,
    • Providing and accepting feedback on a regular basis, and
    • Asking for task/project expectations upfront.
  • Be respectful — you can achieve this by:
    • Respecting your teammates’ time,
    • Respecting your teammates’ ideas, even when they don’t align with your knowledge, experience, or expectations, and
    • Respecting your teammates’ opinions, even when they are different from your own.
  • Be united — you can achieve this by:
  • Value teammates — you can achieve this by:
    • Learning more about their likes, dislikes, and preferred workflows, and
    • Providing praise when and where due.
  • Actively build team trust, by practicing appropriate trust-building activities, such as:
    • Blind square — a trust-building game where a blindfolded group of people needs to form a rope into a square by collaborating,
    • Back-to-back drawing — a trust-building game where two people sit back-to-back and provide each other with instructions on how to draw abstract shapes they’re tasked with,
    • Night trail — a trust-building game where a group of blindfolded people holds on to a rope and needs to navigate an obstacle course together, and
    • Minefield — a trust-building game where the first teammate is blindfolded, while the second teammate needs to verbally navigate the first teammate across an open space filled with obstacles.

🎓 Pumble Pro Tip

For more ideas on trust-bonding activities, check out this blog post:

Step #3: Manage communication barriers

Communication barriers come in various forms — we typically recognize:

  • Physical, 
  • Perceptual, 
  • Emotional, 
  • Cultural, 
  • Language, 
  • Gender, and 
  • Interpersonal barriers to effective communication. 

Each of the listed barriers may manifest in different ways:

Physical barriers to communication

They represent the environmental conditions that disrupt the communication process

They may manifest as physically separate offices of distributed teams that make it difficult for people to interact when they want to.

🎓 Pumble Pro Tip

Physical barriers don’t have to stand in the way of your remote team feeling connected. Here’s how to help them communicate with more ease:

Perceptual barriers to communication

They represent people’s perceptions that stop them from properly assessing a:

  • Person, 
  • Topic, or 
  • Piece of information. 

They may manifest as skewed perceptions about someone’s knowledge/experience.

Emotional barriers to communication

They represent the emotions that obstruct effective communication. 

They may manifest as conflicts caused by:

  • Anger, 
  • Anxiety, or 
  • Pride.

Cultural barriers to communication

They represent culture-based differences between communicators that trigger misinterpretations of other people’s messages. 

They may manifest as misunderstandings caused by culture-based norms and customs.

🎓 Pumble Pro Tip

Want to know more about conquering cross-cultural barriers in the workplace? Read this article:

Language barriers to communication

They represent words, phrases, pronunciation, and grammar whose use can confuse the people we are communicating with. 

They may manifest as the overuse of jargon and slang.

🎓 Pumble Pro Tip

Check out this guide on the ABCs of business communication:

Gender barriers to communication

They represent stereotypes, prejudices, and biases that influence how we view and communicate with people of different genders. 

They may manifest as gender-based misconceptions about someone’s communication habits.

Interpersonal barriers to communication

They represent interpersonal difficulties that stop people from reaching their full potential in terms of communication skills

They may manifest as someone’s lack of a desire to participate in conversations.

How to manage communication barriers

To manage communication barriers, you’ll need to:

  • Identify the communication barriers you are facing — once you do, it will be easier to tackle them.
  • Learn about different cultural norms and customs, as well as cultural differences in terms of verbal and nonverbal language use — once you do, you’ll decrease the chances of misunderstandings and confusion.
  • Identify your assumptions, stereotypes, biases, and prejudices — once you do, you’ll be able to work on overcoming them.
  • Pick an appropriate official team language — in case the members of the team have different mother tongues.

🎓 Pumble Pro Tip

For a more in-depth view of communication barriers, read the following article:

Step #4: Learn how to manage nonverbal communication

According to the often-quoted, popular piece of statistics, 93% of communication is nonverbal — but, this number has also been heavily disputed by experts and proven to be a misinterpreted version of the findings from the original study by Albert Mehrabian, a famous psychologist.

Regardless of the actual percentage, nonverbal communication is still an important element of many communication processes. 

