Irish playwright and political activist, George Bernard Shaw, wrote, “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”
Hence, I’ve invented a new word. Perhaps I’ll send it out to the Webster’s Dictionary people. Simply put, it represents Mr. Shaw’s point of view and mine as well. We have a huge deficit in the way we communicate.
And so, my new word… use it if you will… is “commuNOcation.” Sadly, emphasizing the “no” is because we, generally speaking, do not communicate effectively, efficiently and clearly.
Conversation after conversation, email after email, voicemail after voicemail, text after text, letter after letter, and on and on... More often, than not, there is a discrepancy between what is said and what is heard and most importantly, what is understood. In other words, our lack of communication skills and low level efforts to communicate with clarity makes for lots of misunderstanding.
In business, a lack of communication can ultimately lead to low, or no, morale and esprit de corp. It can also lead to chaos in the workplace and business failure. In life, a lack of communication can ultimately lead to intense family controversy, marital destruction, the dissolving of friendships and nothing good. I repeat, nothing good.
Communication is the act of giving, receiving and sharing information. In other words, talking or writing, and listening or reading, are the pillars of communication. Communication excellence is listening, or reading, carefully and speaking, as well as writing, clearly… so that real understanding takes place. The key to successful communication is “understanding.”
It’s a two-way street. Putting forth a message is not communication. Putting forth a message and receiving feedback that it was understood is, in fact, communication.
The speed of our lives, the multiple distractions we face minute by minute, our multi-tasking existences and constantly being bombarded by message after message from all sorts of sources, surroundings and media hurt our chances and abilities to understand the many messages directed toward us.
Unfortunately, there is no one skill, competency, proficiency, expertise or technique that will guarantee that you will move from “commuNOcation” to real communication. Effective, efficient communication requires a wide range of skillsets that are both verbal and non-verbal… and of course, great listening skills. Here is a short, but important list for you to master.
- Listening Skills: Epictetus, a Greek philosopher said, “We have two ears and one mouth so that we can listen twice as much as we speak.”
- Communication Vehicles: There clearly are benefits and disadvantages to communicating through “vehicles” such as letters, phone calls, emails, text messages, Instagram, Facebook, even in-person meetings. Consider the message you want to convey and the audience you’re reaching out to, then define the best vehicle to use.
- Clear and Concise Messaging: Make sure your messages are clear and audible. There are some environments just not conducive for great communication. Choose your words, expressions and examples wisely. Great communication is about great clarity.
- Being Respectful: You might not agree with someone’s opinion but if sound communication is your objective, you need to be respectful. It has been said, “I may disagree with your choice but I will always respect your right to choose it.”
- Have An Open Mind: “The mind is like a parachute. It only works when it’s open.” Listen intently and permit others to talk. Having a clear and open mind without any predispositions, deep-rooted beliefs or prejudices might change your opinion through respectful and honest communication.
- Be Empathetic: Henry David Thoreau, in Walden Pond, wrote, “Could a greater miracle take place than to look through another’s eyes for an instant?” To be a great communicator, one must be a caring, empathetic person. Nobody cares how much you know until they know how much you care.
- Be Confident: When you demonstrate an air of confidence, you’ll find that people will be more open and respond to your ideas. Although one can convey confidence through words, good body posture, positive facial expressions and maintaining eye contact, being politely assertive is also important.
- Be Personable: Personable people truly listen when others talk. They remember things about the individual they are talking to and often address others by their names. They smile, laugh and talk positively.
- Provide and Solicit Feedback: Remember, communication is an exchange. Responding to someone and providing, as well as soliciting, feedback supports that exchange. Be specific, realistic and timely in your feedback. By the same token, when receiving feedback, listen to the feedback carefully. Be careful not to overreact to feedback and always think deeply before responding.
- Confirm Your Understanding of the Message: Confirming you understand a message is very important. Although you may heartily disagree with someone’s ideas, confirming you understand them and then voicing your point-of-view is an effective way for an exchange.
- Master the Art of Questioning: The art of questioning is vital in communicating. One gains more information and context through questions. By asking a question, you are showing respect to the person you’re communicating with. Your question can validate a point, clarify a position and actually move one over to your position as they answer your strategic question.
Communication is vital to our life and living. Author Brian Tracy wrote, “Communication is a skill that you can learn. It’s like riding a bicycle or typing. If you’re willing to work at it, you can rapidly improve the quality of every part of your life.”
If you constantly, continually work at becoming a more proficient communicator, you’ll surely move from “commuNOcation” to real, robust communication.