In business, as in life, we communicate all the time. Even when we are silent, we are still communicating something. If the act of communication, i.e. transferring information from one place to another, is simple, the how we do it certainly is not. Whether your chosen mode of communication is spoken, written, graphic or non-verbal is just the beginning. From there we enter a minefield. You see… we can’t not communicate.
I’m guessing that you, like me, have seen lots written on communication over the years. Maybe you’ve been in a job where communication skills were important and you got some extra advice or training? Yes, me too! Over the years, I’ve been advised on what to wear, how to stand, where to look, what to say and how to say it. Oh… and there’s always the advice on what not to say too, especially when talking to the media or to politicians! I’m pretty sure we had advice on what we could and couldn’t say to the Royal family too (although that didn’t seem to apply in reverse – ask me if we ever meet!).
Here’s the thing. The what and how of communication is pretty pointless, if you don’t understand the purpose of communicating.
A few years ago, I sat through a whole law lecture, latish on a Friday evening – in a room full of mature students who pretty much all wanted to get to the bar for some much needed down time at the end of a busy week. The subject was Patent Law. I kid you not when I say that the lecturer arrived in the conference room, opened his crumpled carrier bag, got out his equally crumpled textbook, read to us for two hours – pretty much without looking up – and then after a cursory request for questions, proceeded to ask us where the refectory was (we were at the Hilton??!!), and then left. What did he communicate to me? Nothing. Well, nothing about law, anyway.
I notice that the same can be true of the increasingly popular on-line webinar. What an interesting platform that is for not communicating! It can be very obvious that the trainer or leader has dedicatedly prepared their content and then delighted themselves with a flawless transmission. That doesn’t mean it has impact. The last one I listened to was over two hours – that’s a long time to transmit.
You see, communication isn’t about broadcasting. The purpose of communication is to create understanding. Therefore the meaning of communication is the response that you get. Great communication requires connection. True communication requires more than just understanding your materials (even if you have the best content in the world!), it requires an understanding of, and the ability and willingness to create a connection with, your audience. If the meaning of communication is the response that you get, then what your listener infers from what you say becomes the meaning of the communication – whether or not it is what you intended them to hear.
The great thing about this awareness, is that it gives us choice. Choice to do something different in our communication that helps us to achieve the response we hoped for all along. We just need to be flexible enough to communicate differently. Flexibility comes with practice. The more choices we can generate, the more flexibility we have. The more flexibility we have, the more likely we are to create the connection we need to be understood as we intend.
What does ‘creating understanding’ mean for you or your business? Are you looking to inform or to inspire? To teach, to entertain, or to persuade? Whatever your intention, remember it’s not about you and how much you know, it’s all about your reader, viewer, or listener. Match your communication to their needs, expectations and characteristics – what they actually need or want, and not just what you think they need to know. Getting this right helps us to create a relationship of trust. Creating that relationship requires rapport and empathy, the courage to be open and vulnerable, and the willingness to listen deeply.
You remember I said that we can’t not communicate? To fail to connect with your audience, communicates a disconnect. However, once you have created that connection, who knows what magic you may create together!
These are great skills and attributes to have in any situation where you are looking to create not only true communication but also genuine connection. In a future blog post, I will develop this theme further – we will look at the factors that motivate people and also how to put yourself in the shoes of your listener, viewer or reader. This helps us to communicate well and create more impact. If creating more impact sounds helpful to you, check out my signature coaching programme and do get in touch.
Until next time.
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