The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place – George Bernard Shaw

The most natural way to communicate your ideas and opinions is through speech, the spoken word. Unfortunately the result may not be what we anticipated ~ remember the party game “Chinese Whispers”? The fun with this was comparing what the message started out as with what it finally turned into! As each member of the team passed on the message to the next one, misunderstanding and misinterpretation completely distorted the information.

The classic example from the army is the old story about the Colonel who sent the message “Send reinforcements, I’m going to advance” by the time it got to the private it had become “Send three and fourpence, I’m going to a dance.”

Something very similar can happen in your business! Our attempts to get our message across to others can fail for some of these reasons:

· Being One-sided ~ The trouble is that we look at the situation from our own point of view, believing that everyone knows what we know. It comes as a shock to realise that as much as 70% of our communication is misunderstood, rejected, distorted or just forgotten. That is 70% of communication in the workplace should be classified as inefficient!

· Being in a hurry ~ It is a true saying that we need to engage our brain before opening our mouths! Most of us work under pressures of some kind or other and have to make quick decisions. This can lead to communication without due consideration – opening the mouth before engaging the brain!

· Not thinking clearly ~ this can be the true cause of misunderstandings. If we do not think out the sequence of what we are saying we can get it wrong. Sometimes when we think we are communicating we are merely thinking out loud. This can be very confusing to our listeners. And then sometimes we just don’t think at all, as the carpenter who just wanted his apprentice to strike a nail; what he actually said was “When I nod my head, hit it!”

· Poor Presentation ~ Bad verbal presentations, such as mumbling, not looking at the person and speaking too fast can lead to complete misunderstanding of your message. Mispronunciation is another real problem, getting just one word wrong can wreak havoc with what you intended to say. I can recall one person who continually mixed up “analogue” with analyse” – much to everyone’s total confusion.

· Not checking the result ~ It’s no use saying “But I told him how to do it” when it’s pretty obvious by now that he didn’t have a clue. Even if we think that we have given precise, exact and detailed information, we still need to check that our listener has heard the message exactly how we intended it. Not checking is a major cause of misunderstanding.

· Not listening ~ or should I say, not really listening. Even if we are not the one speaking we may not really be listening. We need to give our attention to the speaker, and actively listen to what is being said. If it is our task to relay the information to others it is doubly important that we have the message accurate. If in doubt check it out.

For communication to be successful we need to consider these four questions:

1. Who are you communicating to? How much does he know about this? What can I take as common ground? If you don’t know start from the very beginning.

2. Have I all the information I need? Do I need to check some facts? Have I got the process straight in my own head? Am I clear about what needs to be done?

3. Are my choice of words accurate? Am I confident that I know what I should be saying? Is my speech clear and loud enough? Did I listen to what I was told?

4. Have I been understood? What questions can I ask to show that they understand me correctly?

If you can find the answers to these questions then it is likely that your verbal communication will be more effective. A face-to-face situation makes it easier to ensure that the message you impart is received with understanding.

Check out our website at or email to for information on our communication seminars and out one-on-one communication coaching.

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Trish Springsteen 

Multi International Award Winner Speaking Mentor, Coach  

International Best Selling Author, Get Known Be Seen WebTV Host

Clients work with Trish because they know she can help them have the confidence and self-belief to leverage their business with speaking and communication. Trish typically works with business owners, introverts, authors and advocates helping them to have the confidence to step up and share their message with those who need to hear it. Believe Act Share, become empowered for success, Get Known Be Seen and become the Influencer you want to be.

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