What is Effective Communication?

Two women sitting together in a coffee shop

Digital Vision./Photodisc/Getty Images

Communication is the process of sharing information, thoughts and feelings between people through speaking, writing or body language. Effective communication extends the concept to require that transmitted content is received and understood by someone in the way it was intended. The goals of effective communication include creating a common perception, changing behaviors and acquiring information.


Effective communication begins with encoding, or the skill of relaying a message in a clear, direct way that allows the receiver to correctly decode your message, notes the MindTools.com website. Decoding, another essential component of effective communication, is a skill as well as it requires the receiver to ensure that he properly heard and understood the message being sent. The MindTools.com website states that the key to properly encoding a message is knowing your audience, while active listening is required to correctly decode a sent message.


Considering the context of communication improves its effectiveness. Context takes into consideration the age, region, sex and intellectual abilities of the recipient. For example, when speaking to an elementary school child about the importance of brushing teeth, you should choose different, developmentally-appropriate words and examples when discussing this issue than you would when talking to a teenager or an adult.

Body Language

Body language -- also known as nonverbal communication -- body language includes posture, position of hands and arms, eye contact and facial expressions. Body language that is consistent with verbal content improves understanding, while body language that is inconsistent with what is said creates confusion about the real message. For example, someone may say, “I really want to hear your opinion on this;” however if the person is looking away, has his arms folded or is clearly distracted, his body language will communicate an entirely different message.


Emotions can interfere with effective communication. If the sender is angry, his ability to send effective messages may be negatively affected. In the same way, if the recipient is upset or disagrees with the message or the sender, he may hear something different that what was intended by the sender. Considering emotions, language and conceptual barriers is essential to effective communication.

Addressing Barriers

The MindTools.com website suggests that it's essential to address and remove any barriers to effective communication, such as lengthy or disorganized messages or offering too much information at one time. It's recommended that a consideration of other people's time is made to allow for more succinct and direct message delivery. Cultural competency and the ability to deliver your message to different types of people will also aid in communicating messages effectively.