There is a great children’s game where you whisper a secret in one child’s ear and the child must pass it on. It’s hilarious to hear the last child tell the others what they heard. The game is generally played in a short time span, in a confined space and with an established number of children.
We as 720thinkers invest a great deal of time trying to understand what affects communication flow. In business every day, believe it or not, we play the “whisper and pass it on” game every day. Only rules are changed, in business, even if you like to have fun and play games, this is one game that business leaders cannot afford to play without some serious consequences .
- Ability to hear. There are many way to “hear”, or not hear, the message. There are actual physiological issues that cause communication to be distorted. That in itself presents a challenge for both the sender and the receiver of the message. If the sender doesn’t speak loudly or clearly enough, the receiver may only receive part of a message. And although it is not physiological, often time people are listening with “one ear.” They are listening to the sender and also paying attention to the other conversations or music at the same time and so the message is diluted.
- Ability to understand. Unfortunately, today, the translation and comprehension levels globally are not the same. For example, reading levels in the United States have been “averaged” to be at the 3rd grade level. Now, factor in multi-cultural, multi-generation, multi-dialect and multi-perceptions of definitions of words and you really are setting your business up for a perfect storm of misunderstanding and miscommunication.
- Style of processing communication. There are many ways that people process information. Thinkers may prefer to use more concrete data and stay away from terms that address emotions. Feelers may be paying more attention to the tone and non-verbals. Unless, the participants are actively engaged and will to use all aspects of communications – words, tone and non-verbals – the message can, and often is, changed dramatically from the original intent.
- Listening. If the sender doesn’t convey how important the message is to the receiver, the receiver may be more passive in listening. Subsequently, important details and information can be left out. If the sender is too dramatic, the receiver may believe that a crisis in pending. And the message is totally blown out of proportion.
- Inappropriate communication. Not all messages are for all ears. Levels of authority and that nature of oftentimes sensitive information, are not taken into account. People like being in the loop and, unfortunately, they also like to share with others that they are “in.” This can be lethal to any organization.
These are the most obvious, and there certainly are many more factors that affect communications, so just to jump start understanding how far off course your flow is in communications consider the following:
- Minimizing all the distracting “noise” that can dramatically change how well people can “hear” the message
- Ask the receiver(s) to repeat back what they have heard so that there are no misunderstandings in the communication
- Invest some time in learning people’s styles of communication. Are they a thinker or feeler? Are they the attention to detail or more big picture and little content? Are they more visual and need to read the message? Or, are they auditory and need to talk it out?
- Be sure that both the sender and receiver are actively listening. Paying attention to verbal and non verbal cues can help avoid crisis if the situation merits or minimize drama for those who are prone to hysteria.
- Communication is not about gossip or about breaking confidence. Helping people understand that communication is a major element in keeping a business on course.
If business want to focus on their vision, objectives and goals, that thought and attention to the flow of communication in an organization will help them stay on course.