Here in the Southern Hemisphere we are waking to brighter days and shorter nights; and things are stirring in the garden. I have just been out to investigate some miniature petunias just bursting into flower, and the sun was bright but there was a crisp snap in the air; it is just the kind of day that makes you want to “tackle things.”
And there’s a topic I have wanted to ‘tackle’ all winter; but I just didn’t get around to it, but today is the day. I am going to tackle a major myth about how we communicate and clear away the cobwebs, letting in the light of the sun to bring some clarity to the subject. (Waxing lyrical even!).
Surely we must all agree that communication is the basis on which most of our lives are built. It is how we communicate that creates the types and the strengths of our relationships. It is how we communicate that gets things done, or not done in our business lives. It is how we communicate that indicates to others just who and what we are and whether we are to be trusted as their leaders.
So as communication is so really important to everything that we do, we spend as much time learning how to do it properly as we do on maths and science at school – don’t we? Er…. no!
Well, since it is so important to how we conduct our business it has to be one of the most important aspects of any business qualification course – doesn’t it? Er … not always.
But surely, since communication is the mark of leadership it certainly has to be totally covered in depth in all our leadership training – mustn’t it? Er… you tell me!
And even when we do get some training in communication, we are often merely perpetuating the one myth that increases the tendency for our communication to fail.
So let’s clear the cobwebs away to start with.
The Myth – Communication is a mechanical process: There is a set way in which communication takes place. I, the sender, have an idea that I want to pass on to you, the receiver. So I first formulate it into words and choose the channel to transmit the message to you. You listen to what I have to say and interpret it and there you are … instant communication.
This is the process; and if it is carried out properly (we are told) communication will be perfectly understood.
Sometimes we are taught this process as if it is a law; a fact of life … if only we follow the process then we can’t fail. Except that we can, and we do; because the process is flawed.
Even the least perceptive of us can find the flaws in this. What happens if during the transmission of the message I get distracted? Communication fails.
What if the words you use mean different things to you than they mean to me? Understanding appears to have been achieved, but I have probably misinterpreted your message – but; I will not be aware of it. I have heard you properly, I have understood your words but I have interpreted them personally; and that may be completely different to what you actually meant.
We call these inconveniences, ‘barriers’ and the more astute communicators are careful to indicate that between the sender and the receiver there will be a number of them, just waiting to pounce and twist the meaning, the interpretation and the comprehension of what I just said.
Just how we handle those barriers is a sign of a good communicator. And there are many ways in which we can ensure that our message is received as accurately as possible.
We may decide to use more than one method of transmission; often receiving the same message via multiple means fills in the gaps, which is why gestures and body language add clarity to the spoken word. We can follow up a verbal message with a written one. We can opt to ask for feedback; to ensure that our communication was understood correctly by the receiver.
There are a multitude of ways we use to overcome the barriers which impede clear communication – but first we have to recognise that they exist. Often we ignore them, and the outcome can be disastrous.
So it’s a new season for us here. We are going into the waking up of springtime, so let us be awake to the barriers in our communication. And if you are moving from the heat and dust of summer into the quiet contemplation of winter, then your challenge is to contemplate the ways you can overcome the barriers of your communication.
Because, the idea that communication is a simple process is simply a … myth.
Michele @ Trischel