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I have a lead role in my organization. My role demands high impact and crystal clear communication from me. I have been told that I am able to successfully communicate verbally anything to others, but it is not simple and clear. I have also been told that more clarity and simplicity is required in my communication.

Below is one incident:
- I went to my manager's desk and said something with a long explanation and many sentences. He asked some questions and clarifications and then he understood my point and responded. In my formal feedback meeting he told me "Your communication should be more clear and simple. People directly should respond to what ever you say with out probing much. It costs some more questions and effort from other person to get exactly what you are saying. First improve your clarity of thought"

My objective is improving my verbal communication. I want to be simple and crystal clear so that it doesn't cost the other person much effort. I know it is a long journey to improve my communication. But I need a good start and good progress. I know there are plenty of good resources, books and articles and also I am sure there are many practices I could adopt.

Currently How to assess where am I in the process of improvement? At this level What are the best resources which will help me to reach my objective?
What are the most effective practices that I can adopt at this level?

NOTE: To gain a more understanding of my communication challenges, please see revision #1 of this post before it was edited and improved.

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    This question is a bit too broad (as there are many different types of communication: verbal, reports, presentations, e-mails, etc.). Any chance you could give an example of a communication type you are criticized for as well as a brief overview (not too localized) of what was needed to be communicated to ground the question better? – jmac Mar 29 '13 at 2:38
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    I didn't make the close vote, there is one vote for not a real question: It's difficult to tell what is being asked here. This question is ambiguous, vague, incomplete, overly broad, or rhetorical and cannot be reasonably answered in its current form. And anyway, I don't know of a way to "revert" a close vote. Even with the edit, you are still asking for very broad feedback on two different communication methods. – jmac Mar 29 '13 at 2:57
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    The first close vote is mine. From the faq: "Your questions should be reasonably scoped. If you can imagine an entire book that answers your question, you’re asking too much." There are indeed many books on the topic(s) indicated in your question. – jcmeloni Mar 29 '13 at 3:02
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    Step #1: Reduce the scope. Right now you are trying to ask about verbal and e-mail communication on any subject. Pick either verbal or e-mail. Step #2: Focus the question. Give a specific situation where you have had trouble communicating (or your boss has criticized your communication) and let us know what you've tried to improve it. Based on that, we can give concrete ways to try to improve your communication. – jmac Mar 29 '13 at 3:35
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    This question is clear. The problem is, you are asking about a topic with an answer which is not concise, and are asking in a manner which is not a good fit for a Q/A site but rather a discussion board. None of your questions are specific, non-list questions, which makes this really hard to fit here. Your problem is not necessarily clarity (I understand exactly what you are asking) - it's just a set of questions which requires more of a dialogue or mentoring type relationship to address. – enderland Mar 29 '13 at 3:42
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It is not simple or easy to communicate clearly. It is hard work, and harder still in your second language. Your manager is right that it is best if people don't have to repeatedly question you just to find out what you're trying to say. There are several reasons why people don't get your point on the first try. Luckily your manager has identified part of the problem.

Often, smart people will work their way a good way through a problem before they get stuck. When they do get stuck, they make one of two mistakes:

  • they ask a highly detailed question that "starts in the middle" of the problem with no background
  • they "start at the beginning" and go on for paragraphs of background without getting to the point

I communicate regularly with two individuals at each end of this spectrum. One will appear at my desk asking for something very specific - say, our FedEx account number. It's up to me to ask things like "are you shipping something? what? to whom? Why are you shipping it FedEx?" and so on until I finally understand what's happening. The other will tell me this super long story "so Bill phoned, and he had a problem with .... and I asked him to try ... but that didn't work and then it occurred to me that Steve might know ... but that was an older version ..." (the ... are me falling asleep and missing part of the story) ... "and anyway, that brings me to my question, who do we usually use as a bail bondsman?"

Before you start to talk to anyone, especially your manager, take a moment to ask yourself:

  • what do I want from the conversation? Do I have a question that I need a factual answer for, am I getting permission, am I keeping someone up to date on circumstances, reporting a problem that I want to be solved, ... what?
  • what does my manager know about this already, from what I've been told by the manager or from what I have already told the manager? Wasting someone's time repeating information they know is at best irritating
  • what information do I have that is relevant to what I want? How can I summarize this information?

Then you can start the conversation with the "executive summary" that includes what you want, and the bare minimum information needed to make a decision:

I want to make sure that what I am doing about Bill's problem is ok with you. As you know, he asked for [whatever] and I've looked into it and found a lot of problems. I can list them for you but the bottom line is it will probably take three weeks to make his changes. I was thinking of telling him to use the workaround for now and we can make the changes next month when the interns are here to carry some of the other workload. Do you think that will be ok?

If the manager is familiar with Bill's request, and trusts your estimating skills, you can get an answer right then. Or you may be asked "tell me more about these problems." Again, summarize first.

