Do you ever wonder how other people perceive you and the messages you send? At home, at work and socially? And I don’t mean in some weird, insecure, paranoid “what do they all think of me” kind of way either. No, I mean from a communication, connection and interaction perspective, are the people in your world ‘getting’ what you think you’re giving them? If you think you’re saying ‘A’ but people are actually hearing ‘B, C and D’ (as is often the case), then you have yourself something of a communication issue.
Some people talk well but communicate (and connect) poorly. So too, some effective communicators are not necessarily the best ‘talkers’ (keeping in mind that the vast majority of communication is non-verbal). Interestingly, it doesn’t matter how ‘right’ or ‘relevant’ our message might be, if it’s not meaningful and understandable to our audience then we won’t create meaningful connection and we won’t produce the desired outcome. Ever.
Sometimes, our version of constructive feedback is their version of nasty criticism. Sometimes, our simple explanation is their confusing, mind-bending mumbo-jumbo; like when Johnnie starts speaking ‘computer’ at me. Sometimes, our empowering motivational speech will be a trigger for their stress response. Sometimes, our funny story will be their self-indulgent waste of five minutes. Ouch! And sometimes, our confidence will be interpreted as arrogance.
That’s because they don’t speak ‘you’. They speak ‘them’.
Interestingly, while communication is probably the single-most important interpersonal skill, it’s often the one thing that we don’t consciously or methodically develop. Which is why we keep making the same mistakes. Often, with the same people about the same issues.
It’s my experience that effective communication is primarily about awareness, observation, perception, adaptability (in that moment) and understanding our audience. That is, knowing who we’re talking with and tailoring our message accordingly. It’s about understanding their language. And, when possible, knowing a little (or a lot) about their story.
Do I Need to Agree with Them?
Having said that, keep in mind that understanding someone or connecting with them doesn’t (necessarily) mean agreeing with them, aligning with them or even liking them (in some cases).
No, it just means understanding them.
Effective (verbal) communication has a little to do with what we’re saying and a lot to do with how we say it.