Sunday, 30 March 2014

Communication Skills

Link to the book:

Communication Skills  

Communication is a huge subject and I will touch only those parts which are relevant to the subject matter discussed in this book.

Till now, we have discussed many reasons why sometimes we do not get what we want from others and the main points we have deliberated or reflected upon are:

Our belief system
Non-negotiated expectations
Assumed competence

Another equally important reason is unclear communication.  While good communication skills as a process, is very simple in theory, yet it easily breaks down in practice.  There are many reasons for this as discussed in the following sections:

Barriers at the Psychological Level

To better understand this model we have to revisit the following:

Whenever we experience an activating event, two things happen. I pass it through my belief system which labels it for me (looks like, sound like, feels like, taste like - contexting it with any similar experience that I might have against my framework of reality based on my belief-system). The next thing that I do, I decide my relationship with it. I may or may not have one. Then, and only then I chose my consequential feeling about it. All this happens in the blink of an eye.

Now let me introduce another process related to activating events.

Any activating event in life can also do two other things for you --  It can either reinforce your belief system or it can challenge it.  What this means: if someone behaves with me in a particular manner (activating event) and it happens to match my memory of another person behaving similarly, resulting in a negative experience for me, then the chances exist, that even this particular new instance will trigger a negative response.  In other words, sometimes the person triggering the activating event may end up getting a different response from the recipient than what he was anticipating.  The reason is because of the recipient’s previous experience with a similar situation.

The following example of a door to door salesman defines the above concept reasonably well. If a very well dressed, honest looking salesman comes home and sells me something which later on turns out to be a bad product, I will feel cheated.  It is quite possible the next sales person, who is well dressed and honest has in fact a great product to sell at a cheap price.  If he makes a sales call to my home, he will be very surprised to note that I am not at all receptive.  In fact I could be downright hostile.

When we apply the above analogy into the arena of personal communications, it looks like this:  The sender of any message “encodes” the message based on his or her previous experience.  The receiver “decodes” or interprets that message based on his or her previous experience.  If the experience bases are different, the message can easily be misinterpreted.

As messages are construed, interpreted or deduced by the receiver, the sender’s intent may be radically different from how the message is understood by the receiver.  Very important thing to notice here (generally it evades most of us): the sender has no control over the final outcome of the message.  To overcome mental barriers related to our communications skills, we have responsibilities: both as a sender and a receiver of any message.

Rule number one: Stop assuming anything, forever.

Sender of Message:  Never assume people understand what you are saying.  Double check by following some of the common assertive methods, e.g. Declare clearly using a tone and body language which are in congruence (agreement, harmony, conformity) with your message.  The following statement, even though said by someone in joke, sums up the above:

“Before I tell you what I am going to tell you, let me first tell you, why I am going to tell you, what I am about to tell you.”

In other words: State why you are going to behave (here behave includes your message, tone and body language), the way you will behave, before you behave.

Message versus Intent

When we communicate with others face to face, the message comes across in three ways:

1. Spoken words
2. Tone
3. Body language

When we break it up by percentage, researchers have said that only 7 percent of our message is conveyed through spoken words, 38 percent is conveyed by the tone (it reveals our attitude and feelings) and 55 percent is conveyed via body language. Basically our body is always giving off a message.  In psychology that draws to a very important point and it is called INTENT, also known as non-verbal communication process.  The important thing to note here: if all of the above three channels (words, tone, body language) are not in congruence, the receiver may not understand the actual requirement.

While face to face communication is a powerful method to share information and discuss your requirements, do not be surprised if you don’t get what you wanted to get, based on your communication or discussion.

Why? Because clearly you’re intent was misinterpreted.

Remember, intent is huge in our lives. Researches have pointed out 95 to 98 percent of time why human communication breaks down is because of misinterpretation of intent. Our body and tone of our voice is always intending something, which means if our intent is not explicit (outwardly visible) but is implicit (subtle, masked, guarded, hidden) we run the risk of people misinterpreting it.

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