I don’t know about you, but I’ve certainly noticed a distinct increase in the amount of confusion, disappointment, anger and frustration these days in the manner and ability of people to effectively communicate!
In an age where there has never been more methods of communication, and people are trying to communicate with you 24/7 why is it that whilst the demand on communication methods and abilities has increased, our ability to do it effectively has decreased!
My quick guide to the 12.5 Different Types of Communication
Communication can be categorised into three basic types:
- verbal communication, in which you listen to a person to understand their meaning
- written communication, in which you read their meaning;
- nonverbal communication, in which you observe a person and infer meaning. Each has its own advantages, disadvantages, and even pitfalls.
Verbal communications in business take place over the phone or in person. The medium of the Message is oral.
Storytelling has been shown to be an effective form of verbal communication; it serves an important organisational function by helping to construct common meanings for individuals within the organisation. Stories can help clarify key values and help demonstrate how things are done within an organisation, and story frequency, strength, and tone are related to higher organisational commitment (McCarthy, 2008).
While the process may be the same, high-stakes communications require more planning, reflection, and skill than normal day-to-day interactions at work. Examples of high-stakes communication events include asking for a raise or presenting a business plan to a venture capitalist. In addition to these events, there are also many times in our professional lives when we have crucial conversations—discussions where not only the stakes are high but also where opinions vary and emotions run strong (Patterson, et. al., 2002).
In contrast to verbal communications, written business communications are printed messages. Examples of written communications include memos, proposals, e-mails, letters, training manuals, and operating policies. They may be printed on paper, handwritten, or appear on the screen. Normally, a verbal communication takes place in real time. Written communication, by contrast, can be constructed over a longer period of time. A written communication can also be read by many people (such as all employees in a department or all customers). It’s a “one-to-many” communication, as opposed to a one-to-one verbal conversation.
What you say is a vital part of any communication. But what you don’t say can be even more important. Research also shows that 55% of in-person communication comes from nonverbal cues like facial expressions, body stance, and tone of voice. According to one study, only 7% of a Receiver’s comprehension of a Message is based on the Sender’s actual words; 38% is based on para-language (the tone, pace, and volume of speech), and 55% is based on nonverbal cues (body language) (Mehrabian, 1981).
To be effective communicators, we need to align our body language, appearance, and tone with the words we’re trying to convey. Failing to do this effectively is both damaging our own and the companies reputation and leading to a glut of badly communicated good intent!
Listen Up and Learn!
Another element of nonverbal communication is tone. A different tone can change the perceived meaning of a message demonstrates how clearly this can be true, whether in verbal or written communication. If we simply read these words without the added emphasis, we would be left to wonder, but the emphasis shows us how the tone conveys a great deal of information.
Here’s one quick example: I’m going to use exactly the same words, but my tone is going to imply something at both ends of the communication spectrum!
I want you to say out loud the words How much?
- In the first instance, I want you to say the words as if you are genuinely interested in making the purchase, but simply need to know HOW MUCH is required to purchase the item? (It may be you want to purchase the magazine, but haven’t seen the price tag, and so simply enquiring as to how much?
- In the second instance, I want you to say the words again, but in absolute astonishment as to exactly how much they have quoted! In the same scenario, you have gone in looking to make purchase of said magazine, found magazine and taken it to the counter ready to make said purchase, but uncertain as to its sales price. However, the store owner advises you the cost is 50 x more than you had expected! They have just stated this one magazine is currently sold for £500 instead of the £10 or so pounds you had expected!
The speaker’s body language must match his or her words. If a Sender’s words and body language don’t match—if a Sender smiles while telling a sad tale, for example—the mismatch between verbal and nonverbal cues can cause a Receiver to actively dislike the Sender.
Here are a few examples of nonverbal cues that can support or detract from a Sender’s Message.
A simple rule of thumb is that simplicity, directness, and warmth convey sincerity. And sincerity is key to effective communication. A firm handshake, given with a warm, dry hand, is a great way to establish trust. A weak, clammy handshake conveys a lack of trustworthiness. Gnawing one’s lip conveys uncertainty. A direct smile conveys confidence.
In business, the style and duration of eye contact considered appropriate vary greatly across cultures. In the United States, looking someone in the eye (for about a second) is considered a sign of trustworthiness.
The human face can produce thousands of different expressions. These expressions have been decoded by experts as corresponding to hundreds of different emotional states (My good friend Adrienne Carter is exceptional at helping people to read and understand this). Our faces convey basic information to the outside world. Happiness is associated with an upturned mouth and slightly closed eyes; fear with an open mouth and wide-eyed stare. Flitting (“shifty”) eyes and pursed lips convey a lack of trustworthiness. The effect of facial expressions in conversation is instantaneous. Our brains may register them as “a feeling” about someone’s character.
The position of our body relative to a chair or another person is another powerful silent messenger that conveys interest, aloofness, professionalism—or lack thereof. Head up, back straight (but not rigid) implies an upright character. In interview situations, experts advise mirroring an interviewer’s tendency to lean in and settle back in her seat. The subtle repetition of the other person’s posture conveys that we are listening and responding.
The meaning of a simple touch differs between individuals, genders, and cultures. In South America for instance, when doing business, men may find themselves being grasped on the arm by another man. To pull away is seen as rude. In Indonesia, to touch anyone on the head or touch anything with one’s foot is considered highly offensive. For a long time in the Far East, it was considered impolite for a woman to shake a man’s hand Americans, and others place great value in a firm handshake. But handshaking as a competitive sport can come off as needlessly aggressive and desperate.
Anthropologist Edward T. Hall coined the term proxemics to denote the different kinds of distance that occur between people. These distances vary between cultures.
- 0-45cm apart – Intimate
- 45-152cm apart – Personal
- 152 – 210cm apart – Social
Standing too far away from a colleague (such as a public speaking distance of more than seven feet) or too close to a colleague (intimate distance for embracing) can ruin an effective verbal communication in business.
Here’s my top 9 tips on how to ensure we communicate effectively:
- Make communication a priority. Don’t be idol when it comes to your own communication. If necessary take classes, read books, magazine articles or learn from successful communicators around you. If necessary seek a mentor or a coach.
- Simplify and stay on message. Use simple, straightforward language. Don’t waste others time for the sake of your own voice, show respect for their time by remaining concise.
- Engage your listeners or readers. Draw your listeners and readers into the conversation. Ask questions and invite opinions. Solicit their feedback. Understand that communication is a TWO way street, not a cul-de-sac of self pontification.
- Take time to respond. Re-tech yourself to LISTEN rather than simply HEARING. After you’ve listened (and understood) take time to “draft” in your head what you want to say.
- Make sure you are understood. Don’t blame the other person for not understanding. Instead, look for ways to clarify or rephrase what you are trying to say so it can be understood.
- Develop your listening skills, too. The best communicators are almost always the best listeners. Listen without judgement and don’t be distracted by thinking about what you want to say next. Then, respond, not react.
- Body language is important. Studies show that 65% of all communication is non-verbal. Watch for visual signs that your listener understands, agrees or disagrees with your message. And be aware that your body is sending signals, too.
- Maintain eye contact. Whether speaking to a crowd or one-on-one, maintaining eye contact builds credibility and demonstrates you care about your listeners.
- Respect your audience. Recognise your message is not just about you or what you want. You should sincerely care about the needs and the unique perspectives of those to whom you are communicating. One of the best ways to show your respect is simply by paying attention to what they say.
And finally, please allow me to dis-spell one of the most over used and incorrectly quoted phrases I’ve ever heard when it comes to communication.
People buy people
I’ve got to admit, it annoys the hell out of me every time I hear someone recite this, because it’s only half the quote, and the worse half to remember if your going to recite it at all! Because it’s simply NOT true. People are just as likely NOT to buy from people if this is all you have to offer!
The full quote is:
People buy PASSION, from PASSIONATE people!
As I’ve depicted in the How much? example within, its not WHAT you say, but HOW you say it!
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