I recently shared a piece on social media and received some great dissenting opinions, which led to a few conversations and debates. After I responded I got many messages asking why I was so accommodating and responsive to the disagreements. As a High Perfomance Coach who interacts with different people on a daily basis, communication is one of the core skills I require.
Merrian Webster explains communication as a process by which information is exchanged between individuals through a common system of symbols, signs, or behavior. At its core, communications is the use of messages to generate meaning, both within and across a myriad of cultures, contexts, channels, and media. It allows us to reach mutual understandings and overcome barriers in political settings, social movements, and our everyday lives. It advances culture, facilitates business, changes perceptions, and provides insight.
So in essence, in communication, there is a possibility of being either understood or misunderstood depnding on what you say and how you say it. Also, in certain cases, the communicator may strongly influence the agreement or disagreement. In writing the piece that led to the controversial feedback, I had never imagined the import. But having had several constructive exchanges with clients to get them to a point of understanding, the backlash was actually fuel for me. I was not determined to respond in justification of what I had shared. Rather, I was keen to listen to the thoughts from my followers which would help me assess again what I had shared. The engagement also reminded me of core concepts that I share in my Coaching sessions about Communication and Relationship Mastery.
One of the unique situations I had touched on was a situation that I define as “Communication Miscommunication” simply meaning, others disagree with what you say or write. The essence of communicating is to be understood, to gain clarity and also give same to others. But we do not always end up fulfilling this. Sometimes, our communication may end up miscommunicating and in that case, it means one of the following 4 things have happened:
The challenge of UNDERSTANDING
This stems from your choice of Wording or Grammar and also your approach to communication. Most of us may not be mindful of the fact that, the people we speak to are not always familiar with certain terms, slang, jargons or jokes we use. In some cultures, what may be a meaningless and silly joke could be a very offensive thing to say in another culture. Even when we consider the type of language used in communicating, most people will immediately assume it is English. To give a clearer example, let’s consider Ghana and how common it is to find almost everyone in Accra speak the local language “Twi” to you without even finding out if that is a language you speak and understand. It is the same way we jump into conversations without properly understanding the kind of person we are speaking to before we engage them. To communicate effectively, it is important to get to know your audience first. Each audience is different, and will have different preferences and cultural norms that should be considered when communicating. A good way to understand expectations is to ask members of the audience for examples of good communicators within the organization. The number one reason conversation and communication is necessary is to get the next man to undertand your point of view and possibly come to a common point of understanding. But how is this achieved when you use unfamiliar language or terms, or use a tone of voice which may otherwise seem harsh or confrontational? In communication, the content of a conversation is as important as how that content is communicated. Many of us believe communication is only about what is said, but “in 1971, Albert Mehrabian published a book, Silent Messages, in which he discussed his research on non-verbal communication. He concluded that prospects based their assessments of credibility on factors other than the words the salesperson spoke. The prospects studied assigned 55 percent of their weight to the speaker’s body language and another 38 percent to the tone and music of their voice. They assigned only 7 percent of their credibility assessment to the salesperson’s actual words. So effective communication must be approached as a holistic subject” – Yaffe Philip, 2011. To communicate clearly and confidently, adopt proper posture. Avoid slouching, folding your arms or making yourself appear smaller than you are. Instead, fill up the space you are given, maintain eye contact and (if appropriate) move around the space. While you do all this, be mindful of what you say and the tone of voice you say it with. “A essence of a good speech is what it says. This can be enhanced by vocal variety and appropriate gestures. But these are auxiliary, not primary.” Both oratory and body language matter. Aim to do both properly.
The challenge of EXPECTATIONS
Every individual you engage in a conversation may have expectations of what they should leave with after they talk to you. The same goes for you; as you exchange information, you will be expecting to be more knowledgable on the subject matter, or have certain fears allayed, or have certain misconceptions debunked. Whatever the situation may be, there is always an expectation of the outcome. Now, having expectations is not wrong. In fact, when you have expectations before you engage someone, it gives you a sense of direction as to what to talk to the person about, especially in cases where you are trying to source for educational information. In other instances, you may be seeking to get clarity from the person or vice versa. It helps to always get a sense of what the other person is trying to get out of the conversation so you can speak to the best of your abilities and help the person get the clarity they need. It is not in your place to manage people’s expectations. What you are responsible for, is knowing what information to share and doing that as clearly and as simply possible. Remember who you are talking to. What would you want to hear? How would you want to hear it? Take a moment to sit on the other side of the table.
The challenge of PERCEPTION
This comes from lack of clarity in your messaging and leaves the communication to guess work. Communication is always done from a certain perspective, having a certain perception of the situation and the person. Miscommuniccation sets in when communication is unclear, sets in doubt and creates room for misunderstanding or assumptions. Whether you are writing or communicating verbally, your audience should be always clear on whatever information you are sharing. It is good practice to check every few minutes with your audience by asking, “do you have any questions?” “are you clear on everything so far?” “would you like to make some contributions?” This way, you can tell whether they have fully understood you and if they are unclear, it will reflect in their feedback. Although the commenting feature on social media may not always be a good thing, the value in having it is that, you can get feedback on whatever you share. I have interacted with many people who are afraid of feedback because it is not shared in a positive and encouraging way. However, when feedback is given constructively on any communication you share, you can confidently assess yourself and the information and make bold changes that will make you better in terms of the quality of content you share, your style of sharing, yout tone of voice, etc. When giving feedback, include details that might be misconstrued and emphasize things they have missed or failed at in the past.
The challenge of REACTION
This comes from your Reputation. When people know your reputation they naturally react positively because they know, like and trust you. It is normal human behaviour to feel easy and relaxed around people we are familiar with. We are less aggressive with the way we confront them on things we disagree on because we may have a bit more perspective on their thoughts and comments. In reverse, when people are now getting to know you, a negative reaction is normal. A negative reaction is not always a negative thing. In fact, that may be the purest and rawest form of truth you can receive on your communication. There is higher chance that such reactions are objective and will clearly indicate the loopholes in your communication. As a form of encouragement, positive reactions also highlight strong points in your communication, indicating which areas you can develop and take mastery of.
The most important thing to remember is constructive criticisms and disagreements can be made a big part of positive conversations when you step into both shoes objectively and with emotional intelligence! As with most leadership skills, receiving honest feedback from peers, managers and members of your team is critical to becoming a better communicator. If you regularly solicit feedback, others will help you to discover areas for improvement that you might have otherwise overlooked.
Are you ready for TRANSFORMATION?
Dzigbordi K. Dosoo: The H.E.L.P. Coach
Dzigbordi K. Dosoo is a Personal Impact, Professional Growth and Influence Expert specializing in Humanness, Entrepreneurship, Leadership and Power – H.E.L.P.
A career spanning over two decades, she has established herself as a Certified High Performance Coach, Speaker, Author, Wellness Expert and award-winning Entrepreneur with a clientele ranging from C-Suite Executives, Senior Management, Practitioners and Sales Leaders spanning 3 continents.
She is the Founder of Dzigbordi K. Dosoo (DKD) Holdings; a premier lifestyle business group with brand subsidiaries that include Dzigbordi Consulting Group& Allure Africa.
She is one of the most decorated female entrepreneurs in Ghana having being named “CIMG Marketing Woman of the Year” in 2009; “Top 10 most respected CEOs in Ghana, 2012; Global Heart of Leadership Award and, Women Rising “100 Most Influential Ghanaian Women”, 2017. She has also been featured on CNN.
She can be reached on firstname.lastname@example.org and @dzigbordi across all social media platforms.