Communication is a subject that is full of moving pieces and all of us can stand to improve in at least one area. I’ve spent 11 years studying and teaching communication and there are still areas that I know need improvement. After all, having a mental understanding of a concept and being able to do it – and do it well – are very different things, right? I mean… I ‘know’ how to change a tire and play tennis but, ya know….
Anyway, as a ‘ground zero’ starting point for a series of blogs meant to help you improve your communication skills and become a more effective communicator in all your roles and lives, lets touch on a few of the basic elements. Your job here is to identify your areas of weakness so that in the coming weeks you are able to focus on those elements and tips that will help you the most.
“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” George Bernard Shaw
I couldn’t agree more. Perhaps the most overlooked element to effective communication is that it requires more than one person. Communication is not, ever, a one way street.
If I am talking and you are not listening – we are NOT communicating. I’m just talking. So if you are talking and it seems that no one is listening – they probably aren’t.
The message is not as simple as you may think. Facial expressions, tone of voice, and body language are ALL a part of the message. In fact, the words you speak may have the LEAST impact of all the messages you are sending! Regardless, your messages should be consistent and effective – bringing the desired results whether that is new customers, a perfectly run meeting or the ability to walk through your teenagers room without falling to your death.
In the communication world, noise refers to anything, from background sounds to inattention, which prevents the receiver from getting the correct message. If the messages people are getting are not the messages you thought you were sending, you may have a noise issue. The good news here is that with a little work you can remedy this. Read on…
The response to your message allows you to know not only if the message was received correctly but also to gauge the reaction. This is often a verbal response but it doesn’t have to be. We all know those people whose facial expressions say a million things they would never speak out loud – all you have to do is watch them to know if they got the message and exactly what they think about it (yeah, you know who you are). Paying attention to, and understanding, feedback is a critical skill in communication and one that’s often overlooked. It’s almost always a mistake to send a message, assume it has been received and understood and move on. I’ve found that with both companies and individuals, a little attention in this one area could save hundreds of hours of clarification – not to mention the hours spent repairing relationships with those who have been inadvertently hurt and offended. This leads me right into…
The way our messages are being sent should make a difference in the way we communicate. Face-to-face communication allows you all the benefits of speech and vision which contribute a LOT to a message. Without those, we need to communicate differently. Typically, typing the way you talk is NOT a good idea. Yes, emojis help but they do not replace your face and body language.
So here’s your fun homework for the week. Watch communication. Just watch. Pay attention to how body language, tone of voice and facial expressions contribute to the message. The more you observe and become aware of the factors – the more aware you become of your own communication techniques and the better they become. We’d love to hear your comments and stories!
If you know you’re going to stay in the dog house with your spouse (or parents) all holiday season because your communication skills need some work – you’re welcome to call us. It might not be your best bet but we’ll do what we can. However, if your company’s message and tone of voice aren’t getting the responses you expect or want, we’re a safe bet and we’d love to help you get where you are trying to go.
Marie Mallory, PR & Communications Specialist, Irons Media Group