Communication is the #1 single skill needed at every level of business from a one-man SME to multi-national corporations. To gain the most out of our lives we need great communication skills and yet I find a great deal of confusion as to what constitutes good communication. I have written in the past about the importance of SMILES; perhaps the earliest and most basic form of human communication.
Communication can be simple good manners. On a recent weekend enjoying the spring sun over an outdoor breakfast my wife and I smiled and nodded at the couple on an adjacent table to us. A simple communication opener which was just as simply reciprocated. The real communication occurred later when my wife asked questions of our new table neighbors …”and what do you do?”
Suddenly not only did their fascinating lives come alive but so did an exciting potential joint project between them and my wife.
Now remember we were just relaxing, careful not to intrude, enjoying Sunday breakfast but we understand communication is human and we are open to communicating. People sense this.
Communication is not what we say; it is who we are and what we do, that creates the impression, or as was said in the Australian movie, The Castle…..”It’s the Vibe”.
A US expert and communication authority Dr John Lund uses an interesting quote; “Don`t communicate to be understood; rather, communicate so as not to be misunderstood.” What a great way to put things in perspective regarding our efforts on how to improve our communication.
Dr Lund has explored the way in which we interpret communication from others. He also reveals some very interesting statistics on communication.
When someone is speaking with us, we interpret their message based predominantly on the following three factors:
- 55% is based on their facial expressions and their body language.
- 37% is based on the tone of their voice.
- 8% is based on the words they say.
Dr Lund states that his findings are the average taken across both males and females collectively, but that if you looked at women alone they would even give greater weight to the facial expression and body language and even less on the words.
This tells us that it is critical that we become very self-aware of how our body language is speaking to others as well as the tone we use.
Read my article on smiles! That smile comes through in your tone of voice over the phone. It works wonders on how well you come off on a phone call, trust me!
Early in my career I worked for a hugely intelligent man who used to very gently ask me questions after a meeting. He would listen patiently to my answers and say “Neil listen to what they mean and what they need, not what they say”. At first this confounded me until I slowly realised that it may on occasion be difficult, embarrassing or even offending to state what you mean or need.
Once I learned to look beneath the surface, communication and business became easier, more productive and far more enjoyable.
The next major change in my thinking was when I realised that 10 different people see the same thing in 10 slightly different ways. And importantly women see things as differently again from a man which is why mixed sex teams work so well in obtaining balance.
To get your thinking moving look at the graphic below and tell me how many squares you can see?
I will leave the answer for the end of the article but in warning I will let you know that in a recent study 96% of Telstra management got this wrong!
Getting back on theme, in the study men occasionally and women mostly want to know three things before they are willing to enter into a business conversation with you:
- Is what you want to talk about going to be painful?
- How long is it going to take?
- When you are done talking, what do you want from me?
If they don’t know these three things up front, they will make excuses to avoid your call or to avoid talking to you on the phone. The same applies if you come into contact with them in person.
It’s fair to assume that your manager or client in a work setting will always want to know those three things in advance of agreeing to a conversation as well.
It comes down to an ingrained human need to want a strategic exit from difficulty. These are acquired skills which roll easily off the tongue of experience; however this terrified me early in my career. If in doubt as to what to say or do remember that a show of genuine respect will always help in establishing a rapport, if you are terrified say so, the person you are communicating with will respond positively.
How to successfully conduct a conversation in business:
Success in business is greatly impacted for better or worse by the way in which we communicate. Happiness in our personal lives is also greatly dependent on this very same skill. If you don’t believe me just look at any married couple and work it out! Becoming a good communicator takes practice and consistent attention and effort on our part, and it is a skill that we cannot afford to overlook.
Remember “don`t communicate to be understood; rather, communicate so as not to be misunderstood.” And always, always allow room for respect.
Now as to the “squares” there are 9 individual small squares; 5 2x2 squares; 1 4x4 square and one 3x3 square. A total of 16.
I hope you worked it out. Whatever your answer think on what it means about how we see and communicate ideas.
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