I’ve learned I’m a much better communicator via written word than in person. With writing, you can choose your words carefully, so not to miscommunicate your intention.
We all know there are two forms of communication: verbal and nonverbal. In person, nonverbal communication is sometimes more powerful. While I cannot address nonverbal communication, as I don’t personally know you, I felt it deserved mention. But I digress.
What Stops Us From ‘Clean’ Communication
Did you ever play that game telephone when you were a child? You know, the one where you whispered a message to someone next to you, and that person told the person next to him or her, and so on, and by the time it got to the last person, the message had changed.
Well, that’s how we communicate every day. For most people, the goal of communication is to make sure the message they state is heard. The truth is, that’s only three-quarters of the total communication path.
When you think about communication, there are four major touchpoints:
1. What you’re thinking;
2. what you actually say;
3. what the other person hears; and
4. how the other person interprets what’s heard.
Let’s think about the four touchpoints above, and in two weeks we’ll continue this discussion by examining how to overcome the gaps between what you think and how people interpret what you actually say.
So, what’s the secret to being a great communicator? It’s simple: Excellent communicators make sure that what they say is interpreted correctly. Most people communicate to be heard. They’re most concerned that the listener hears what they say.
But there’s one step beyond No. 4 above, and it takes some training on the part of the speaker. The next time you’re speaking, watch the other people closely. Did they get what you said, or are they just acknowledging your words? With practice, you’ll be able to notice some differences. If you’re not sure, ask people you’re speaking with to mirror back what you said. Compare their responses to see if you delivered your message successfully.
3 Characteristics of Gifted Communicators:
1. They’re very animated — they convey their meaning through movement, body language and even hand signals (like “air quotes” and such).
2. They speak with intention — they choose their words carefully, leaving no room for interpretation.
3. They’re very descriptive — they use analogies, metaphors, anything they can to make their point. If you try these three on for size, however, be careful: too much of this can ruin a good conversation. Watch to see if your listeners’ eyes glaze over when you’re speaking.
There’s one type of communicator that you don’t ever want to become: the person who speaks to hear him- or herself speak. These people aren’t really concerned about the listeners understanding what they’re saying. All they want to do is speak, to get it out, so they can feel satisfied that they communicated. They forget to “look over there” when speaking, because their primary concern is to get the communication out. Their mind-set is if they say it, you’ll get it. When dealing with these people, especially in business, be the better communicator. Mirror back what they just said to make sure you get it fully.
Also, remember that communicating is a two-way street. Be an active listener, and don’t just accept what you hear.
Finally, as a listener and interpreter of communication, I urge you to beware of duplicity. Business is full of BS, subterfuge and political agendas. Know who you’re communicating with and adjust accordingly. Make sure you listen past the BS to get to the real meaning.
Well, that’s it for this week. I hope I delivered this communication effectively. If you have any questions, feel free to ask.
Jim Gilbert is president of Gilbert Direct Marketing, a full-service catalog and direct marketing agency. His LinkedIn profile can be viewed at www.linkedin.com/in/jimwgilbert or you can post a comment here or e-mail him at email@example.com.