Moreover, it’s a form of communication we often overlook

This is tied to the fact that it is often not the dominant form of communication — it usually accompanies in-person verbal communication. 

Namely, we may use facial expressions, gestures, and body movements to underline our words. 

But, our body language can also communicate messages we do not wish to convey. Alternatively, our facial expressions, gestures, and body movements may also be unintentionally misleading — or simply misinterpreted by others, just like the above-mentioned piece of statistics.

Because of all this, nonverbal communication sometimes represents perceptual barriers to effective communication. For example, when someone’s idea of what our raised eyebrows mean gets in the way of what we are really trying to communicate.

Moreover, nonverbal communication may sometimes also represent cultural barriers to effective communication. For example, when the person we are communicating with interprets our nonverbal language in accordance with their own cultural norms — which do not align with what we are trying to convey.

Proper nonverbal communication is an important step toward effective team communication — and you’ll need to make the effort to properly convey and interpret nonverbal language.

How to manage nonverbal communication

To manage nonverbal communication, you’ll need to:

  • Learn how to use nonverbal communication to your advantage:
    • Read the room and act accordingly — don’t smile when the message is serious, or frown when engaging in casual chats with colleagues.
    • Maintain frequent eye contact with the people you are communicating with.
    • Introduce yourself with a firm handshake.
    • Don’t fold your arms — you’ll avoid looking defensive.
    • Adjust your voice to a pleasant and comfortable volume.
    • Avoid too much gesticulation — you’ll lessen the chances that you’ll convey something you don’t want.
  • Learn how to “read” the nonverbal messages of your fellow communicators carefully:
    • Observe the body language of your fellow communicators — but, listen to what they say first.
  • Educate yourself about the nonverbal norms of your teammates’ cultures:
    • If you’re a manager, organize cross-cultural training about the matter.
    • If you’re an employee, make the individual initiative to learn about the nonverbal language use of other cultures represented in your team.

Step #5: Learn how to express yourself in communication

Learning how to express yourself in communication is one of the most important steps toward effective communication. 

After all, to be able to properly communicate, you’ll need to be able to express your thoughts, ideas, opinions, and beliefs properly.

How to properly express yourself in communication

To properly express yourself in communication, you’ll need to:

  • Decide what you want to say first — formulate ideas and opinions in your mind before you articulate them.
  • Do not generalize your points — instead, enrich them with the right amount of details, facts, and figures; use examples and visuals to illustrate your thoughts and ideas.
  • Be assertive — say and do what you want in a clear and respectful manner, while valuing your thoughts, needs, and feelings, alongside the thoughts, needs, and feelings of fellow communicators:
    • Recognize your values — don’t just attribute your failures to internal flaws and your successes to luck; be objective about your contributions instead.
    • Know your rights — aim to understand your entitlements and benefits in the workplace; then, insist on them.
    • Manage your boundaries — aim to understand and respect your boundaries, to better manage stress and expectations.
    • Before being assertive, practice being assertive— think about what you want to say in a given situation, and practice how you’ll say it.
  • Speak up — during meetings, brainstorming sessions, or anytime when it’s appropriate to speak up and you have something important to say, do so.
  • Aim to stay on topic during arguments — start small and make it your goal to get to the point as quickly as you can; use details, facts, examples, and visuals that add, rather than distract from your gist.
  • Communicate at the right time — if you have a question at a meeting, ask it right away; if you know your colleagues will be busy at a certain time, ask them when they will be able to talk with you.

🎓 Pumble Pro Tip

If you’re interested in learning more about different styles of communication in the workplace, check out our guide on the subject:

Step #6: Learn how to actively listen to others

Contributing to discussions, debates, decision-making processes, brainstorming sessions, and problem-solving meetings with your own thoughts, ideas, and opinions is one crucial element of effective communication.

However, listening to the thoughts, ideas, and opinions of others with real interest is equally important. 

According to Psychology Today, we’re much worse listeners than we think — as many as 96% of people think they are great listeners, when in reality, we tend to retain only 50% of what is said right after it’s said. The percentage further shrinks with time.

