“I know you believe you understand what you think I said, but I’m not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant.” ~ Fritz Perls
Can you relate to the above quote? Have you ever said something to someone thinking your point of view has been completely understood, only to find out later that it wasn’t? It’s perplexing and frustrating at the same time. So how can you ensure that what you say is understood; that you are communicating effectively with others?
Most organizations spend time and money on communications trainings for their employees in an effort to help them better send and receive information internally and externally. And, it’s no secret that a major part of running a successful company is effective communication. So if we have so much awareness around communication, why does it still pose so much of a challenge? To gain a better understanding, lets explore some facts about communication:
Communication is Determined by the Receiver: Communication happens on two levels, verbal and non-verbal. It’s not just what we say, it’s how we express what we say that affects how it’s interpreted. The words, tones, inflection, pace, all impact the message being communicated to the person listening. And our body language when meeting in person – our gestures, posture, breathing, eye movements, facial expressions, nodding of the head – speaks volumes on a subconscious level. Ever have someone verbally agree with you saying yes, while their head is moving left to right, giving you a “no” signal? A very mixed message indeed.
Perception Varies Greatly from Person to Person: We all know how to speak and we all know how to listen. Unfortunately we don’t all tap into the tools available to enhance these two abilities. We perceive what we see and hear through our senses, experiences, culture, language, beliefs, values, interests and assumptions. Our perceptual filters impact our internal communication (what we say to ourselves) and external communication (how we communicate with others).
People With the Most Flexibility Achieve the Greatest Results: We all express words that communicate and represent our internal experiences. We all process words through the five senses and we each have a preference of the modality we prefer using:
- Visual (see): paint a picture; appears to me; see to it; etc.
- Auditory (hear): express yourself; voice an opinion; unheard of; etc.
- Kinesthetic (feel): shake it off; come to grips with; hand-in-hand, etc.
- Olfactory (smell): nose for; essence of; smells like, etc.
- Gustatory (taste): how delicious; taste of success, etc.
Effective communication is a process of sending and receiving information, and you can enhance your communication with others significantly by becoming aware of your own preference of words/ modality, and that of those you communicate with. And because the way you use your body determines how you feel, you can match and mirror the physiology of others to gain greater rapport, as the more rapport you have, the greater your connection. Be flexible and avoid getting frustrated because others lack understanding of your point of view and preferred way of communicating. Putting time and focus into understanding the different communication methods pays off.
And today, when there are so many ways to communicate (text, email, phone, voice mail, social media, in-person meeting, Skype and/or FaceTime, webinars), we tend to have a preference on how we like to communicate and be communicated with via written and oral communication. Be sure to ask others what they prefer as a method of communication. Just because you may prefer to use your smart phone for all your communications does not necessarily mean others do too.
Practical Tools/Tips for Better Communication
The practice of asking others their preference for communication is a great tool and here are a few others that you can put into action right away…
Tip #1: Notice Your Body
Communication isn’t all about words. Our physiology accounts for at least 55% of the messages the person on the other end receives when we speak – or don’t speak! – to them. In other words, it’s not what you say; it’s how you say it!
You might have noticed over the years that the same words can be said very differently and illicit a very different response based on the emotion or intention behind them. All humans want to feel good. How can our non-verbal communication be adjusted so that the other people around us feel good when we talk to them and work with them? There is a way to express even negative emotions, like disappointment or frustration, without attacking the other person.
Tip #2: Notice Your Patterns
It’s important to look at your own behavior. What are you doing now? Is it helping or hindering? Say you have one co-worker that drives you bonkers, so you try to ignore her as much as possible. Is that working, or is it only serving to frustrate you and her even further?
Again, communication is determined by the receiver. It almost doesn’t even matter what YOU say or do, it’s all about how the other person receives and interprets it.
In other words, if your attempts at communication only seem to end with one person stonewalling the other even more, they must not be working. It’s also likely that some of your attempts are working and creating the results that you want. Notice those patterns, they’re important and they can serve you in the future – especially if you tweak and refine them!
Tip #3: Ask Them to Repeat Back to You
Sometimes people don’t like doing this because they think it feels uncomfortable, but one of the easiest ways to get feedback on your communication is to simply say, “So, what did you hear me say?” after you make a request.
Instantly, the person will repeat back to you what they understood. You’ll be able to catch any holes in communication right away (instead of finding out two weeks later when they turn in the wrong report).
Avoid mind reading and always ask the individual(s) you are communicating with to give you back what they heard to make sure everyone is on the same page. This is one of many communication tips to avoid conflict.
Tip #4: Put Away All Distractions
It’s rare these days to get the full attention of a listener. With cell phones going off announcing every little email or text message coming in and everyone feeling like they have to be “on” all the time, we’re really distracted as a society.
However, when you fully listen to another person – really give them all your attention, sans electronics – you’ll find that your ability to hear them increases dramatically. What you previously considered a communication problem might not actually be a problem when you focus on the other person 100%.
Not to mention that when you do this, you’re actually offering the other person a wonderful and rare gift in listening to them so thoroughly.
Tip #5: Get Curious
Truly, it might be impossible to ever fully understand exactly how another person perceives a situation. Even if they explain themselves and communicate as completely as possible, you might understand it in theory and may not be able to relate. That’s okay. Getting curious (a much better option to getting upset or frustrated) will ease tension in the situation – especially for you! Ask questions. It’s one of the first ways to begin to facilitate understanding between individuals. And usually when people see that you’re making an effort, they soften and reach out similarly. Getting curious is one of our favorite solutions for conflict resolution, because curiosity addresses the very issue at hand: when you ask questions instead of hurling accusations, you’ll start to uncover where the disconnect occurs.
As we mentioned earlier, there are distinct and identifiable methods of communication. Each of us has our preferred mode. Every person receives information through the five senses (visual, auditory, etc.), and every person responds differently to the input. Some people most easily take in auditory information, while others simply need to see it laid out on paper.
At Fire Power Seminars, we bring communication activities that allow participants to become aware of their language patterns, to then determine how and if they want to make small changes that can create a big impact. Be sure to ask us how we use a hula-hoop to bring all communication patterns to the forefront of an experiential communications workshop.
Would a Fire Power Communication Seminar be right for your organization? Let’s find out! Contact Karen at 954.232.4486 or Karen@FirePowerSeminars.com, or click here to connect with us today. Together, we’ll talk about how we custom-tailor our communication trainings for each client and give you exactly the program you need.