How can I communicate more effectively?

What you will learn from reading this article:

  • What effective communication means and why it’s important in your personal and professional life
  • How to get people to say “yes” using Tony Robbins’ powerful football field model for effective communication
  • The 5 steps for great communication: build rapport, use logic, anticipate objections, identify solutions and ask for action
  • The exact amount of time to devote to each step of the process, including the final step of specific commitment
  • Discover Mastering Influence and take your communication skills to the next level


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What is effective communication?

Effective communication resolves conflicts, transfers information, increases understanding and ultimately strengthens your relationships. How to communicate effectively is a multi-layered topic. Depending on whether you are trying to communicate with employees, your partner, your children or everyday strangers, your effective communication techniques may vary. That said, it almost always involves some form of deep listening, empathy for the person or people you are communicating with, body language and being aware of your emotions and the emotions of others involved in the conversation that conveys the message you are ultimately trying to send. 

When asking “What is effective communication?” keep in mind that the goal may differ depending on if you are communicating with those in your personal or professional life.  How to communicate effectively at work helps you gain the upper hand in a negotiation or resolve an issue with a business partner or peer. At home, communicating effectively can aid in creating a healthy relationship or teaching your kids responsibility. 

The key to effective communication is understanding how communication models actually work. How are you connecting with those around you? Are you practicing good communication or just projecting an unimportant message? Is your message really being received? What communication style are you using to convey your message?

To better illustrate the importance of effective communication, here are some examples of how it plays out when done right:

Effective communication in relationships:

You and your partner are arguing over whether or not to go to a party this coming weekend. Your partner wants to go and you would rather stay home and watch movies. When you both listen to why the other feels the way they do, you discover that your partner has felt disconnected from her friends lately and she finds out that you want to spend some alone time with her to deepen your relationship. You mutually decide to go to the party for an hour, then come home to watch movies so both needs can be met.

communication in relationship

Effective communication in leadership:

leadership communication

Our employee Ralph has shown up late for work three times in a row. When you call him in to talk to him, you tell him you are concerned about him and want to support him if something is happening in his personal life. This gains Ralph’s trust and he admits that his partner has a new schedule, so he has been trying to get his kids ready and off to school on time by himself. You empathize with his situation and offer to give him some leeway while he makes the necessary arrangements, but would like an update in about three weeks’ time.

Building rapport with others is the cornerstone of getting people on your side and managing conflict. But there’s more to establishing rapport than just mirroring – don’t worry, we’ll cover how that works, too – there’s also the order you unroll your message. Having trouble making connections in your personal or professional life? Follow this model for effective communication and you’ll be able to score a touchdown when making an ask, whether it’s pitching your business to an investor, getting a raise or even asking a friend or loved one for a favor.

What does football have to do with learning how to communicate effectively? Just like on the football field, the last few inches before you reach the end zone can be the hardest to travel. But the rewards of effective, consistent communication patterns? Astounding. Here’s how to get yourself down the field using effective communication.

Effective communication means thinking in patterns

Tony’s model of a football field that we outline here shows not just how to communicate effectively with the most powerful order for crafting your message, but also how much time should be devoted to each step of the communication process. The yardage shows you what proportion each step takes, so 40 yards = 40% of the total communication time.

thinking in patterns

Tony Robbins’ five effective communication techniques

Step 1: Build identification and rapport (+40 yards)

Sometimes you instantly have a good rapport with someone; other times, it takes time and effort to develop. Rapport comes from feeling like we have something in common with another person, and making the most of that good energy. When we think we have things in common, we’re more comfortable; when we’re more comfortable, the more we enjoy being with others. Building rapport includes asking questions that are the backbone of small talk: Where people come from, what they do and uncovering any shared commonalities or interests.

But the real secret of building rapport lies in how you nonverbally communicate with people. How you use your body makes up 93% of what people respond to, so it’s critical for effective communication. This is why mirroring – where you match someone’s body movements, energy level, even breathing pattern – is a widely used technique to get people on your side. Start by following the person’s movements as a way to establish a connection. Are their legs crossed? Cross yours. Do they talk with their hands? Do the same. A quick test for physical rapport is changing your own position and seeing if they follow your lead. If so, you’re generating major rapport. If not, keep mirroring and try again a little later.

