Communication is more than the words we say. Words are not as important as how their said.
These six skills to powerful communication can become habitual with minimal practice.
Communication is usually thought of in terms of inanimate technology: computers, faxes, email, phones, texting, etc. This is curious because in relationships, most decisions and deals are made through personal contact. Unfortunately, many of us continue to perform rather poorly in interpersonal communication and this aspect of communication is being painfully neglected.
You might expect that we would become better communicators with time, modifying our communication based on the feedback received, but this is often not true. While the most powerful teacher and motivator is positive feedback, communication is an unconscious and habitual process, and therefore tends to become stronger if reinforced intermittently. This means that if you get the outcome with enough regularity that you do not become overly frustrated, your communication process, effective or not, will be intermittently reinforced enough to become powerfully entrenched. Like any habit it becomes increasingly difficult to change with time.
We need a clear understanding of how to cleanly convey our thoughts and feelings to others, so that in this highly competitive world we will have the maximum influence. A well-trained actor or comic is able to affect feelings and motivation with ease by the careful use of voice tone and tempo as well as mindful use of body movements. Since individuals still make decisions based on their sense of what is appropriate, being able to communicate to the gut level of another human being becomes the quality of communication that we need today.
This process of communication does not only involve the careful selection of words, but also the delivery of those words and the accompanying body analogs or movements. You can’t, not communicate. Even if you do not respond when someone addresses you, you’re making a significant statement. Do a little research for a minute. Stand-up or sit up straight. Now, allow your head to fall forward, your shoulders to round, your head to tilt to one side, and say to yourself, “boy do I feel happy.” What is your internal response? Why doesn’t the communication work? OK, change position and shake off the feelings of that last exercise. Now stand tall, look up, raise your arms, breathe deeply and say, “boy am I depressed.” Once you stop laughing at the absurdity of the internal feelings think for a moment about why neither of these two exercises work from a communication point of view. I would suggest that the body analogs were so out of sync with the words that the subsequent feeling was funny.
Psychological research supports that communication is more than the words we say. This research demonstrated that the percentage of the overall message carried by the various components of the communication process are as follows:
- 7% of the message was contained in the words used
- 38% of the message was contained in the tone, tempo and syntax of delivery
- 55% of the message was contained in body posture, gesture and eye contact
The significant message here is that, outside of using the appropriate words to set the context for communication, the words are not as important as the way in which they are delivered. Take this statement for example; “a woman without her man is nothing.” Now let’s make a change in the punctuation, “a woman; without her, man is nothing.” The two sentences contain the same words in different grammatical formations, and now they have completely different meanings. Excellent communicators have known for years that the feedback you receive from the communication is a reflection of the message sent. If you’re not getting the results you want, change the process of you’re communication.
Communication is a two-way loop between sender and receiver. This loop is governed by a set of rules. Understanding and internalizing this set of rules will help you build good interpersonal skills and high-quality relationships. With the use of these skills, planning, problem solving and the successful transfer of information or direction will be enhanced.
These six skills to powerful communication can become habitual with minimal practice;
- No what you want! All communication is outcome oriented. Your desired outcome may be anything from a change in attitude to a car deal. Make sure you can define your outcome in sensory specific terms. Be able to answer the following questions about your outcome. When I have achieved my outcome, what will I see? What will I hear? What will I feel?
- Have the flexibility (at least three choices) about how to achieve your outcome. The individual with the most choices has the most flexibility and controls the communication loop. Automatic and habitual responses tend to achieve pat results.
- Have the visual, auditory and kinesthetic acuity to know when you have achieved your outcome. When we communicate with an individual it’s possible to see physiological changes that indicate if the information that we are providing is having the desired impact. Once you have seen the physiological indicators that tell you that you have achieved your outcome, stop.
- Consider the best context for achieving the outcome you want. Use words clearly in the communication to set and support that context. If at any point you need to reinforce the context, do so. For example, if you must deal with someone that is difficult, set a context for the discussion that ensures they feel important, and not threatened. This context will allow them to be more willing to work out the problem.
- Deliver your message with a voice tone and tempo that supports what you are saying as well as the outcome desired. If your outcome is to help someone deal with behaviour that arises out of a past bad experience, speaking in a gentle and supportive tone and tempo will do more than an aggressive one. Although aggression on your part may result in some modification of the person’s less than desirable behaviour, it is also likely to create a negative if only subtle backlash. It becomes increasingly difficult to sustain that behavioural change and to deal with the backlash effectively.
- Use body analogs or movements that support the message being sent. Eliminate random movements because they often negate your message or create a double message. At best, random movements create noise that must be eliminated from the receiver’s visual field in order for the communication to be effective.
One day while seeing a client in my office, I heard some shouting outside my door. When I excused myself from my client and went into the reception area, I discovered a disheveled woman in her mid-fifty’s who was shouting at my secretary about the way in which someone had parked in the parking lot I shared with the Doctors office next door. My assessment was that the women was bordering on a manic episode and my outcome was to stop the fuss and get back to my client, I immediately began to agree with her while matching her voice tone, tempo, volume, as well as her gestures.
She was startled by my behavior. I suspect that this was because much of her antagonistic attitude was driven by the fact that she did not normally get listened to let alone agreed with. When I noticed the startled response I began to lead the conversation and slowed my voice tone and tempo and made my body motions more gentle. As I did so I began to slowly move toward the building door. She began to soften her voice and walked with me. When we arrived at the door she commented on the fact that the building I was in seemed to have a calming affect on her and that she would like to return and visit with me. I achieved my outcome with a very difficult person in less than two minutes. Her experience was that she had made a friend. She returned several days later with flowers and a thank-you note. Had I been hooked by her antagonistic and challenging behavior the outcome would have been very different.
Communication is a feedback sensitive activity, analogous to the thermostat circuitry that controls a heating system. If you want the temperature to be sixty five degrees in your house, setting the thermostat at seventy five degrees will not get the temperature to the desired level any faster than if it were set at sixty five degrees. In communication, louder, faster, and the longer, usually serves to alienate the recipient of your communication rather than enhance the stability of the outcome.
You will find it useful to guide yourself throughout the day with one question, “what is my desired outcome, and what is my present behaviour doing to support my attaining that outcome?” Communication is both an internal and external process. How we communicate with ourselves internally affects the quality of our lives at least as profoundly as how we communicate with others. All communication, internal or external needs to be focused on improving, the overall quality of our lives as individuals, our community and our culture. We need to learn to take responsibility for the results of our communication.
If you do today what you’ve always done, you’ll always get what you’ve always got. Do yourself a favour and communicate differently today!
ple know who they have the potential to be.
The challenge is seeing that process through.
Self-development is an art.
It takes time. It requires patience. It asks you to step outside your comfort zone. It is challenging — and that’s the point.
However, the biggest challenge when it comes to self-development is the process itself. People really struggle with the path and all its twists and turns, much more than they do any single obstacle.
But should you learn how to walk that path of self-development, you will learn some tried truths to live by:
1. Any failure can be reframed as a lesson.
Self-development is a mindset.
To one person, a project going poorly or a relationship ending means they failed. To someone else, it is nothing more than another lesson on the path.
By reframing to see the lesson instead of the mistake, you will ultimately learn more and move on to what’s next faster.