There are three major ones: the data, the reports, and the security. For the data, [one sentence.] For the reports, [one sentence.] And for security, [one sentence.]

Don't get caught up in a 20 sentence speech about one part before you've even mentioned there are three parts. This is probably what your manager means by clarity of thought. Think things through before you start speaking and be able to summarize things, then provide details when asked to. Don't just launch into minute details about something without any context to put it into.

This is all easier verbally, where you expect some back and forth, than it is in email. The way you typically handle this in email is to start with the most important stuff, and write (organize) in such a way that someone could stop reading at any time and they would not miss anything more important than what they already read. In the old days of newspapers, reporters would write stories and editors would decide to use just the first 9 paragraphs, or just the first 5, or even the first 2. Reporters had to choose the information they presented so that it was a good story no matter where it was cut off. It's not like a novel or an essay where you get to sum it all up at the end and the last paragraph is the most important. Consider using this approach (most important stuff first, ok if some gets cut off) for your emails and your in-person conversations.

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The following tips are a starting point to help you think about how you can improve your verbal communications skills, whether in planned or unplanned situations:

  1. Read more – Simply increasing what you read (business texts, novels, newspapers etc) can improve your vocabulary, help you express ideas clearly and eliminate weaknesses in your language skills.

  2. Think about the words – Too many words will bore your listener, take up too much time and result in you losing credibility. There is no need to waffle! Remember not to use words that people don’t understand (they may not even tell you that they don’t understand what you are saying), as you may appear intimidating and make them feel inferior.

  3. Prepare (if you can) – You would spend time planning what you would say if you were writing. You would also think about how to make it accessible to as many readers as possible. If you know of an approaching situation, take time out to think about the questions you may be asked and what answers you may need to give. If you are delivering a presentation, you should be prepared for awkward questions and situations where you may need to explain something in a different way.

  4. Listen and be interested – Listening more and talking less means you will understand and bring your listener into the conversation. This helps them to trust you and make them feel that you really understand their needs. When they talk, be interested and show your interest. This will improve the rapport you are trying to build. Using note-taking skills like Mind Mapping can help you to take more effective and memorable notes.

  5. Be aware of non-verbal communication traps – The impact of the words you say is only a small element of the communication you are giving. You should make sure that your words, their tone, the gestures you make, facial expressions and body language you use, are all relevant to your conversation.

  6. Honesty is the best policy - Promising something that is not possible will break down any trust that you have developed. Telling someone that you "don’t know – but can find out" is more positive than just trying to give an answer you hope is effective.

  7. Show and seek some understanding – Look for understanding from your audience. It’s easier to back track at certain points in your conversation than revisit the whole conversation again – or you risk getting the wrong results because your audience did not understand! You can use this when delivering or receiving a message. Occasional summaries and confirmation questions can be extremely useful.

  8. Think about perspectives – Think about what you are saying from the other person's perspective. Just because you understand what you mean, it doesn’t mean that they will.

  • I was in the middle of writing an answer, but this one is better. I would also add to this "Understand your audience" (before the communication) and "KISS, Keep it Simple Stupid". – Simon O'Doherty Jun 14 '13 at 8:21
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    2a. Don't use longer words when shorter ones will do. "Communicating with individuals regarding their vehicles" is overkill when you could be to be "talking to people about their cars." – Blrfl Jun 14 '13 at 11:25
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Your original post:

How to make my communication simple and clear? It was observed that I am able to communicate anything successfully to others what ever I want. How ever it is not simple and clear. I was also been given feedback by my boss that more clarity and simplicity is required my communication. And also it has been my observation that in SE my posts has been further edited by the users in order to add more clarity and make more simple. Now my specific questions are

(1) How can add more clarity to my thoughts and make my communication simple and crystal clear?

(2) What kind of regular practices that i have to do in my daily course of communication?

(3) What are the other best practices and tips?

Without sounding too harsh, your use of language is awkward. I can deconstruct your writing style sentence by sentence.

"How to make my communication simple and clear?"

We would say:

"How can I make my communications simple and clear?"

  • You have an extraneous "to" in there.

It was observed that I am able to communicate anything successfully to others what ever I want. How ever it is not simple and clear.

Should be:

"People have told me that I can communicate what I want to say, but it is not simple and clear"

  • "It was observed" is too scientific for casual conversation.

You might be constructing sentences in your head in your native language (I would guess Chinese?) and then translating that into English. Because sentences are formed differently in English than in Chinese, for example, it is difficult for others to follow. It is only difficult because you are communicating in a way different from what they are used to.

The remedy for this is to expose yourself to regular, common use of the English language.

Read. Read for long periods, (1-2 hours a day). You can read fiction or non-fiction (Harry Potter, Malcolm Gladwell books, it doesn't matter, as long as they're clearly written works*).