With this first step, you’re creating the solid foundation you need to get your audience to identify with you. You’re connecting with your audience and building trust. This step takes the most time and is the most important part of effective communication. Your goal is to get your audience to identify and relate to you (and your message) right up front. You want them thinking, “Me too” as they process your message, instead of saying, “So what?”

You often see politicians use these techniques. It’s why, to connect with voters, they talk about their childhood or struggles they’ve overcome. If you’re able to get whoever you’re talking to, whether it’s one person or a whole auditorium, to subconsciously think “Yes, yes, yes,” then you’re well on your way to mastering Step 2 of how to communicate effectively.

Step 2: Logic & reason (+10 yards)

With your audience on your side, it’s now time to bring out the facts or the basis of your point. What’s the core message you need to get across? You’ll want to give them just enough of the details to justify an emotional decision. Remember: People make many decisions for emotional reasons, but to create sustainable choices, they always need to be able to justify them with logic and maintain the belief that they are the master of their emotions. Effective communication involves helping your cause by giving them the logic they need up front to create this justification. Laying out your details and facts up front also proves that you can provide the solution they seek, and can express your message clearly, which establishes you as a credible source for whatever you’re advocating.

Quick word of warning: Launching into dry details in an attempt to offer logical justification will likely kill the rapport you’ve built thus far. Instead of listing facts and statistics, integrate your information naturally and continue to practice engagement. You can also use the power of storytelling to provide the justification needed in an engaging and easy-to-understand manner. Combining informative and entertaining information is key to engaging your audience. 

Now that you’ve accomplished this step, guess what? You’re already halfway down the field!

Step 3: Attack & confess (+25 yards)

In this step of the effective communication process, you do two things:

1. Anticipate possible objections 

You’re never going to enter a room where everyone agrees with you 100%. Anticipating objections or problems gives you more power to overcome them. By articulating the possible objections your audience could have, you also show empathy and intelligence. Chances are, you learned this on your high school debate team or in speech class – it’s one of the tried and true effective communication techniques for winning people over. By anticipating objections and preparing yourself for any counter-arguments that may come up, you’re also strengthening your own point of view and demonstrating that you know your point inside and out to your audience.

2. Show the consequences

Claim that you had the same objections initially and attack yourself for it. In this phase your outcome is for the audience to realize the “hell if they don’t”– what is the consequence to them if they don’t follow through/take your suggestion? One way to accomplish this step is relating what happened to you before you took action. Providing an anecdote can do away with the audience’s doubt while simultaneously making you seem more relatable.

Step 4: Solution (+24 yards)

You’re almost to the end! Now it’s time to lay out your solution to the challenges you just brought up in Step 3. Effective communication means showing a vision not of everything that can go wrong, but of all that can go right. Help whoever you’re talking to think about all the positives and benefits they’ll receive if they take action/follow through. Another pro tip: Use the negative consequences for contrast – they’ll make the positives seem even better by comparison.

Now is the time to pick up the pace so that you gather enough momentum for the final step that effective communication requires.

Step 5: Ask for the action (final inches)

Finally, you ask for the action you want. How to communicate effectively is not possible if you don’t have a clear resolution in mind. What was it that you want your audience to do? Are you asking them to buy a product, care about a cause or donate their time or money? Are you communicating with your partner about making a major financial decision? By this point your audience is sold on the power of following through – you’ve highlighted the things that make your solution logical and made your audience feel good by connecting with them. However, don’t take it for granted that they’ll always do what you want them to – ask for follow-through by requesting a specific commitment. That could be something as simple as a phone call or an email address or on the scale of a major investment, like their money and/or time. In personal communication, your ask might involve your partner checking with you before making a big decision or being more gentle with you when you’re upset. This last step shows you if you’ve achieved your effective communication goals; now get out there and do it again!

If you are trying to teach your team how to communicate effectively at work, consider some outside help. Effective communication training is well worth the investment and will help your team understand each other and better achieve collective goals.


Ready to be the most effective communicator you can be?

Discover how to overcome setbacks, lead confidently and take your communication skills to the next level with Tony Robbins’ Re-Awaken the Giant Within e-book.