It is often said that the ability to communicate well with others is a skill that successful people have mastered. As success cannot really be achieved without input from other people, it follows that good communication skill becomes a vital and necessary ingredient.
It is also often said – wrongly – that a good communicator is someone who speaks well.
There is obviously much more to communication excellence than just being able to talk well. It takes at least two people to communicate interpersonally, so what do they see, hear and feel during this process? You can be absolutely clear and unambiguous, but the person you are communicating with can give you a totally unexpected reaction, resulting in complete misunderstanding. For example:
Communicator 1: ‘I’ve brought you Polly’s telephone number.’
Communicator 2: ‘I can’t phone her now – I’m too busy.’
Communicator 1: ‘I didn’t ask you to phone her now!’
Here Communicator 1 was absolutely clear, with an unambiguous message apparently unlikely to cause any misunderstanding, but he or she got an unexpectedly hostile reaction from Communicator 2, who completely misinterpreted Com -muni cator 1’s good intentions. No wonder we all think ‘We are just not communicating’ from time to time. We can psychoanalyse the above example endessly, but I would simply like to draw your attention to Communicator 2. Have you reacted the way this person did? Communication is not just what we say or do: it is also what we hear and see. If we are going to excel in communication it is necessary to respond to other people, rather than react, and there is a difference.
Think of it in terms of a doctor’s prescription – if you respond to the medicine it is doing you good, if you react it is not, and you need a change of medicine.
USING ALL YOUR SENSES
Let’s first identify the ways in which people process information. Normally, there are five major senses:
- kinaesthetic (feeling);
- auditory (hearing);
Most of us are fortunate to possess all five senses, but we will concentrate on the three major communication areas – the visual, kinaesthetic and auditory senses. It is important to accept at this stage that most people use all three. However, people are different in that some will use one area more predominantly than the other two.
So, how do you process information? Is your predominant sense visual, kinaesthetic or auditory? It is important to be aware of this, because to excel as a communicator you not only need to have a greater understanding of other people, but also need to have a greater understanding of yourself. This is known as emotional intelligence (EQ), which we will discuss in more detail later.
Here is a list of phrases that enable you to identify a person’s predominant sense.
- Visualise cue phrases: ‘see the sense’; ‘looks to me like’; ‘appears to me’; ‘short-sighted’; ‘see eye to eye’. Predominantly visual people normally speak fairly quickly, because they think in pictures. They try to make the speed of their words keep up with the speed of the pictures in their mind. They may greet you by saying ‘Nice to see you.’
- Kinaesthetic cue phrases: ‘it feels right’; ‘get to grips with’; ‘hand in hand’; ‘slipped my mind’; ‘let’s lay the cards on the table’. Interpersonal Communication Predominantly kinaesthetic types normally speak fairly slowly, because they are reacting to their feelings and sometimes have trouble finding the right words to match those feelings. They may greet you by saying ‘How are you?’, which of course means ‘How are you feeling?’.
- Auditory cue phrases: ‘I hear what you’re saying’; ‘loud and clear’; ‘unheard of’; ‘word for word’. Predominantly auditory people also speak fairly slowly with a well-modulated voice, using words carefully and selectively. They may greet you with ‘I heard you were coming today’, or they may say ‘I hear the job’s going well’.
It is easy to see how two people who share the same predominant sense can communicate well with each other, while two people who have different predominant senses can find themselves talking at cross purposes, leading to a communication breakdown and the message not getting through.
If you encounter difficulties communicating with someone with a different predominant sense, what is the answer? Very simple – just change the language in order to communicate more effectively. Use the appropriate language for the appropriate person, both spoken and written. If you are a predominantly kinaesthetic person talking to a predominantly visual type, use expressions such as ‘I see it this way’, or ‘It doesn’t look right’, rather than ‘My feeling is’, or ‘I don’t feel comfortable with this’.
The subconscious effect of this is often called creating communication rapport or, more commonly, creating the right chemistry. Have you ever met someone for the first time and instinctively disliked them? This is commonly referred to as ‘bad chemistry’ or ‘bad vibes’, but it is often down to the fact that you are not talking the same language when it comes to communicating. Conversely, two people with the same predo – minant sense will probably get on very well right from the start.
HOW TO LISTEN WELL
We learn more by listening than we ever do by talking, so it is absolutely crucial to listen well. It is claimed that a woman can listen to two or three conversations simultaneously, whereas a man can only listen to one at a time. We have two ears and one mouth and that is the ratio by which they are best used. Here are three important points to bear in mind while listening to someone: