In our virtual working world where endless meetings and screen fatigue are all too common, efficient communication is critical to sustainable and fulfilling work habits.
What Is Efficient Communication?
Efficient communication is respectful communication. It is thoughtful and anticipates the needs of others. It treats the audience’s time as a privileged gift that must be continually re-earned, not an expectation. It earns the recipient’s prioritization rather than demanding (or worse, assuming) it, and maximizes what it is given.
Efficient communication is more than just concise sentences and intentional word choice; it means asking for what you need as directly as possible, in a way that is transparent but respectful of the recipient, acutely aware and appreciative of their interests.
The Importance of Efficient Communication
We’ve all experienced discourse that felt like a complete waste of time—a 15-minute conversation that could’ve happened in five, or a 20-thread email chain that could’ve been resolved in two intentional responses. Remember how that made you feel—frustrated, disrespected, unheard, perhaps even taken for granted. How do we avoid perpetuating this? How do we become efficient communicators who create positive experiences, raise the bar for others, and ultimately motivate others to want to work with us again?
5 Ways to Be an Efficient Communicator
Here are five ways we recommend growing in becoming a more efficient communicator.
1. Understand and clearly communicate your objective(s).
When you conclude the interaction, what are the one to three things you need to walk away with? What expectations do you have for your audience—do you need them to review or prepare anything for the conversation to be productive? Clearly communicate that and religiously enforce it, pivoting where necessary to maintain alignment. Always, always have an agenda for each interaction.
2. Be proactive, not reactive.
Effective communication’s goal is to minimize unnecessary touchpoints so people can focus on activities that add the most value. If your audience spends any time wondering what you mean by a request, what you need from them, or why you’ve reached out, you’ve already wasted their time. By anticipating needs, concerns, or questions and presenting your recommendation, you streamline interactions and enable them to focus on value-adding activities.
For example, if you’re emailing someone to ask whether they’d like to meet about an upcoming presentation, consider possible next actions—if they accept your request, you’ll likely want to schedule a meeting. Rather than waiting until the next touchpoint to discuss logistics, offer your availability for the next week upfront and communicate your expectations for the meeting length. Consider possible questions—for example, what you’d like to address or whether you expect them to review or prepare anything. To mitigate this, provide a short agenda and set any pre-meeting expectations upfront. You’ve just reduced an email thread from eight emails to two. Not only does this significantly minimize back-and-forth, but it also helps the recipient make an informed decision based on explicitly set expectations.
3. Always exercise empathy.
Maintaining empathy and humility amid direct communication is critical to sustainable leadership. There will be times when you make a wrong assumption or set an unfair expectation, and it’s important to acknowledge that upfront without using it as an excuse for callousness.
Always give your audience an opportunity to graciously disagree or challenge an expectation without feeling rude or disrespectful. Exercising social grace creates a safe space for others to disagree, thereby building rapport and trust; it fosters a culture of productive constructivism by valuing alignment of activity and intent over sheer impressions.
4. Strategically leverage the right communication method.
Is your request fairly straightforward and reasonably resolvable in three back-and-forth messages? Use email or a messaging platform.
Is your request controversial, complex, lengthy, or reasonably likely to be misconstrued (either due to the nature of the request or the audience receiving it)? Schedule a quick (five- to 15-minute) meeting with a clear agenda, detailing how you plan to use the time as well as any expectations for their engagement.
5. Practice structured thinking and continual editing.
Efficient communicators always use a logical sequence for communicating ideas—for example, a three-part meeting agenda to discuss strategic objectives, current state, and future state. When you find yourself confused or unsure about what you need from an interaction, pause and force yourself to document your questions before ordering them in logical sequence. Then, self-identify what objective is met by answering each question—this is your agenda. Practice structuring your thinking religiously, and it will become second nature over time.
Make a regular practice of self-editing your communication, both written and verbal, as this builds critical thinking and a growth mindset of continual improvement. Editing forces you to think from the audience’s perspective—is it possible this could be misunderstood; if so, what and why?
Is there an opportunity to consolidate words or use another word that more accurately communicates your intent? What questions might the audience have after reading/hearing this, and can you address those by being more specific in your description? By challenging yourself continually to think from another’s perspective, you become a more self-aware, effective, and empathetic communicator.
As Brené Brown said, “Clear is kind; unclear is unkind.” Committing to effective communication means committing to exercising the discipline of mindfulness, detail-oriented thinking, and respect. And that is worth prioritizing.
Taking Your Team Dynamics to the Next Level
At Credera, effective communication empowers our teams to maximize our client’s resources, creating a culture that prioritizes respect. Want to know more about how Credera could partner with you to build team connection and unlock success in your programs and projects? Reach out to us at firstname.lastname@example.org to start a conversation.
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