What You Said is Not what I Heard
by Loida Wilson on Feb 28, 2018 7:01 PM
Has this ever happened to you? You are speaking with someone and their response is not at all what you expected based on what you said. At least, what you thought you said! At Trilogy Partners, we frequently hear this frustration from business owners which prompts the question, do you communicate effectively?
Communication is complicated all by itself.
Imagine how complicated communication gets when we mix different cultural understandings, gender-speak, frustration, unhappiness, underlying tensions, and the pressure of expectations and deadlines. It’s amazing we get anything right with all the challenges of effective communication and these are just some of the barriers we face!
Communication ‘gaps’ create unexpected challenges – an example:
Recently, I facilitated a training class attended by leaders of a multinational company. Suddenly, there was a big “AHA moment”. While watching videos of themselves in conversation with each other, one leader after another said, “Why do I sound like that? That’s not the message that I was trying to convey.”
At that moment, it became self-evident that each person experienced a ‘gap’ between their intended message and their actual behavior when communicating that message. Why does this happen?
Components of effective communication.
How we say what we say makes a big difference in others understanding or even listening to our message. The value of our words is only one of many components of communication. When speaking – words are not nearly as important as your tone of voice and body language. It has been estimated that words account for only 7% of communication while tone is about 38% and body language is 55%. (Albert Mehrabian, 1967). How we say what we say has more meaning than the words themselves.
What these leaders saw in the video was the impact of their tone of voice and their body language. It was their tone that communicated most loudly. It communicated how they were feeling in a way so strongly, the words did not matter. And when they added in their body language, such as rolling eyes, dropping or shaking one’s head and even the use of a cell phone, the message was even stronger. One leader said, “I can’t believe I came across so harshly, so rude, so disrespectful. I really do like you guys, honestly!”
Remember, we judge others by their behavior; however, we judge ourselves by our intentions. These leaders had a gap between their intentions and their behavior.
- Tone is the most powerful tool when speaking. Being aware of your tone is critical to make sure your intended message is received the way you want.
- Feelings and attitudes beneath the surface show in tone and body language. Be aware that you may sound criticizing, attacking or even nasty when you are simply frustrated.
- Rely on others and check in with each other to ensure the right messages are getting across in the intended way. Asking others for feedback about your communication style is the beginning of changing the way you communicate.
Leadership is not about doing what is easy, it is about facing challenges and committing to change. This change needs to start with ourselves. Ask yourself how can you become a better communicator? And consider ways to gain an outsider’s perspective on your communication style.
If you are interested in improving your communication effectiveness, email me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 609-688-0428.