Updated: Apr 4
How often do we get things misconstrued in text and online
messages? How often do you leave a conversation feeling like you weren't heard, didn't say what you intended to, or were overall disappointed in the outcome?
If you're anything like me...you may have spent many sleepless nights running these conversations through your head. Hindsight is ALWAYS 20/20, eh?
Zig Ziglar says, “In many ways, effective communication begins with mutual respect, communication that inspires and encourages others to do their best.”
Imagine that. Do you have those people in your life who always are willing to understand more than the words you say? Who do you do the same for? Knowing that no matter what, it's coming from a place of respect and good? Imagine if we could have this in every relationship and area. I'm not saying it's possible; we can't control others, but you can manage how you communicate, and I can promise that it will help you not only to be more clear and understood but also to give more grace while listening to others.
Communication is not easy. Talking is easy. Typing something out quickly in a comment section is easy, but communication- understanding, listening, speaking clearly, and being understood is a bit more difficult. I want to help you by breaking down the basics of how this works.
The internet has made things accessible for everyone; it has made clear communication complicated. It has made it easy to say something we may feel passionate about but don't give much thought to.
Words only make up 7% of our communication...only SEVEN percent. 38% is tonality and pause, and 55% is body language.
These statistics alone paint a pretty clear picture of why communication has become difficult. The vast majority of our conversations with others take place via text. Even via phone, we miss visual cues. Online, we lack any true emotional connection. In my most recent podcast, I discuss the 4 Key Elements of Communication.
These are some of the power takeaways from this episode:
Choose to be better:
You can decide how you want to show up in this life. You also can decide to be better. Understanding how communication works will not only help you in friendships and family relationships, but it is key for a strong business, no matter what your business is. There are those we get to choose to spend our time with and those we don't. I encourage you to be intentional about the relationships you get to choose. Surround yourself with people who share your values, and who you feel aligned with. It is life-changing, however, there are also many people in our worlds who we don't get to choose and I can promise that by understanding effective communication, you can grow those relationships and improve all of your interactions. It will also help you feel so much better about communicating and the respect and appreciation you gain as a leader (whether in business or thought) is a nice bonus as well.
Be a thermostat rather than a thermometer:
This is not a new concept for me to discuss, but it begs to be repeated. A thermometer adjusts to the temperature in the room. This is so important in business and leadership, but it's also great to understand in any relational situation. I know that I felt for a long time that my job as a leader was to meet my team members where they were and help them at all costs. Being a servant leader doesn't mean meeting frustration with frustration. Being a good friend doesn't mean getting upset right alongside someone. And I can promise you won't prove your point in a controversial discussion if you meet someone else's anger with anger.
I'm not going to say that it's an easy thing to do or that it doesn't take practice. Straight up...I'm Italian. We are thermometers just for fun! Our family dinners are so confusing to others; even my kids will say, "why were you all yelling at each other!?!?" and I'm like, "Yelling? We weren't yelling; that was a really fun conversation" 😂. My quiet husband often doesn't even know what to do with himself.
Having loud and animated conversations with friends and family is fun as long as it's fun for everyone. It's the moments when there's a problem, a disagreement, or an issue...do you meet the emotion, or are you a thermostat. Do you help to set the temperature? This was a hard lesson to learn as a leader and as a; mother, friend, business person, and general member of society.
Setting the temperature, staying calm, and understanding there's a solution, and likely more information to learn can make all the difference in any situation.
I will tell you that sometimes remaining a thermostat takes more faith than anything else. I will also tell you that some of my worst moments in life and in business have been because I allowed myself to respond before recalibrating. My next blog will go further into this.
The Four Key Elements of Effective Communication:
What you mean to say: 9 times out of 10 we do not say exactly what we intend to. It's not easy to always have a built-out plan for how you will get your point of view across. We come into relational conversations all the time. Understanding this will at least give you pause before trying to make a strong point, but more importantly, it can help you give a bit more grace while listening to others.
What you say: The words that wind up coming out.
What the other party hears: If you're thinking "well obviously they are going to hear what I say!" you've never sat in a doctor's office with your husband and then gone home and realized that you both heard something different. We are all different. Our brains work differently. Remember how body language, intonation, and pauses have a huge effect on communicating? Well, we also interpret those things differently...hence you and someone else having a completely different experience while hearing the same words. Still, it also leads to probably the most important piece...
How the other party perceives what they hear: This is outside of our control. We can think about what we want to say, be as clear as possible, for understanding, but at the end of the day, how that is perceived by someone else is going to be based on their previous life experiences, how busy their mind was in that moment, their preconceived notions of you or the subject at hand. It could be influenced by their morning, their mother, their religion, or their mental state. The same goes for all of us. Have you ever felt offended or hurt by someone's words, then shared with someone else and had them express a completely different opinion of what was meant? It can be jarring, but that is the point.
Understanding these 4 pieces of how communication works will not only allow you to communicate clearly but also be a better listener. Be careful about how you express what you are trying to say and check for understanding. Honestly, I believe the most important thing is that understanding this can help you give grace to others, help you want to understand, and realize that an issue or misunderstanding is so much more than just one person is wrong; it's a wild maze of two people's brains, mouths, experiences, upbringing, mental well being in the moment, stresses, chore lists, family history, and so much more...coming together and it's a wonder we are ever able to communicate effectively at all if are really honest about it.
NOW...in the meantime...since I doubt you'll be able to educate everyone on these pillars of communication before your holiday gatherings...I offer you a quick clip from my podcast where I list some great ways to diffuse arguments.
Should you choose to employ these options, I do ask that you try to record it...or at least report back with how it went 😂.
Love to you my friends.
Go Forth and Slay
The Fifth Discipline by The Art & Practice of The Learning Organization by Peter M. Senge