Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Communication 101

So you want to get a message across? Or perhaps you've been trying and no one is listening? Even the best communicators are wise to review some of the basic guidelines for communication; for those of you who don't consider it "your thing" perhaps these tips will be just the thing you've been looking for.

Remember the following; they are part of the basic 101 tips of communication.
  • What you "Meant" doesn't matter: The message that counts is not the one you intend and try to send, but the one that is received. 
  • Perception Matters. Impressions will be made in the first 30 seconds of introduction. 
  • The most important form of communication is Listening
Now, for a little more in-depth insight:

What you Meant: As individuals who want to convey a message be it via public speaking venues or just one on one with a friend over coffee, our default as humans is to think that we are right, that our message makes sense and that anyone not understanding me is weird. But, if you want to be an effective communicator you have to try a different paradigm.

As frustrating as this is, whether the listener understands your message is not based on your intentions, passion or how well you think you articulated the message. Instead, it is dependent on how well the message is received by the listener. A lot can happen in the transition from your mind to their ears.

If they take away something different than what you intended or do not offer you confirmation and recognition that "they get it", do not blame it on them. You are the influencer. If people are not responding to you as you had hoped, it's possible you should reconsider what you said and how you said it! The power, persay, is in your hands to make sure the listeners "get" the message you intended.

Powerful Perception: How will those you want to influence perceive you - immediately? This is one I wish everyone would understand: Everything about you communicates something. And this truth is as sure and unchangeable just as the sun comes out in the morning and the moon at night. If you can't change it, you best learn to work with it.

For example: What are you wearing when introducing yourself to individuals? What do you want to communicate and does your attire, mannerisms, personal presentation reflect that goal?

Scenario: You are speaking to college students; are you dressed in casual and classy attire, displaying smart, stylish, mature and credible? Or are you dressed in a patriotic tie, your hair is a mess and you smell like you just ate onions, the students may mock you and for sure twitter and facebook will be a buzz with the "weird one" that came to class today. Now, what was it you wanted them to take away? I don't think it's that you might struggle with style.

But on the flip side: If you were a college student showing up to speak to a political party meeting you would not want to dress in pjs, yesterday's tshirt and slippers. The listeners will be frustrated they are having to give you the time of day. But if you go prepared, friendly, dressed in a classy, modest, professional attire, have a message clearly stated and are respectful to those you meet - they may ask you to run for city council! Am I serious? Somewhat. Why the difference? Because, perception matters. They have a few seconds to immediately "take in your story" and determine who you are through their senses. You might be a brilliant guy with the perfect message but if you immediately throw them off in the first 30 seconds, communicating something that causes them to perceive differently than what you wanted, your message may be in danger.

Get the idea?

Listening: Giving a presentation requires significant talking, of course; but a one on one conversation with your teenager or a colleague is best served with lots of listening on your part. Once they know you care about what they say, they might be willing to listen to you. And those you're "listening" to can tell if they are being heard with intentional listening. So be careful.

Listening builds credibility, is thoughtful, is wise and a good relationship building tool.

Exercise Suggestions: Consider, how do you like to be communicated to? Does it get under your skin if someone tries to tell you something but then they drone on for eons? Or if they take great interest by listening to you, how do you want to return the favor? Perhaps by taking even greater interest in their point of view?

You might also try catching yourself: try counting every-time you say the word "I". Or try reading the other individual as you are speaking. Do they keep checking their watch, or looking away, or starting to yawn? It might be time to listen and ask them something in return.

More tips soon! And remember this basic fact: communication is a part of life. You can't get away from it - so might as well do it right!