In the book he co-wrote with Leonard A. Stevens, Are you Listening?, Ralph G. Nichols, a retired professor at the University of Missouri, says that the ability to give speakers our full attention drops as we age: 

“If we define the good listener as one giving full attention to the speaker, first-grade children are the best listeners of all.”

10 worst listening habits you need to avoid

Nichols has also cited the 10 worst listening habits of people in America — according to these habits, people fail to listen because they:

  1. Find the topic discussed uninteresting,
  2. Find faults in the speaker (e.g. a lacking delivery or appearance),
  3. Focus on a particular argument made by the speaker and then try to find counterarguments to it,
  4. Focus more on facts, than the underlying idea,
  5. Try to outline everything said — so they miss the gist,
  6. Fake attention while their minds wander off,
  7. Fall prey to distractions (e.g. distractions they create or tolerate),
  8. Focus on information that is easy to understand, and avoid the more difficult concepts,
  9. Let emotional words distract them, and
  10. Waste the difference between thought speed and the speed at which people speak — i.e., “thought power”.

How to actively listen to others

To actively listen to others, you’ll need to:

  • Be open to new information — enter each dialogue with the intention of learning something new.
  • Be patient when listening to other people — don’t interrupt them just because you think you have something important to say.
  • Be neutral and nonjudgmental when replying — don’t actively look for problems in other people’s ideas, beliefs, and opinions.
  • Provide the right nonverbal feedback while listening — for example, smile, maintain eye contact, and nod.
  • Ask the right questions at the right time — both open-ended and close-ended Yes/No questions.
  • Encourage the speaker with select phrases and positive feedback — for example, “Tell me more about…”, “And this would work because…”, etc.
  • Reflect on what was said and summarize the speaker’s main points — this way, you’ll ensure you understand what is said.
  • Ask for clarifications when needed — this way, you’ll increase the amount of information you understand.

🎓 Pumble Pro Tip

Active listening is just one part of active communication. Learn more about it here:

Step #7: Avoid assumptions

Assumptions can quickly lead communication to the point of breakdown. 

You may assume you have larger knowledge/experience than a teammate because the colleague is younger than you.

You may assume others feel the same as you on a particular topic because they are listening to you without interrupting. 

All this can lead to misunderstandings and even conflicts.

How to avoid assumptions

To avoid assumptions, you’ll need to:

  • Assess your current beliefs:
    • Think about the following — are you basing your assumptions on past experiences/knowledge, a personal opinion, or merely a gut feeling? Basing your assumptions on past experience/knowledge may have root in reality, but basing them on a personal opinion or gut feeling fails to provide you with the credibility you need.
  • Ask the right questions:
    • Ask for extra detail about the opinions and ideas you suspect are faulty — perhaps the answers will give you the full picture you’re currently missing.
  • View the matter from different perspectives:
    • Ask people for their interpretations of a controversial opinion or idea — perhaps they will be able to provide you with a better overview of the points you find controversial, and even encourage you to change your mind.
  • Be specific:
    • While arranging meeting points or making decisions, be clear on the where, when, who, and how.

Step #8: Actively work on resolving conflicts

According to a report titled Workplace Conflict and How Businesses Can Harness It to Thrive, conflicts are a common occurrence at the workplace. 

Namely, as many as 85% of employees deal with conflict at some point. 

Moreover, for 29% of employees, conflict is a regular occurrence.

The most common causes for conflict are:

  • Personality clashes and egos — in 49% of the cases
  • Stress — in 34% of the cases
  • Heavy workloads — in 33% of the cases
  • Poor leadership — in 29% of the cases
  • A lack of honesty and openness — in 26% of the cases

Conflicts disrupt a team’s workflow and may cause further problems, such as:

  • Personal attacks — according to 27% of employees
  • Absence and sickness — according to 25% of employees
  • Failed projects — according to 9% of employees

Moreover, 57% of people tend to feel negative emotions after conflicts:

  • Demotivation — 21% of employees
  • Frustration and anger — 18% of employees
  • Nervousness, sleeplessness, and stress — 9% of employees

How to resolve conflicts effectively

To resolve conflicts effectively, you’ll need to:

  • Talk with the other person — make sure it is at a convenient time and place.
  • Identify and summarize the points you agree and disagree on — this tactic is a great starting point.
  • Focus negative feedback on behavior or events — rather than on someone’s personality.
  • Listen to what the other person has to say — rather than think about your counterarguments.
  • If you disagree on certain points, talk them through — until you reach a compromise.
  • Focus on a priority area of conflict first — to ensure most of your time and energy are spent solving them before you move on to matters of lesser priority.
  • Manage all questions — ask everything you want to know and make yourself available for questions.
  • Maintain a collaborative attitude throughout the discussion — this will stop the conflict from escalating further.
  • Plan for the future — arrange additional meetings about the controversial points, if necessary.

