Three Tips for Effective Communication


handshakeCommunicating is inevitable at work, and good communication skills are key to happiness and success.

Only one thing is more difficult than being good at giving constructive criticism: being good at receiving it.

Being able to say no is not always easy either. Have you ever accepted a deadline or yielded on a time estimate although you know it’s impossible?

Here are three techniques/mnemonic rules that can help you communicate more efficiently.

Hamburger Rule: How To Give Criticism

It is not easy to give constructive criticism. It is often better to offer positive suggestions instead, as suggested by Leo Babauta over at Zen Habits.

Instead of criticizing, which is rarely taken well, offer a specific, positive suggestion.

The hamburger rule (also known as the feedback sandwich but if you know me, you know I prefer burgers) – embed criticism in between two compliments – has gotten some criticism, for example in this article by Nagesh Belludi.


Nonetheless, what you can certainly take away from this rule is to remember giving positive feedback more often than negative.

Inform, Negotiate, Call: How To Be Assertive

While studying the Pomodoro Technique® and specifically the strategy suggested to deal with interruptions, I was reminded about a course in leadership at the university where they taught assertive communication.

To me, the essence of assertiveness is respecting and being honest to yourself and others.

While the inform, negotiate and call strategy (which I like to illustrate as a traffic light) is mostly associated with the Pomodoro Technique®, I think it boils down to assertive communication, and hence, works well in other contexts.

INC-inform-icon-small Inform about the situation. For example that you’re busy working on something else.
INC-negotiate-icon-small Negotiate and agree on how to move forward. For example, how to prioritize conflicting interests or solve a problem.
INC-call-icon-small Call or take appropriate actions based on the previous step: negotiate. For example, get back to the other party on the time agreed.

H.O.T. Communication: How To Communicate Efficiently

This acronym has nothing to do with flame wars in forums. It’s a recipe for good communication. Dan Oswald writes:

I’ve been thinking about what makes for good, effective communication and how it can be a powerful force within any organization. I’ve decided that good communication must be H.O.T.

H.O.T. stands for Honest, Open and Two-Way.

  • Honest. Don’t try to candy coat information. In the end, the truth will be out in the open anyway.
  • Open. Don’t hide information, it only fosters suspicion and mistrust. Trust your co-workers.
  • Two-way. It is wise to use your ears more than your mouth. Letting people respond also helps enact the first two principles.

Though Dan writes about this from an organization perspective, I think it’s equally valid in personal communication: Be honest about your intentions and feelings. Be open about what you know. Be an active listener.

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