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Effective communication in the workplace
Effective communication in the workplace

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4 Effective communication

An illustration showcasing the 7 Cs of communication
Figure 4 The 7 Cs of communication

Watch the following MindTools video to get a brief explanation of all the steps outlined in Figure 4.

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Video 4
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You might also find this related article on the MindTools website useful: The 7 Cs of communication [Tip: hold Ctrl and click a link to open it in a new tab. (Hide tip)] .

If we were going to add an eighth C to the list, it might be awareness of the ‘context’ in which you are delivering the message. Consider who and where the audience is – are they friends, colleagues or customers?

Activity 4 The 7 Cs in practice

Timing: Allow about 15 minutes for this activity

Read the following email and work out which of the 7 Cs is missing from the approach – list them in the box below. Remember, you are looking for the message to be clear, concise, concrete, correct, complete, coherent and courteous.


I need those figures from you by Wednesday at the latest for a meeting with the clients.


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The message is certainly clear and concise, but does it contain enough information to be considered ‘complete’? For example, which Wednesday is Jane referring too and will Geoff know what figures/clients she is talking about? When is the meeting due to take place?

It is also a pretty terse message, without any pleasantries or use of please and thank you, so Geoff might think it isn’t very ‘courteous’. This might impact on his willingness to comply with Jane’s request.

It’s difficult to know from such a brief message whether it is ‘correct’. Jane might have got her dates wrong, but she’s put it in writing so Geoff can only go on the information he has been given.

As well as the 7 Cs, another classification is the four basic styles of communication (UK VIP, no date). An awareness of these styles might give you some insight into how a colleague is feeling and what you could do to communicate more effectively with them.

The four styles are characterised as follows:

  1. Passive communication – individuals have developed a pattern of avoiding expressing their opinions or feelings and allow grievances and annoyances to mount. They are prone to explosive, usually out of proportion, outbursts. They might say:
    • ‘I’m unable to stand up for my rights.’
    • ‘I get stepped on by everyone.’
    • ‘People never consider my feelings.’
  2. Aggressive communication – individuals express their feelings and opinions in a way that violates the rights of others. They may even be verbally or physically abusive. They might believe:
    • ‘I’m superior and right and you’re inferior and wrong.’
    • ‘It’s all your fault.’
    • ‘I’ll get my way no matter what.’
  3. Passive-aggressive communication – individuals appear passive on the surface but are really acting out of anger in a subtle, indirect way. They usually feel powerless, stuck and resentful. Their perspectives might be:
    • ‘I’m weak and resentful, so I sabotage, frustrate and disrupt.’
    • ‘I’m powerless to deal with you head on so I must use guerrilla warfare.’
    • ‘I will appear cooperative but I’m not.’
  4. Assertive communication – individuals clearly state their opinions and feelings. They value themselves, their time and their needs and respect the rights of others. They might feel:
    • ‘We are equally entitled to express ourselves respectfully to one another.’
    • ‘I am confident about who I am.’
    • ‘I’m 100% responsible for my own happiness.’

Clearly, assertive communication is the preference as it allows the individual to take care of themselves and is fundamental to healthy relationships. For the other three styles, encouraging colleagues to share their opinions and feelings, and to do so appropriately, is key.

When you look in more detail at challenging communication in Week 6, an awareness of your own communication style will be useful. Trying to be more assertive by clearly stating and valuing your opinions and respecting the rights of others will lead to more effective interactions.

Activity 4 demonstrated how an incomplete message can create a barrier to effective communication, and some of the communication styles outlined here are barriers in themselves. In the next section you’ll explore other actions and behaviours that can have a negative effect.