By reading, you will learn absorb what good writing is, by observing it and seeing it in practice.

Also, try watching English TV shows, and pay attention to how you talk, and how it differs from how people use language on TV.

*e.g. Don't go and read Shakespeare!

  • ... how does reading Harry Potter help someone communicate more effectively in email? Or help with regular communication? This is not an answer to the OP. – enderland Mar 29 '13 at 4:04
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    You are telling the OP What the problems are with this post but not why or how to solve the problem. It does not help solve the ops problem. – IDrinkandIKnowThings Mar 29 '13 at 13:13
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    @Chad The OP's problem is nonstandard use of the English language that other people find hard to grok. The solution is exposure to common use of the English language, so that common use of English can be absorbed. – bobobobo Mar 29 '13 at 16:47
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    @bobobobo - I do not get that in reading your answer. But maybe because by the time I get to where you say anything like that I already feel insulted by the fact that you are picking apart the problems with the op's post but not solving anything. This would be a acceptable answer if it were not for the unnecessary corrections tha start the post – IDrinkandIKnowThings Mar 29 '13 at 17:10
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    @bobobobo - I don't think you're wrong. In fact, I agree with everything you said. But still, some of the examples the op is using are written in passive voice. For instance, "it was observed" is textbook passive voice. :) – jmort253 Mar 30 '13 at 22:49
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There are a few key points to effective communication.

1. Keep it simple

Using simpler language allows for a wider range of people to understand the points you are making.

This is especially important when talking to somebody from a different field of work than you as technical words or acronyms won't make any sense to them.

2. Keep it short

Humans are remarkably impatient and minds tend to wander during lengthy monologues from one person. Just think back to that last presentation you had to sit through and i'm sure you will see my point.

Therefore you should try to keep your sentences short and informative. See the three examples below:

There's a problem with the database and the client said they aren't sure what is happening, it's causing lots of issues. There manager is going to phone up if it isn't fixed and fast! I'm not sure what the issue is but maybe Dave will know, we should go talk to him and then....

This is lengthy and not very descriptive, you've said there is a problem but you have given no details. Not to mention the length of this means that people will get distracted or overwhelmed.

Database is broken, fix it

OK so now we have made it shorter but it's not very descriptive, people are going to have to probe for lots of information to understand what's happening.

There's a problem with [database name] for [application] causing lots of issues with [client]. I raised a support ticket which you can find at [Location]. Can you have a look please as it's pushing this as an urgent issue. Dave's details are in the support ticket if you need any more information.

This is much better, you explain where the problem is, who it is causing problems for, and where they can find the information to solve it. This should minimize the amount of follow up questions that need to be asked.

A key point in improving this skill is to think about what you want to say before you say it. Otherwise you end up stumbling through sentences that seem to have no direction or purpose.

3. Learn to Listen

I would say that the most important part of verbal communication is knowing when to stop talking and start listening.

Communication requires at least two parties to engage in conversation, if you're giving long monologues then the other person is not being engaged and will likely get bored or irritated very quickly.

This also allows you to listen and learn how other people communicate, do they give all the information at once? Do they give information that you usually wouldn't or do they cut out parts you usually give?

Listening and learning from your environment is the key to effective communication, verbal or otherwise.

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Practice, practice, practice. Speaking is an art and a science. Like many things worth doing, it takes some learning.

Never let anybody tell you to stop trying to communicate because you're a poor communicator. Never.

Find a chapter of Toastmasters International. It's a club dedicated to helping people learn to speak clearly.

Ask your manager and your company to provide opportunities for you to make presentations on topics you know something about.

Look for an opportunity to serve as an adjunct professor at a local college, and teach some classes in your field.

Listen critically to high-quality presentations. TED talks are (mostly) good examples if you can't find others. Try to notice a technique each speaker uses to keep listeners on-message.

Read newspaper articles, or journal articles in your field, and practice summarizing them in a few words.

Read Aristotle's Rhetoric. You'll learn a lot about white-hat and black-hat ways of influencing your listeners.

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Someone suggested reading Harry Potter, and I'd agree. Read anything - The Wall Street Journal, Harry Potter, Batman comics - but read a bit more to get the flavour of English.

Then you just need to work out what you're trying to say, and say just that. I suspect you know this, which is why your initial post is so concise, but the problem is you also need, after condensing your idea, to then expand it a bit.

Provide details that add depth to whatever it is you're trying to get across. After all, and as was noted in some close-votes, too concise becomes uselessly vague!

To that end, I'd suggest reading The Memoirs of Field Marshal Montgomery. A vast chunk of his book is breaking down ideas into easily digestible bullet points. His style of writing can be quite boring, but is revealing in how clear it is too.

(Incidentally, from memory, he accords some of his promotions to his ability to clearly communicate!)

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