🎓 Pumble Pro Tip

If you’re not sure what phrases to use to diffuse conflict in the workplace, we got you covered:

Step #9: Manage communication channels effectively

In a business environment, a communication channel represents the means through which people communicate with each other. 

They include:

  • Hardware solutions — such as mobile phones or fax machines, and 
  • Software solutions — such as team communication apps or project management tools.

Office-based teams use them to centralize information and communicate with colleagues who are seated far away from their own workstations.

They are a crucial element in the work lives of remote and hybrid teams who cannot communicate in real-time and/or in-person due to time and/or distance constraints (e.g. different time zones and/or continents).

In line with that, a crucial step toward effective communication is learning how to manage communication channels.

How to manage communication channels effectively

To manage communication channels effectively, you’ll need to:

  • Think about your workflows — what type of communication channels will you need:
    • Traditional channels of communication, such as phones? They are great for obtaining instant feedback.
    • Internal versions of certain public systems, such as internal podcasts? They are great for culture building.
    • Specialized channels of communication, such as project management tools? They are great for communicating project details.
    • All-encompassing solutions such as team collaboration software? It’s great for instant messaging and topical discussions.
  • To pick a communication channel, consider the following questions:
    • Are your messages mostly formal or informal?
    • Do most of your information need to be easy to reference?
    • Is most of your information confidential or sensitive? 
    • Is most of your information time-sensitive or urgent?
    • Is most of your information general or specific?
    • Do you tend to communicate with a group or individuals?
    • Are the individuals and groups you communicate with your peers? Or are they at a higher hierarchy level than you?
    • Does your communication tend to require a quick response? 
    • When does communication usually happen? (e.g. one-on-one meetings, team meetings, company meetings, etc.)
    • What type of communication do you practice the most? (e.g. written, verbal, visual, etc.)
  • Learn and/or train others on how to use the selected communication channels — the basics and finer points can be explained through:
    • Group training,
    • Official documentation, and
    • Help pages on the app’s website.

🎓 Pumble Pro Tip

Pumble is a free team chat app that allows you to communicate with your team with ease. Check out its features here:

Step #10: Be a responsive communicator

Being responsive in communication means you are responding to the other communicators in a clear, direct, and most importantly, timely manner. 

High responsiveness is a crucial component in effective team communication because it helps teammates solve problems and make decisions faster, as well as save time overall. 

For example, 75% of emails get opened within the first hour, and 42% of emails get replied to during this time, according to Yesware statistics

However, the open/reply percentages are higher only at a later time. Namely, as many as 98% of emails get opened within the first day, and 95% get replies during this time. 

Another study shows that 52% of people respond to work-related emails within 12 and 24 hours — but, as many as 60% of people claim they may wait 2 days to reply to an email.

In any case, waiting between 1 hour and 2 days for email replies can harm your productivity.After all, getting a reply to your question within 5 minutes will help you get on track with work much faster than if you need to wait for hours or days. So, it’s important you employ a suitable communication solution within your team and beyond — such as a business messaging app.

Pumble, as an example of an instant messaging team communication app

How to be a responsive communicator

To be a responsive communicator, you’ll need to:

  • Keep an eye on communication channels during work hours — keep an eye on notifications and check your official channels of communication regularly.
  • Let your teammates know when you’ll be able to communicate — if you’re working in a remote or hybrid team, make your work hours public (preferably, with an indication of how your work hours compare to Greenwich Mean Time — if your team operates in several different time zones).
  • Let the team know in advance when you’ll be unable to communicate — if you know you will be unavailable to talk or answer questions at a particular time, notify your colleagues and managers, with a special emphasis on the time when you will be available again.

