Chapter

Create Plan : Skill – Communication

As soon as we hear the word “Communication” we visualize people talking, that may be mostly true as it is the most common way of communicating but that is not what we are discussing here. It is a part of it but it is not the whole. In my opinion:

Communication is to involve the intended audience to get to a common understanding.

The best communication involves the participants in the whole idea you are trying to communicate. This definition is derived from following 2 quotes:

“Tell me and I’ll forget, Show me and I might remember. Involve me and I will understand.”

– Ben Franklin

“If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough.”

– Albert Einstein

In our context Communication has 3 core parts:

  • Audience:

These are all the people, and teams of people that you intend to communicate with. Understand the intended audience first and foremost. This will guide the next 2 parts of your communication. Individual people understand things differently than a group of people. In other words, each individual may agree to a topic but when asked in a group, they may have totally different response. That is where the relative perception comes in a group of people have a common bias for or against the topic. You have to (at least try to) understand that perception and create a message that breaks through that barrier and resonates with each individual and the group that they represent.

  • Message:

Create a message that is simple enough for them to understand. If you don’t define the right message, the wrong message will define you! It is your first duty to understand the complexity of the idea that you are trying to communication and dig deep. Once you have better understanding, you can define a message that is simple enough for others to comprehend and get on board with you.

Look at the ethnicity mix of the people to account for the communication preference. This does not mean the ethnicity of the people at birth but what is majority of their upbringing. High context culture and the contrasting “low context culture” are terms presented by the anthropologist Edward T. Hall in his 1976 book Beyond Culture. Following is a rough depiction of what that concept represents. There may be people in that particular group who may subscribe to the other context but we are talking about generalities here.  This helps you understand how you should go about creating the message.

comm_styles

  • Delivery:

Use a delivery mechanism that involves the audience in the whole discussion. If the message requires the format of a discussion, do not use email and vice versa. When it comes to the delivery mechanisms there are many more new ways where technology is helping to bring down the communication barriers. Choose the right mix of delivery mechanisms.

Let’s discuss some known communication modes and dive bit deeper in those:

    • Speaking: Tone and body language is very important part of the verbal communication. Keep polite tone and do not show abrupt/impatient body language. Speed of the speech is also an important factor. Average speed of conversation is about 125-150 words/min while some rapid speakers talk @ 180 wpm. It is also important to know that majority of non-native English speakers cannot understand more than 120 wpm. Clarity of speech is also very important. Speak clearly and distinctively (no “couldja” for Could you). Summarize key points, avoid slangs, idiomatic expressions, ambiguous words, acronyms. Also try to keep sentences short and simple so people can understand the flow of your thoughts concisely.

 

    • Listening: Active and effective listening can lead to very robust conversation. Listening the viewpoints of others will help you understand core issue coming from different angles. It allows to triangulate information distortions, brings out any wrong perceptions may be fostered. This may also present key opportunities to break those wrong perceptions and build key relationships. Listening does not mean you keep quite, it means give time for others to explain their view points and the background. May take some more time but you would rather spent time on understanding people than going through issues later. Ask probing questions to find facts and separate them from perceptions. During team discussions, this helps to promote divergent views for options so everyone will have their say in how to solve the issue. I allows you to lead the discussions in building a solution based on convergent views by building consensus around chosen option.

 

    • Body Language: Body language is a form of non-verbal communication, which consists of body posture, gestures, facial expressions, and eye movements. Humans send and interpret such signals almost entirely subconsciously. As the following chart shows majority of the “meaning” of spoken words does not come from the literal meaning of those words. The true understanding of you are saying is formulated by spoken words, the tone of voice and accompanying body language.delivery

 

 

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