The Art of Communication

It should come as no surprise to many that communication is cited as being one of the biggest challenge/problems in many organisations today. Ironically, this claim exists at a time when more communication methods and channels are available than ever before. I mean we have email, text, phone, messenger, intranet, social media, the powerful face to face, and yes, even the good old grape vine.

I remember a company I once worked with deciding to trial an email freeze for one day each week. If you had something to communicate, you got off your backside and went directly to the person.  I completely understood the rationale as some people were receiving in excess of 100 emails per day, many of which were irrelevant,  but it didn’t last that long.

On a different note, I was recently leading a group discussion which involved watching a short video clip. When I asked the group of about 12 people what a key person said on screen during the clip, every single person watching gave a different account. It really let me see how easily communication can drift off course.

Apart from the concentration and listening aspect of communication, I believe the reason why it is noted as a problem today is more to do with the people than the system, or indeed methods.

What do I mean?

Well, I mean it’s important to take time, step back and think about the ‘why’ and ‘what’ of communication rather than the how (that can come later).

‘Why’ we communicate is a good place to begin. It’s also the time to consider who really needs to see or hear it. The ‘what’ has more to do with the content being explained, requested or presented. So many of the issues I come across are to do with ‘encoding and decoding.’ Encoding is the presenting of the message in a way that can be easily explained. Decoding on the other hand is about seeing things from the reader’s perspective and how a message will be unwrapped.

(When it comes to sensitive issues, or times of crisis, often people only see or hear certain things – it’s as if they have a blind spot).

Therefore, misread messages can often be due to either content or tone, and have a way of inflaming people and missing the point completely.

The fact is that methods are many today and everything is instant.  So often, the message has been rushed together and sent out into cyber space with little time for reflection, or indeed considering the potential adverse impact . It’s little wonder then when we encounter backlash to emails, or voicemails, which in turn trigger a whole other communication sequence of a different kind.

The art of communication is a complex topic, but when given sufficient time and thought, it can be very effective indeed.

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