What Are You Really Saying? How To Communicate Better in 5 Simple Steps

Linda Le Phan

There might be countless books and articles covering communication, but who has time to read them all? And sometimes, it’s just really nice to get a refresher on how to accurately understand 1) what people are saying to you, and 2) what you’re really trying to communicate to others.

Good communication matters in all parts of life (for reasons like building trust, saving time and avoiding confusion), but it especially matters at work because it’s one of the main factors that make a company a place at which their employees actually feel good to work. In fact, among the thousands of companies rated on kununu, the ones that ranked highest overall had significantly better ratings for communication than those rated lowest:

  • Among highest rated companies on kununu (4 stars or higher), the average rating for “communication” is 4.07 stars
  • Among lowest rated companies on kununu (2 stars or less), the average rating for “communication” is 1.06 stars

That’s a huge difference.

To make sure you’re contributing positively to the overall communication happening around you – here are 5 simple steps to help you communicate better:

#1 Take Responsibility

The first and most important tip to improve your communication – whether it’s with your boss, your colleagues, your client, or even your spouse – is to take responsibility for the result of your communication. Let’s look at this in practice:

Jane: “I noticed some errors in your submission. Can you please proofread it and send it back?”

John: “Are you suggesting I submitted it to you without proofreading it first? That’s offensive!”

Jane has two options here. She can make it clear that that’s not what she said and accuse John of jumping to conclusions, but that reaction won’t move them to closer to a successful outcome. And the whole purpose of communication is a successful outcome, right? Her other option is to own it. Here’s a good example:

Jane: “I’m so sorry I gave you the impression that I thought you hadn’t proofread it at all. That wasn’t my intention at all. Let me rephrase: can you please take the time to look over this again?”

By taking responsibility for not only the message you deliver but also the message your audience receives, you can improve your communication and results dramatically.

#2 Tailor Your Message

Despite the thousands of articles and books that claim to know the right way to communicate, the right way actually depends on who you’re communicating with.

For example, when you communicate with somebody who is classified as an “S” personality using the DISC personality assessment, you would start the conversation by visiting about their personal lives, complimenting them, and asking questions before moving onto polite discussion about the topic on hand. If you were communicating with a “D” personality, however, you wouldn’t dare waste their time on niceties but would get directly to the point to satisfied their hurried and driven nature.

You may not always have access to a personality report on the people you’re communicating with, but you can and should ask how they prefer to receive communication, and then observe the results of your efforts and adapt your communication style with them over time.

#3 Choose Face to Face

When you have difficult communication to get off your plate, avoid the (strong, strong) temptation to do it over email or Skype. The best service you can do, for both yourself and the recipient, is to deliver the message in person. Your non-verbal communication is critical in communicating the real intent behind the message as well as reading their reaction and responding in the most appropriate way.

#4 Follow the 24-hour Rule

If you’re angry or defensive, DON’T RESPOND IMMEDIATELY. We repeat: DON’T HIT SEND. Take 24 hours before reacting to information that you don’t like. This gives you time to think rationally and remove the emotion from your reaction, which can save your job, your reference, or your career path.

#5 Listen (you’ve heard it before but we couldn’t eliminate it)

Communication should require more listening than talking. Listening is a difficult skill that requires practice and purpose every encounter. Here are some great ways to improve your listening skills:

  •      Eliminate distractions. Close your laptop or turn off your monitor, put your phone away, and focus on the person you’re visiting with.
  •      Tell yourself you need to be able to summarize this conversation at the end; this will help you retain information.
  •      And then, actually summarize the conversation at the end. What was discussed? What is needed from you? What action items were established?
  •      Repeat back to the speaker what you’re hearing throughout the discussion. “What I’m hearing you say is…”
  •      Make eye contact.


To summarize, communication is your responsibility, whether you’re the giver or receiver. Your communication style should change from one audience to the next for the best outcome. Difficult messages, or even message that could be construed as difficult, should always be face to face and if you have a reaction to a difficult message, you should wait 24 hours before reacting. Finally – despite the number of times you’ve heard it – you can’t communicate without listening.

Do you have other useful communication tips to add? Let us know @kununu_US!


Linda Le Phan is the Content Marketing Manager at kununu US, a place where job seekers can get an authentic view of life at a company and where employers have a trusted platform to better engage talent. That means that everything on the editorial calendar goes through her (want to write for us? learn more here). When she’s not creating content about the modern workplace, company culture, and life & work hacks, she is probably going out to get an iced coffee (even in Boston winter), raiding the snack drawer, or jamming to kununu’s Spotify playlist.