Does communication let you down?

How often has communication let you down?  It’s a key skill in every aspect of our life at work and home.  Many of us think that we’re great communicators and yet we found from Michelle’s recent workshop at the Business Network that there’s always something new we can learn.  We focused on things that can get in the way of great communication.

We filter external information through our attitudes and beliefs, values, prejudices, and our own emotional baggage.  As a result, we delete, distort, and generalise the information around us. Something as simple as interpreting the language we use can impact on the outcome which we demonstrated with a great activity.  With our eyes closed, we were all given the same instructions to fold and tear a piece of paper.  When we opened our eyes, we realised that everyone had created a different shape, not quite as different as the range of shapes below, but almost.  Not one single shape was the same!  It made us realise why, when we give instructions at work, they can be interpreted in so many ways.

We also looked at preferences people have for how they receive information – Visual, Auditory and Kinesthetic communication.  We might hear people saying things like I get the picture, that sounds good, you’ll soon get a feel for it which can give you a clue to other’s preferences.  By noticing these clues, we can tailor our language to help achieve a more successful outcome.  We also discussed tone and how the way we say things impacts on the meaning.   In the model below 38% of communication is tone, 55% is body language and only 7% the words we use.

So, how do we control our conscious experience which is delivered through our own filters, which ultimately triggers our behavior and what others see. One of the most important is being present in the moment, or mindfulness.  To be mindful when you’re communicating means to be consciously present in the conversation, while you’re doing it, as well as managing your mental and emotional state.  A great way to be mindful is to become aware of your breathing.

As well as understanding more about how we listen and question, fundamental elements of great communication, we also talked about the ladder of inference.  This is how we sub-consciously look for information that supports our beliefs and can result in making assumptions that may be incorrect.  Here are some tips to help to overcome the ladder of inference:

  • Adopt a curious rather than certain mindset
  • Assume biased perceptions exist – ours as well as theirs
  • Seek to understand, and to show understanding, before seeking to be understood
  • Make “understanding” a collaborative effort

If you want to find out any further information about communication training or looking at ways to bring out the best in your people and teams, please contact Michelle Mook on 01904 628838 or have a look on our website for more information.

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