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Hot Topic Highlight - Mandatory Competency - Communication & Negotiation



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What is today's blog about?


In this article we will focus on communication, which is one half of a mandatory RICS APC competency (Communication and Negotiation). We will look at negotiation in a future blog article. Essential reading for RICS APC and AssocRICS candidates.


You can also listen to our CPD podcast on Anchor for more free AssocRICS and RICS APC training and support.


Why is this relevant?


Effective communication is a key skill, at work, for your RICS APC and in your personal life. Understanding how, why, what and when we communicate can help to make the process more efficient.


What do I need to do?


All RICS APC pathways include Communication and Negotiation as a mandatory competency to at least Level 2:

  • At Level 1 Demonstrate knowledge and understanding of effective oral, written, graphic and presentation skills including the methods and techniques that are appropriate to specific situations.

  • At Level 2 Provide evidence of practical application of oral, written, graphic and presentation skills that are appropriate in a variety of situations, specifically including where negotiation is involved.

  • At Level 3 Provide evidence of evaluation of your communication in a variety of situations.


What is communication?

Communication literally means 'to share' in Latin. The Oxford Dictionary defines it as 'the imparting or exchanging of information by speaking, writing, or using some other medium' or 'the successful conveying or sharing of ideas and feelings'.


Communication requires three things:

  • Communicator

  • Method

  • Recipient


Misunderstandings and confusion can be created within all three elements:

  • The communicator has to encode their message with the chosen communication method - does this reflect the original thought, intended message and purpose of the communication?

  • Is the method appropriate for intended message?

  • The recipient has to decode the communication - does the understood message reflect what the communicator intended to relay to the recipient?

Communication can be one or two way. In a one way situation we don't receive any immediate feedback, e.g. a letter. In a two way situation, e.g. verbal communication, we receive immediate feedback and can clarify or rectify misunderstandings.


This of course depends on whether the other party is listening though - and this is a skill in itself!


Key considerations

  • Who is your target audience?

  • Are there any time limits or urgency required?

  • Do you need to record your communication in writing? (for example, a rent review Calderbank offer)

  • Is there a history of communication between the parties?

  • What is the most appropriate method of communicating?

  • What is your intended message?

Ineffective communication can lead to time delays, frustration, stress, unforeseen costs and contractual issues. Getting it right can lead to a more positive experience, potentially winning new work, doing a difficult deal or resolving a complex situation.


Communication methods


  • Written - reports, letters, emails, social media, books, magazines, online articles, blogs

  • Graphic - maps, drawn plans, sketch notes, designs, logos, branding, visualisations

  • Verbal - telephone calls, meetings, tenders, presentations, managing people, negotiationsN

  • on-verbal - body language, appearance, posture, eye contact, facial expressions, gestures

When writing professional reports, it's important to remember that the style of writing will be very different from the academic style used in university essays and dissertations. Generally, a professional report style needs to be clear, concise, simple and unambiguous.


It's also important to consider who you are writing for, e.g. a client with little property experience will require a report written in non-technical lay language. If you are writing a report for another professional on the other hand, technical language will be desired to communicate complex ideas and challenges.



Graphic communications can make written methods far more effective, by reinforcing key themes, ideas and messages. For example, a map can support a location commentary or a photograph can be used to highlight elements of a property description. You may also need to sketch a floor plan to communicate what you saw on site back to the office - in this case it needs to be neat, drawn with a ruler and clear. Otherwise, you'll be wasting time and money by attending site more than once!


Verbal communication needs to be appropriate for the purpose of the communication. Often, a telephone conversation or in person meeting will be far more effective than a letter or an email. In some circumstances, you may need to keep a written record of your communication - you may use this to back up your verbal communications or to rectify a misunderstanding.


When verbally communicating you need to be aware of your non-verbal communication.


Research suggests that non-verbal signals form more than 80% of all communication - so getting it right is key to being an effective communicator. Even if you say what you mean, the message received on the other side may be completely different if your non-verbal signals suggest something else!


What are the barriers to effective communication?


  • Verbal - tone of voice, clarity, language barriers, what we don't say (silence!)

  • Jargon/technical language - who is your audience, will they understand technical terms or do you need to use simple and use non-technical/lay language?

  • Emotional/cultural barriers

  • Recipient is disinterested or not paying attention

  • Timing of the communication

  • Physical barriers, e.g. arms folded, hand over mouth

  • Differences in perception/viewpoint

  • Prejudice/bias

  • Differing expectationsInterruptions - noise, physical distractions

  • Location - can't physically meet in person

  • Attitude/mood

  • Poor listening skills

  • Assumptions/prior experience

  • Ambiguity

  • Context


10 ways to be a better communicator

1. Listen - in a conversation, try to listen more than you speak. You can learn a lot about a person or situation this way - encourage people to talk to you and acknowledge what they say.


2. Use silence - often this can communicate a message better than words. Leave a gap in conversation - what the other person says to fill this can often tell you a lot!

3. Check your body language - try to maintain a relaxed, open stance and friendly demeanour. Appearing defensive or closed can prevent effective communication or deter others from engaging in productive dialogue.


4. Clarity - be clear and concise in what you say or write, avoid using unnecessary words and get to the point quickly where possible.


5. Timing - don't ask an important question first thing on a Monday morning or at 5 minutes to close on a Friday afternoon. Ask when your recipient has time to consider your communication - if they don't, ask when would be a good time to communicate.


6. Don't hide behind emails - use the phone and speak to your negotiating counterparts or clients rather than sending a bland email. You're often able to explore alternative opportunities or other ways to overcome challenges. It's often also a lot quicker to reach a resolution or agree a course of action.


7. Feedback - adapt your communication to the feedback you receive. Maybe it would be better to meet your recipient in person or to follow up your conversation with an email. Or, maybe you need to clarify what you said to prevent a misunderstanding.


8. Ask open-ended questions to learn more about your recipient and enable you to communicate more effectively.


9. Remember to say the other person's name - it's one of the most emotionally powerful words to each of us. You don't need to say it often, but you do need to consider how you say it - we suggest sincerely and positively.


10. Learn from your mistakes - if a communication doesn't go well, ask for feedback and analyse what went wrong. How could you do it better next time? You could ask trusted colleagues, family or friends for feedback on your communication style and success.


How could this be assessed?


Your assessors will consider your communication skills during your RICS APC final interview presentation and responses to questions.


Potential questions you could be asked include:

  • How do you ensure you communicate effectively?

  • Give me an example of when you have communicated effectively

  • Tell me about a communication method you have used to communicate with a new client

  • Tell me about a communication method you have used to communicate with an opposing negotiating party

  • Tell me about how you have communicated effectively in a report relating to a complex issue


How can we help?

  • Head to our blog archive to access even more free CPD and AssocRICS and RICS APC training and support.

  • Download your free AssocRICS and RICS APC resources, including e-books and revision quizzes.

  • Find out more about our bespoke AssocRICS and RICS APC training and support, before booking your free 15 minute consultation and signing up for your services online.

Not sure about signing up? Make sure you read what our recent successful candidates have to say in our Testimonials.


Stay tuned for our next blog post to help build a better you


N.b. Nothing in this article constitutes legal or financial advice.