Step #11: Perfect your writing skills

Written communication stands out as a dominant form of communication, alongside verbal communication — after all, most of us will opt to invite a teammate to chat in person or write them a message. 

In line with that, another crucial step on the road to effective team communication includes perfecting your writing skills. 

After all, it was Marvin H. Swift, Associate Professor of Communication at the General Motors Institute, who once said that Clear writing means clear thinking — according to him, and other experts in the field of communication, being methodical about your writing skills can greatly improve the effectiveness of team communication.

How to perfect your writing skills

To perfect your writing skills, you’ll need to:

  • Plan what you want to say — to make writing more effective.
  • Identify your trouble spots and work on them — whether it be grammar, punctuation, vocabulary, etc.
  • Be direct — always start with your main point/argument, and add details later. Bryan Garner, the author of The HBR Guide to Better Business Writing, says that an issue and its proposed solutions should always be summarized first, in “no more than 150 words”.
  • Avoid wordiness — Bryan Garner points out the problem of wordiness: “The minute readers feel that a piece of writing is verbose they start tuning out”. So, instead of being verbose, he proposes you:
    • Delete prepositions (e.g. write “viewpoint” instead of “point of view” ),
    • Replace –ion nouns with action verbs (e.g. write “protect” instead of “provide protection”),
    • Use contractions (e.g. write “don’t” instead of “do not”), and
    • Use strong verbs instead of “is”/”are”, “was”/”were” (e.g. write “suggest” instead of “is suggested”).
  • Avoid buzzwords — these words and phrases have been overused to the point of losing any real meaning. Garner proposes you write a “buzzwords blacklist” and include words and phrases such as “actionable”, “core competency”, and “impactful”.
  • Read before you hit “send” — before sending out an instant message or email, proofread them for grammar, accuracy, and clarity.
  • Be mindful of formatting — you’ll get your points across better if you use bullet points than if you write incomprehensible blocks of text.

🎓 Pumble Pro Tip

Proper written communication is vital for the success of a remote team. Here’s how to master it:

Step #12: Adjust to the communication situation

How a process of communication will unfold tends to depend on the communication situation you are in:

  • Is the situation formal or informal?
  • Are you in a meeting? 
  • Are you providing feedback
  • Are you accepting feedback? 
  • Are you giving a presentation?
  • Are you listening to a presentation?
  • Are you interviewing a potential job candidate? 
  • Are you caught up in a conflict?

Another important element in a communication situation that dictates how you should behave and respond are the people you are communicating with:

  • Are you communicating with peers, superiors, or clients?

🎓 Pumble Pro Tip

Explore different communication directions:

How to adjust to the communication situation

To adjust to the communication situation, you’ll need to:

  • Be able to recognize the formality of the situation — whether a situation is formal or informal (which, again, may depend on whether you are speaking with a peer, superior, or client) will determine the formality of speech/writing.
  • Follow the situation’s etiquette — meetings, feedback sessions, and presentations all have their etiquette.

Additionally, understanding the behind-the-scenes of a communication situation by analyzing the specific models of communication is another crucial step in learning how to adjust to different communication situations in the workplace.

Meeting etiquette

  • Be punctual.
  • Speak loud enough when it’s your time to speak.
  • Actively listen to others when it’s their time to speak.
  • Contribute with meaningful information when you can.

🎓 Pumble Pro Tip

You can read more about how to make your meetings fun and worthwhile in the following articles:

Etiquette for providing feedback

  • Ask for permission to give feedback.
  • Base negative feedback on behavior and not the person.
  • Explain the impact of a negative behavior.
  • Discuss one issue at a time.
  • Suggest concrete steps for improvements.

Etiquette for accepting feedback

  • Listen attentively.
  • Recognize good intentions.
  • Ask for additional pointers on how to improve.
  • Summarize the feedback.
  • Be gracious to the feedback provider.

