Twelve Tools for Effective Communication


In the coming weeks, we will be posting a series of articles expanding on our concept of twelve communication tools.  These tools are designed to help a person plan for and effectively execute an important conversation.  Of course every communication does not require extensive planning to execute or to be effective.  In fact, most comfortable dialogue happens in the absence of conscious planning and is the result of subconscious factors that we are not even aware of at the time.  But, what about those conversations that end in conflict, or those conversations that we don’t have because we avoid the discomfort of approaching the person or the topic? This series of articles is designed to help a person improve dialogue in situations where something has gone wrong in communications in the past, or something just seems to be currently lacking in the relationship and, as a result, dialogue with this particular person, or about this particular topic, seems stilted and uncomfortable.

Tool One: Set a goal for your communication

What is the reason for your communication?  Do you hope to surface and resolve an issue that is of concern to you?  Do you want to build a relationship with the person?  Do you hope to repair an injured relationship? Are you seeking a favor?  The approach and content of your communication may vary radically depending on the goal of the communication, so it is important to have a clear understanding in your own mind about what you hope to achieve in the dialogue.

Here are so examples of how understanding your goal might affect your approach:

If your goal in a communication is to rebuild a relationship after a negative encounter, your decision about how to approach the communication will be affected in many ways. We will speak in more detail as we explore communication further, but with this goal in mind you decision about when and where to have the communication will be definitely affected, as will your initial approach to opening dialogue.  In contrast, if your goal is simple rapport building a more casual approach in a variety of settings will work just fine.  Seeking a favor? – you may want to set the tone differently, so it is implied that you are willing to exchange a favor as well. Finally, if your goal is to voice a concern, you will undoubtedly want to spend some mental energy thinking about how to frame the concern in a way that is best calculated to reduce the potential that the listener will become angry or defensive.

What’s next?

In the upcoming series of blog articles, we will focus on issues and approaches, and share a number of tools and pointers on how to manage a wide variety of communications, when the outcome of the communication can be really significant – from getting a job or a raise, to addressing a serious area of potential conflict.

I hope you will enjoy this new series!

Bruce MacAllister, J.D.  June 2011

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