Have you wondered why sometimes it is just so hard to communicate with people? Why sometimes it feels like hard work and sometimes it feels easier? We will be looking at the notion of disrupters to the communication journey; the elements that can steer a conversation off course and into realms where you are completely unprepared and sometimes feeling quite confused. In every communication transaction there is a sender and a receiver, a constant flux between action and reaction (where the goal is to obtain balance) and intention and perceptions at play. Amidst all of this we have disrupters like physical and mental states, bias, stereotyping, false assumptions, emotions, cultural difference, jargon, language differences, distraction, and lack of interest.
Disrupters can emerge from the following 3 areas:
What is said
How something is said
The setting--where something is said
What is Said:
When we look at what is being said, we are discussing content. In fact, 10 percent of what you say is acknowledged by the receiver. We look for other cues to contextualise the content of what is being said. In addition, our ears only pick up a fraction of what is being said, while our brain can process nearly 30 times more information in thinking than it can from just hearing alone. This means that the brain needs to be utilised while listening. This is sometimes referred to as active listening. Active listening is one way to overcome potential disrupters. By paying close attention to what is being said, you will be able to activate the brain in the listening process and retain a lot more of what is being transmitted by the receiver.
In addition, when you are talking it is best to stick to facts and to try and speak on things you believe in and not to fake your speech. The effectiveness of communication is partly dependent on the ability of the participants to be genuine in what they say. Sometimes, what we say is coloured in particular ways to lessen impact and to not be aggressive, or brash, or abrasive, or weak… As you can see, there are a multitude of components to consider when trying to relay an effective message, in a way that will get you the desired result. One key example is the difference between being assertive and being whiny. Again, the importance of what is said and how it is said work closely to each other. If you are passed over for a promotion and want to know why, it is a must to avoid the instinctive response to go to the emotive realm.
This will show the following things:
You are emotionally compromised by the situation
You are in a weak state of mind
You will be attributed behaviours of a whiny person—a sore loser
How to tackle this situation, is to ensure that you place your emotions to one side. Being assertive is important here, and being able to balance the skill of assertiveness with control over your emotions can be a powerful combination in ensuring that you get your point of view across but do so without weakening your position and coming across as a child, or lacking in maturity. Remember that even though you might be right, if the receiver creates the impression of you through your choice of words, they will almost certainly be perceiving you in a way that will leave you lost and not knowing what outcome, if any, has been achieved.
Sticking to facts can help, as the facts are logic based and require a system of processing that breaks down, through logical reasoning, the reasons for something happening. This needs to be carefully considered as emotions will always try to creep into the process. The skills we are discussing look reflectively at the actions preceding and following interactions and place them within the logical parameters that you set. Keep to these parameters because, if you play fast and loose with these, you will stray away from fact based and be carried in multiple directions in the conversation instead of keeping it steered in the right direction. The facts provide the strength to be assertive as you are in a position where argument is less likely. Even if one side looks to unbalance the scenario, the counterweight provided by the lack of reaction to that emotion will soon see the individual adjust their action—sometimes this may not happen immediately, but it will happen eventually.
How Something is Said:
The way you say something is important; much of what is perceived stems from the ability to manage how you say what you say. The manner of communication can be separated to verbal and non-verbal. Verbal disrupters could emerge from the way tone, pitch, speed, register, volume, and clarity, impact on the impressions created by the receiver. The practices mentioned here can help a person to eventually achieve self-knowledge. The more knowledge about ourselves we can acquire, the easier it is to navigate the world around us. Within communication, what we are looking to do is reflect on and assess the manner of delivery. Some people keep journals, some will ask peers to feedback on their communication skills so that they can garner a better understanding of how they come across to other people. The approach to communicating can be integral to the effectively communicating your message, so don’t take it for granted. It is also worth mentioning here that the skills of rational and cognitive empathy can assist you in understanding how and why others might be saying what they are saying. This will be a topic that will be discussed separately, but to recognise the wants, needs and desires of others and cross sectioning these with your own goals and objectives, you can decide on the best approach for communication and delivery in a vast array of settings.
The setting--where something is said:
Sometimes the environment can play a crucial role in the conversation process. A formal setting with informal speech will naturally be out of place. We modulate are speech to match our setting. What does this mean in regular conversation on a day to day basis? Well, the key to utilising the self-reflection model of effective communication is to pitch according to the context and surroundings that you find yourself in. Each conversation is an interaction with a life of its own and needs to be treated as such. To do this, you need to be able to utilise a type of self-reflection that humbles yourself. By recognising your own potential bias, you will then be more inclined to see the actions and behaviours of others more clearly and avoid attributing incorrect assumptions in interactions.
The context of where we speak also includes where someone is mentally--this can be tricky. There is a common tendency to look at our own behaviours being due to external causes and others’ behaviour being attributed to internal causes. Basically, we think that we are being pushed around and act as we do because of the world around us. When we look at others, we see them as internally being predisposed to their behaviours and we ignore the external factors that may influence these. By shifting our behaviours away from self-serving and self-aggrandising, we seek to avoid the critical gaze upon ourselves and look deeper into internal causation. Really what we trying to understand that both positive and negative outcomes can be better served by looking at the internal causes than the external, to acquire a truth that brings about better understanding of both self and others.
The goal is to avoid generalisations and assumption; to steer clear of attributing to someone that which may not be correctly attributed to them. Given the social workings of the world we live in, the building of impressions is based on several factors, including our judgments and weighted experience through life. This can be a precarious situation; the individual who bases their impressions on set of mental abstractions from the past, does not treat the current as a new unique communicative creation—it is merely another version of a previous conversation which you know all about. The truth is that it is only with time and looking at your interactions that you can see on what the impression of the individual is based: what traits? What behaviours? Which abstractions can be garnered from these traits in the fullness of time when experience prevails over judgment? Nature dictates that the conversations and impressions we have of others changes with the influx of new information and additional experience with that person. Our formations are in flux until we settle on the required data to make an accurate (or as accurate as possible) abstraction of what a person intends and the impression we hold. But what if there is no time? What do we do then? The answer is simple…look to yourself and concentrate on what you are doing and how you project yourself. The key to confident and assertive communication stems from knowing how you want to present yourself to others, and why. When you are comfortable engaging these skills, it soon becomes apparent that people reveal themselves to you and you see their inherent weaknesses and strengths, but not merely through simplistic generalisations, but through seeing the whole picture and consequently understanding what it all means. This essentially will make you an effective communicator, a savvy negotiator, an empathetic individual, and an active listener. Core skills to bettering your communication with anyone.
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