My top 2 communication commandments

Effective Communication has been defined as “communication between two or more persons wherein the intended message is successfully delivered, received and understood.” Yet how often do we enter a conversation or provide a gesture that had little thought behind it (intention), and in turn is misunderstood and leads to confusion, even conflict sometimes?!

I had the privilege of speaking at one of the Bidvest branches on Friday morning on this very topic and I thought I’d share with you a few of the communication commandments that we chatted about:

  1. Thou shalt be specific & clarify

I was once coaching a young man and I began the session by describing a bookshelf and then suggesting that we could use a bookshelf, and the titles of the books on that shelf, as a metaphor for the areas in our lives. I asked him to name these ‘books’ in his life.

I thought we were doing well until he got to book number 5 and said that he couldn’t quite remember the books’ name, as that book was currently lying on it’s side on his shelf. {He’d been naming the ACTUAL books on his bookshelf at home, not the areas in his life at all}. We had a good laugh but what I learnt through the experience is that just because you think that you got the message across, doesn’t mean it landed on understanding ears.


When speaking attempt to be as succinct as possible. Use shorter sentences and speak with intention (Know what you’re trying to say…and say just that). THEN…always..always clarify. Instead of asking if the person understood what you said and eliciting an automatic yes-answer, rather ask a question that further reinforces the message.

I.e: A: “I haven’t heard back from Dr C, please ring him and ask for my blood test results.” B: Sure. A: “Great, so if you could just email me those blood test results then after having called Dr C”


  1. Thou shalt practice engaged listening

7 years ago, after getting engaged the night before, I walked through the local Stellenbosch shopping mall convinced that EVERYONE was looking at my hand (I.e: My new ring). You can laugh, I know how ridiculous that sounds. But how often do we experience/get something new and then find that that very experience/possession is EVERYWHERE? It’s as if everyone suddenly decided to do, or get, what we have. You’re pregnant and now everyone is pregnant. Or you get the new Audi and now everyone is driving it!!

This thinking is obviously merely a result of living our lives with blinkers on, seeing only what fits within our current worldview. I want to suggest that we often do this with our listening too. We listen to only what fits within our realm of interest, be that home, work or social life. By disengaging in conversations though, we often miss what is being said and this can cost us time, money or even relationships.


2 hot tips for engaged listening…

a) STOP what you’re doing

How often does someone walks up to your desk or your spouse walk up to you and you continue to type on your laptop or phone? Ahhhh. Just saying that makes me cringe and yet I’m guilty too. We NEED to start practicing engaged listening by stopping what we’re doing and showing the speaker respect, regardless of who they are or what they have to say. A simple closing of your laptop shows that they have your attention and if you don’t have time for the conversation, a simple lowering of your laptop screen and communicating your current situation, will increase both their respect for you and your level of communication going forward.


b) Smile/Nod or ask a question

Don’t allow conversations to be one-sided; contribute whether it be a nod, smile or even grunt. A simple clarifying question will firstly tell the speaker that you’re actually listening (showing them respect) and will secondly benefit you as it will bring clarity to your understanding.





  1. Erica on February 13, 2018 at 9:56 am

    LOVE THIS Caitlyn – I have learnt so much from reading that – and am going to put that into practise
    THANK YOU xxx

  2. caitlyndb on February 13, 2018 at 10:59 am

    Thanks Erica <3

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