I was recently reading a study that found that close to 95% of people are unskilled, unpracticed or amateurs in the art of interpersonal communication. That shocked me. In essence, this study is saying that 95% of people “talk trash.”
Working toward mastery in communication is something I often talk to my clients about since we communicate all the time yet tend to think about it very little. This article outlines several key communication concepts that, when practiced and incorporated into your personal and professional conversations, really amp up your results and feel SO much better.
First, understand that you communicate ALL the time and it’s an extremely powerful and effective process when done mindfully. You began communicating at birth and will continue your entire life. In fact, the majority of your days are spent communicating, so communicating well is vital to the success of any endeavor. Even if you don’t actually say anything, you’re still communicating. You may even talk to yourself when you’re alone (I do this myself). And never underestimate the power of your inner voice to impact your quality of life in all areas.
There are many reasons for engaging in communication including to inform, to persuade, to entertain, to motivate, to structure and control or world and our understanding of our world, to create, to critique and make people feel comfortable (and in some cases to make people feel uncomfortable). You can develop effective communication habits like you would develop any skill: by coming to understand both the why and the how-to of communication and then practice, practice, practice.
Keep in mind that all behavior is potentially communication. Any aspect of your behavior may communicate something to someone if they perceive it as such. That’s why even when doing and saying nothing you may be conveying a message. In business it’s particularly important to be aware of this aspect of communication as it’s impossible to avoid being “on display.” You inevitably find yourself communicating something to someone whether you are aware of it or not. This is how reputations are formed. Managing your communication helps you manage your reputation and how you and your business are perceived in the world.
Let me share an interesting statistic about communication with you. The bulk of how we, as humans, communicate with each other actually has very little to do with our words. Body language – posture, eye contact, etc. - represents the majority of what actually influences people when you communicate. Body language accounts for 55% of understanding in communication. Your body language is impacted by your attitude and self-esteem so how you feel about yourself, your life and your message influences how well you communicate. Pretty interesting, isn’t it?
The quality of your voice – your tone, pitch, etc. – accounts for 38% of communication meaning that how you use your voice affects someone more than what you say. Picture someone whispering vs. shouting the same words or giving an authentic compliment vs. using a sarcastic tone of voice. Not surprisingly, the quality of our voice is also affected by how we feel about ourselves.
So, what percentage of the impact of our communication and the behaviors that result are influenced by the words we use? If you’ve been following the math, you know it’s a mere 7%! That’s pretty shocking when you think about it. Now, I’m a huge fan of words and believe strongly that we should pay careful attention to our words. However, the words alone, without the underlying attitudes, beliefs and sense of self, are virtually meaningless and won’t get you the desired results you want.
Keep these things in mind when communicating and you’ll notice that you are more effective and enjoy the process more, too.
© 2010 Ruth Hegarty
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