George Bernard Shaw, famous playwright and Nobel Prize for Literature winner, once said, “The greatest problem with communication is the assumption that it has taken place.”
How true. Communication is challenging because different people hear different things. You may think you are making yourself clear, but you run the risk of being misunderstood unless you make a conscious effort to speak in a way that appeals to the way the other person thinks.
So What Makes Communication Effective?
Effective communication is all about removing barriers to your message. Barriers may be stylistic, cognitive, or behavioral–but the more barriers to communication that can be actively broken down, the more effective you will be as a teammate, employee, or leader.
At Emergenetics International, we look at communication through a person’s preferences in four thinking attributes (Analytical, Structural, Social, and Conceptual) and three behavioral attributes (Expressiveness, Assertiveness, and Flexibility). Knowledge of these preferences helps us identify potential message barriers and how to tailor our communication style.
So the key to effective communication starts with your knowledge of two main factors:
- How well you know yourself
- How well you know others
Before anything else, you need to understand the filters of your own brain. Every person defines and interprets words differently. And while you may think the meaning of the word is obvious, it resonates in each brain in a different way.
Emergenetics Founder, Dr. Geil Browning, frequently uses the discussion of business ethics to illustrate this point. To the Analytical brain “ethics” means “we will weigh the evidence.” To the Structural brain, it means “right versus wrong.” To the Social brain, it means “follow the golden rule.” And to the Conceptual brain, ethics is evolving. People on the gregarious side of the Expressiveness spectrum will speak openly, those on the driving end of the Assertiveness spectrum will push their perspective, and the Flexibility spectrum will determine whether ethics is a black and white issue or not clearly defined.
There’s no right or wrong, but it makes challenging subjects even more complex.
Once you’ve addressed your own communication tendencies, think about how you can meet the needs of who you’re trying to communicate with.
If the person is in the first third of Expressiveness, tone down your voice and speak softer. Limit hand gestures and give that individual space to think and to speak. Talking to a Structural thinker? Ensure that you have written materials that are orderly and listed (preferably in bullet points) to bring an added level of clarity to the meeting.
Three Ways to Say it Straight
Here are 3 tips you can use right now to make your communication as effective as possible:
Context allows your message to translate.
To an analytical thinker, providing context might mean providing the reasons and objective behind the message. To a structural thinker, providing context probably means giving a comprehensive background and history to the message being transmitted. To a social thinker, it may require the sender to explain how this message affects the people who are reading it, and finally, to a conceptual thinker, providing context means establishing clarity of purpose (without inundating them with details) so that the individual’s thoughts and ideas are more connected to the situation.
Allow for Dialogue
Dialogue is critical, but knowing how to create the right atmosphere is key.
For people who are in the 1/3 of Expressiveness (quiet), asking questions in front of a group of people, especially in a work context, could be rather nerve-wrecking. For folks who are in the 1/3 of Assertiveness (peacekeepers), even if they do not agree with you, they may not necessarily voice their opinions. Realize that a full spectrum of behaviors exists and respect dialogue from all places along that spectrum.
You are a unique individual communicating with a unique lens and so is everyone listening to your message, absorbing it with unique lenses.
You need to connect in–touch base–with your audience in order to get a good sense of what was actually understood and passed forward by each of them.Mark Miller is VP of Marketing at Emergenetics International, which provides assessments and training revealing how thinking and behavior is manifested into work and life. They deliver solutions to translate this understanding into improved individual and organizational performance. Founded by Dr. Geil Browning in 1991, and has provided human capital training to organizations including government, nonprofit, small businesses and Fortune 500 companies around the world. Connect with Emergenetics on Facebook, Twitter, , and YouTube. Read their for more insights and proven best practices for increasing individual capacities, maximizing teams, and driving business performance. Want to talk with Mark directly? Send him a message at firstname.lastname@example.org.