Presentation etiquette for the speakers

  • Arrive earlier to prepare everything.
  • At the end of the presentation, thank the audience for listening.
  • Don’t be defensive come question time — instead, answer the questions patiently by using facts, figures, examples, and anything else that supports your claims.
  • Be mindful of your nonverbal communication — don’t gesticulate too much, to avoid distracting the audience.
  • Use your visual aids with care — no more than 5–6 bullet points per presentation slide. If you can use an example or image to illustrate a point, do so.

Presentation etiquette for the audience

  • Don’t talk, unless you’re asked to participate.
  • Don’t interrupt the speakers — instead, ask questions during question time.
  • Turn off mobile phones.
  • Listen attentively.

Step #13: Follow the four steps for nonviolent communication (NVC)

The four NVC steps (NVC stands for Nonviolent Communication, but the abbreviation also often refers to Compassionate Communication) help you consciously use words to express what you want. 

The concept, developed by Marshall Rosenberg, Ph.D., includes the following steps:

  1. Observing without judgment
  2. Expressing feelings
  3. Expressing needs
  4. Expressing requests

In a business setting, these steps help increase the chances you’ll establish mutual understanding with teammates. 

They also help teams make the following improvements:

  • Boost communication skills overall
  • Improve self-awareness
  • Grow their management skills
  • Strengthen interpersonal relationships
  • Solve conflicts easier and quicker
  • React properly to unexpected developments
  • Take care of personal needs, while having in mind the needs of others
  • Positively influence the organization as a whole

How to follow the four NVC steps

To follow the four steps of NVC, you’ll need to:

  • Start with the observations step — Observe what you hear or see without evaluating or judging. By doing so, you’ll add objective data to your opinions.
    • Example: “Jake ignored my opinion at today’s daily meeting.”
  • Move on to the feelings step — Express your feelings in an appropriate way for a business environment. By doing so, you’ll decrease the chances of having your bottled-up emotions and repressed opinions burst out unexpectedly.
    • Example: “I feel disappointed when my opinion is ignored at daily meetings.”
  • Advance with the needs step — Express your true needs directly if you want them fulfilled. By doing so, you avoid sounding overly critical to people (as opposed to expressing needs indirectly, through judgments, evaluation, and unsupported opinions).
    • Example: “When you don’t finish your part of the work on time, I feel disappointed because I want to be able to rely on you.”
  • End with the requests step — Avoid vague, abstract, or ambiguous statements. Instead, use concrete, positive language. By doing so, you’ll seem more action-oriented.
    • Example: “I would prefer it if you knocked before entering my office, please.”

Wrapping up: Effective communication makes an effective team

To sum it up, the road to effective team communication is a clear and easy one if you follow the right steps:

  1. Follow the 7 Cs of effective communication — make your communication clear, coherent, confident, correct, concise, concrete, and courteous. 
  2. Make the effort to establish and maintain trust among teammates. 
  3. Aim to recognize and overcome physical, perceptual, emotional, cultural, language, gender, and interpersonal barriers to effective communication. 
  4. Learn how to manage your personal nonverbal communication and the nonverbal communication of fellow communicators. 
  5. Learn how to express your thoughts, ideas, and opinions in communication. 
  6. Learn how to listen to others attentively. 
  7. Avoid assumptions about other people and certain topics. 
  8. Actively work on resolving conflicts.
  9. Make the effort to select and use the communication channels that fit your team’s workflow. 
  10. Be a responsive communicator
  11. Perfect your writing skills
  12. Adjust your approach to the communication situation
  13. Follow the four steps of nonviolent communication (NVC) — make observations, manage your feelings, act on your needs, and use concrete, positive language when making requests.

As a result, you’ll establish effective communication in your team, which will help you build, maintain, and enjoy better teamwork.


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  • The Writing Center, University of Wisconsin – Madison. (n.d.). Transitional Words and Phrases. Retrieved 25.05.2021, from https://writing.wisc.edu/handbook/style/transitions/
  • Yaffe, P. (2011). The 7% Rule: Fact, Fiction, or Misunderstanding. Ubiquity. Retrieved 25.05.2021, from https://ubiquity.acm.org/article.cfm?id=2043156
  • Zak, P. J. (2017). The Neuroscience of Trust. Harvard Business Review. Retrieved 25.05.2021, from https://hbr.org/2017/01/the-neuroscience-of-trust

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