Wednesday, May 7, 2014

Communication: Without It, You're Only Leading Yourself.

by Christian Glatz

Some might say communication is what humans do the moment two or more of us are together. Communication serves as a foundation for planning and organizing, promoting motivation, altering individual's attitudes and socializing. Communication can bring us together, inform us of opportunities or threats, and enable us to rationally discuss coordinated activities. At the same time, poor communication can cause disruptions in the workplace, sport teams, relationships and even start wars. Ergo the importance of being able to communicate in a clear and concise way must be emphasize.

During Phi Theta Kappa's International Conference in Orlando, Florida, I was able to attend an educational forum on communication, and the presentation was very informative. A quote by George Bernard Shaw was mentioned “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” Most of us make the mistake of believing we have clearly communicated our intentions and later suffer the consequences of miscommunication. Bryan S. Kirby, professor of Communication & Theater, talked about some key elements that must be practiced in order to ensure clear communication within a team.

1. Patterns: You must be thinking, What do patterns have to do with communication? EVERYTHING!! I'm sure you have heard this before “I've done this hundreds of times, trust me I know what I am doing”... because someone does something repetitively does not mean they are doing it right, especially if they have been doing it wrong all along, and breaking that habit is going to be tough. It is the same with communication problems, you need to identify the pattern which causes disruption of the messages, and correct the problem by addressing it in a tactful way. An example of a pattern is “Paralysis of Analysis”, if you only do things one way you start closing your mind and stop being able to recognize input from other people, which can cause problems in a team.

2. Perception: There is a problem with the quote “Perception is reality”; it is not accurate. The problem with perception is that many aspects effect perception, such as prior experiences, cultural upbringing, and careers. I want you to apply the perspective of different vocations (Doctor, Lawyer, Insurance agent, Car salesman) to this situation: You hear a loud screech followed by an impact, you look to where the sounds came from and you see a major car accident... What goes through your mind? (from each or the careers).
          Doctor – How many are injured? What can you do to help?
          Lawyer – Whose fault was it? Did anyone witnessed the accident? Will they sue?
          Insurance Agent – How bad was the accident? How much is it going to cost?
          Car Salesman – Is the car totaled? Maybe they will need a new car.
As you can see, perception can be influenced by many things. It is a good idea to let people know you, and be clear about what you are communicating so your message does not get misconstrued solely on the perception that others have of you.
Also, having a team with different perspectives can help when encountering different situations, be open to what they have to say.

3. Pay Attention: “It's not what you say, it's how you say it”, 2/3 of meaning come from non-verbal communication and the other 1/3 is by the tone used to say it. It is very important to be aware of one's tone and body language when speaking to others. Using a calm tone when speaking and hearing what others have to say, will ensure your message is received. Now, the best way to have people understand you is to have the information be paraphrased and read back. Confirmation of your message being received is paramount when assigning tasks and preventing misunderstandings.

4. Play: Find something that represents you inner child and focus on it when having a bad day. Stress can cause bad attitudes which can be perceived as standoffish, anything you say can be misconstrued and your message won't be received!!

These are very practical things that can be used to improve how we communicate with others. Communication is a skill, we do it every day but it doesn't mean we are doing it wright. Identify your weakness and practice in order to master this skill.

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