Chartered Accountants and Professional Business Advisers

Successful Communications

The ability to communicate successfully is important for a rewarding personal and business life. In business this can include:

  • your corporate marketing messages that help build your brand,
  • your internal communications and interactions with your team, and
  • Individual exchanges between your team and your customers.

In Britain’s economy today, many people’s job is to advise on a subject they know and understand. Einstein said “If you can’t explain it simply, then you don’t understand it well enough”. But a challenge for creative problem solvers who do understand their subject well enough is to be able to convey meaning - whether to a colleague or to a customer - so the recipient understands as well and has the clarity to decide what to do.

The meaning must pass through the adviser’s background and be formed by their ability, and also pass through the environment and the different background and ability of the recipient. Just providing a technical analysis doesn’t maximise the adviser’s value.

A model for successful communication

Using the model below as a guide we identified and unpicked the elements in each stage.

  1. You, the sender (Your background and attidues)
  2. Your ability to shape and send messages of your meanings
  3. The quality of the message (Substance, acceptability, form)
  4. The characteristics of the medium (Does it facilitate or deter the message?)
  5. The environment (External elements which help or block the message)
  6. The receiver's ability to receive
  7. The receiver's background and attitudes

Determinants of successful communications

1 & 7 Sender and receiver background

  • Age, absolute and relationship to each other. Potential ramifications
  • Reputations and attitudes to each other - and ramifications
  • Motives for a beneficial outcome
  • Recent experiences – uplifts, traumas, sickness, diversions etc.
  • Habits, customs, rituals, taboos, prejudices, biases
  • Publicity – desire for
  • Education, travel, breadth of outlook
  • Influential aspects: idols, models, aspirations
  • Power areas: Where influence can be affected
  • National, religious, racial heritage
  • Self-image vs true or real image
  • Social attitudes, politics
  • Insecurities and strengths
  • Specific knowledge of message area

2 & 6 Sender and receiver abilities (Skills in message sending)

  • Experience, practice, breadth or scope of practice (sent this message before?)
  • Preferences related to training (like what you do).
  • Tools available, necessary equipment
  • Physical handicaps (poor typing, stutter etc.)
  • Mental blocks
  • Vocabulary
  • Awareness; ability to relate to other interests
  • Attention span (propensity to distraction)
  • Physical strength

3 Quality of the message, is it?

  • Signposted - intention clear?
  • Relevant to the receiver, to society, to the time, etc.?
  • Perceivable?
  • Complex? Too complex? Free of jargon and technical language
  • In the right tone / empathetic
  • Appropriate length (concise - too long or short?)
  • Balance with other messages being sent (inc. via other mediums)
  • Able to rise above distractions

4 Characteristics of the medium

  • Compatibility to situation – appropriateness
  • Multi-sensory stimulating
  • Secure, or will the message be lost
  • Enhance or distract the message (fax urgent?)
  • The best medium
  • Personal / intimate
  • Normal for the recipient
  • Popular
  • Resistant to environmental interference
  • Clarity: Too obvious or too subtle
  • Speed: fast or slow

5 The environment (Factors which represent noise or distraction)

  • Complementary to the message
  • Temperature
  • Visual
  • Audible
  • Olfactory (coffee, food)
  • Movement
  • Timely (before lunch, after a late night out)
  • Symbolic (e.g. prejudice against the venue)
  • Wrong company (inappropriate audience grouping)

Watch Daniel Simons' classic video below.  It illustrates the way we filter what we pay attention to. Instead of logging every detail in our surroundings, we extract a few key features and rely on memory, or imagination, to fill in the rest.