Seven Principles of Effective Communication

empty boardroomWhat do you need to know in order to communicate effectively? Here are some principles, largely drawn from NLP but verified by experience, that you can use as a checklist.

1. Know your desired outcome

What do you want to happen as a result of your communication? Do you want your audience to know or understand something, or to take some action? (these are not necessarily the same thing).

2. Open the channel of communication and keep it open

In order for your audience to even be aware of your communication, you need to get their attention first. How will you that? Then, what do you need to do to keep them listening? How are you maintaining the relationship with them?

3. The meaning of your communication is the response you get

Everyone has their own model of the world and their own perceptual filters – is your message being received as sent? The only way you will know is by how the audience respond to it. If you are not getting the response you want, you need to change the message. How will you know if they are getting the message?

4. Start from where your audience is

Following on from the previous point, you need to start from the audience’s map of the world, not expect them to jump into yours straight away. If what you are saying makes sense from where they are, you can lead them towards another point of view.

5. All meaning is context-dependent

Your audience will be assessing the meaning of what you say in the context of: their understanding of the relationship you have with them, the previous history of your communications with them, what they expected you to say, the tone of voice (literal or metaphorical) that you use, how much they think you care about them, how credible they think you are…

6. Frame your communication

As all meaning is context-dependent, don’t leave it to your audience to try and piece together a context to understand what you’re saying. Instead, set the frame for what you are talking about by providing a ‘headline’ right at the start, so your audience gets a ‘big picture’ straight away, and is able to place each piece of information within the frame as you reveal it. Your ‘headline’ should be something that is relevant to your audience (e.g. by solving a problem that they have) and arouses their curiosity and interest.

7. We are always communicating

Also following on from point 5: whatever we do or don’t do, when viewed in context, is a communication. Even saying nothing is communicating. Imagine going into a meeting with your line manager where they remain completely silent and stone-faced – that would be telling you something.

Exercise (should you choose to accept it): Think of the next piece of communication you have to do. It could be a presentation, a course, a best man’s speech, or a newsletter. Check it against each of the points above. What do you want to change?

Get your staff trained up! You can commission the Effective Communication Skills With NLP course to be run in-house at your organisation, in two-day, one-day, or half-day versions.

Some of the best resources I know for developing the voice tonality side of your non-verbal communication are my friend Jonathan Altfeld’s “Finding Your Irresistible Voice” CD sets – also available as MP3 downloads, these are definitely worth a listen:
Irresistible Voice 2
Finding Your Irresistible Voice 1:
2-CD set
| MP3 Download
Irresistible Voice 2
Finding Your Irresistible Voice 2:
4-CD set | MP3 Download

Image by Monica Myers/sxc.hu

© 2010 – 2015, Andy Smith. All rights reserved.


  1. Deri Latimer

    A very nice post, Andy! Each point is so critical to the success of our communication…with the first one being the most neglected, in my experience. I became an NLP Practitioner in the early 90’s and I use what I learned from that training in just about everything I do. Thanks for the succinct reminder of these key principles!
    Regards, Deri

  2. Andy Smith

    Thanks Deri – it’s always encouraging to get good feedback from good people who know what they are doing!

    Best wishes,

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.