Have you ever heard someone say “If people would just listen to me, they would understand what I’m trying to say!” At the very basic level, this comment seems quite reasonable. We make a statement, we are clear with the words that we say, people should understand what we said. If it were only that simple; but it isn’t. Why is that?
There is a lot more to communication than just the words. In fact, those on the receiving end of your communication only pick up about 7% of their understanding from the words that you say. 38% of their understanding comes from the paraverbal, or how you say the words. That includes how loud or soft your voice is, how fast or slow you speak, and the emphasis or intensity you use. A whopping 55% of their understanding comes from the non-verbal cues you send when you speak. Non-verbal cues include your facial expression, eye contact, how you use your hands, the position of your arms, and your use of personal space.
So now that you know that communication includes verbal, paraverbal, and non-verbal components, you’re good to go, right? Nope, being aware of the three components of communication is a good start, but there is even more you need to do to insure what you are communicating is received as you intended it to be. There is a 4-step model that helps when planning to communicate.
PEOPLE – PURPOSE – PREPARATION – PRESENCE
PEOPLE. Make sure you are tailoring your message to the receivers’ interest and goals. You may have some people who can quickly absorb and process the information you share with them verbally. They get the concept quickly. Others though, may need to spend more time thinking, asking questions, or even reading information, in order to fully grasp your message. Knowing the communication styles and preferences of each individual with whom you communicate, is critical to the success of your message being understood.
PURPOSE. Be clear and explicit. What are the benefits to the receiver? Why do they need to know about this? Why should they care about it? How will this impact them? We have an incredible ability to filter out background noise, conversations, a television show, the radio, and whatever unimportant chatter is buzzing around us. But the moment we hear our name mentioned, or a topic that is very important to us, or highly interesting, we pick up on it, almost immediately. This is precisely why you must consider why your message is important to the receiver, and provide that information early on in your communication, otherwise, you risk losing their interest from the start.
PREPARATION. Plan what you need to communicate and how you will do it. You’ve heard the phrase “Failing to plan is planning to fail.” Practice what you will say. It will make a big difference in your effectiveness. The best speakers and communicators rehearse what they plan to say. Some people claim they are best when they just “wing it”. Few people, however, are skilled at delivering a meaningful message, that the receivers fully understand, without planning and preparation.
PRESENCE. This is the paraverbal and non-verbal components. Where will you be when you communicate? Will you be sitting or standing? What’s your facial expression? Again, the best speakers and communicators rehearse what they plan to say. They anticipate the questions that may come up and prepare answers ahead of time. Want to be really effective? Try practicing in front of a mirror. You may feel awkward at first, but this is the very best way to prepare, especially if you will be speaking in front of a group of people.
Now, when so many of us are working remotely, the chances of misunderstandings are even higher than they used to be. The best environment for clear communication is face to face. The new reality is now screen to screen. It is not quite as conducive as face to face, but with practice, we will all get better at it.
As a sender of communication, you must assume that you will be misunderstood, at least some of the time, by some of the receivers of your message. By following these tips, and by paying attention to the receivers of your message to check for their understanding, you can help reduce the chance of miscommunication.
So remember, just because you’ve thrown that ball of communication out there does not necessarily mean your job is done. Be sure to follow that ball all the way through to insure there has been a clear and clean reception on the other side.
For more help in developing your communication skills, visit the About Us tab on our website. Also, send us a note by visiting the Contact Us tab. Retail Level Up offers training, coaching, and consulting services to retailers and those who work in the retail industry.