Using ITIL’s concepts: 5 principles of good communication

Colleagues in a meeting room talking to one another

Communication is always important, and well-rounded communication skills help you to achieve the best results. Here are five principles from ITIL 4®: Direct, Plan and Improve for effective communication that will help you stay in touch with your team and on top of your projects.

  1. Communication is a two-way process

It’s tempting to hit send on an email full of important information and think ‘Done. That’s it. End of communication.

Well, it’s not off your plate yet. Communication is a two-way process. That means you can’t assume that whoever receives your email will understand it, or that what you wrote fully addressed their concerns.

It’s really important—particularly when everyone is remote—that you check in with your team and make sure that your communication gave them the information that they needed, and that they understood it correctly.

Try to notice patterns in how people respond to your style. If Bob always skims your emails, consider jumping on a call to give him detailed instructions. If Alanna struggles to absorb information the first time she hears it, follow up a call with an email so she can check her understanding against the instructions.

Listen to feedback and be adaptable. Remember, people are more likely to engage in meaningful, two-way communication when they know you will listen to their thoughts.

  1. We are all communicating all the time

It’s not what you say: it’s how you say it.

Your word choice often matters less than your tone and body language. The way you stand, your gestures, the direction of your gaze, and the pitch and tone of your voice all contribute to the impression you give off.

The best communicators understand this and can leverage their non-verbal signals to emphasize their message. They can also read the non-verbal signals of others, interpret their emotional state, and adjust their communication accordingly to get the best result.

  1. Timing and frequency matter

Bad timing can make otherwise perfect communication misfire. Imagine a manager who:

  • reports great results on one of their projects when the whole team is struggling with a serious incident
  • asks for feedback on their management style before they have resolved an inter-team dispute.

To avoid these issues, use common sense, tact, and diplomacy. Try to stay in the loop with your colleagues so you have enough context to time your messages well. Remember to look at the bigger picture and understand that your highest priority might be at the bottom of someone else’s list.

  1. There is no single method of communication that works for everyone

When you’re communicating with a broad audience, different communication methods will maximize your reach. For example, marketers advertise in newspapers, on television, over the internet, with billboards, through sponsorships, and with promotional events, which helps them spread awareness to a wider demographic.

Over time, you will see which forms of communications are most effective for your audience, which means you can tailor them to get more bang for your buck.

  1. The message is in the medium

The medium that you choose for your communication is vitally important—always consider topic, tone, audience, and importance.

For example, most unwelcome or difficult news should be communicated in person. Putting news about impending layoffs in an employee newsletter is tone-deaf. Important information, like major changes to a team project, should be communicated directly. This could be in a meeting or via email, but not on a forum like a company intranet that people might not check.

These five principles for effective communication can help you ensure successful collaboration in any role. Remember, good communication is about more than just the words you use, so take your time and consider your audience so that you send the right message.

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25 Feb 2021 Adam Walker
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Many interpersonal and progress issues I see at work trace back to poor communication. Generally because people are rushing. The more time we take to communicate properly the more time we'll save in the long run.
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