The power of effective communication

Deep understanding of real talk ‘in the wild’ can engage audiences and save lives.

Effective communication underpins successful organisations and even saves lives. But guidance provided by most organisations is often not evidence-based, and people can be unwittingly trained to say the wrong thing.

Our research has analysed thousands of anonymised actual conversations to identify effective communication strategies.

It underpins an innovative training approach – the Conversation Analytic Role-play Method (CARM) – which has transformed communication practice in contexts as diverse as crisis negotiation, conciliation, mediation, general practice, sales, and online software tools.

Our impact

Improved professional practice

  • 200 mediation organisations (4,000+ practitioners) are CARM trained, insights inform Ministry of Justice, ACAS, US Superior Court practice.

Improved communication-driven outcomes

  • Metropolitan Police, Police Scotland and multiple regional constabularies report the benefits of CARM training in crisis situations.

Improved patient experience

  • GP Receptionist training results in enhanced patient experience.

Economic impact

  • Increased sales performance and consumer engagement reported by global tech organisations.

Widespread academic reach

  • 300+ CARM-trained conversation analysts, 16 accredited CARM affiliates in nine countries create even more pathways to impact with their own research.

Real Talk
Liz Stokoe on BBC Radio 4's Word of Mouth

Listen here

The research

Our research is a forensic analysis of real talk ‘in the wild’. Drawing on a vast resource of actual audio recordings made for training and evaluation purposes, we have analysed conversations line-by-line, to identify what works and what is less effective in communication between organisations and their users.

We have shown that changing the design of a question, or even one word, can profoundly impact on the outcome.

We have also shown that the analysis of traditional forms of training and assessment, based on role-play, are flawed and inauthentic when compared to real interactions.

The diverse contexts in which CARM has been applied with positive impact – ranging from hostage negotiation to cold calls – provides an evergreen resource for our ongoing research.

CARM is "acknowledged widely as ground-breaking."

Ewan Malcolm Chair of the College of Mediators and a Relate CEO

Industry places the cost of poor communication in the billions

200 mediation organisations (4,000+ practitioners) are CARM trained

Research funders

  • Economic and Social Research Council
  • Research Council of Norway

Meet the expert