Saturday, October 26, 2013

"That's your problem!"

There are several things that many of us use to deflect problems caused by attempts to accurately communicate.  Here are some.

"You know what I meant."
"That's not what I said and you know it."
"It was never my intent to insult anyone."
"That's your problem, not mine."

We forget that each of us is separate and different from the other.  Even with the same parents there are very real differences.  We also imagine that what we are thinking is pretty much what everyone else is thinking.  Even if our thoughts are "in the same ballpark," they can't be the same since we all have different meaning in our minds for nearly everything. This awareness should force us to take great care when our intent has an impact that is not expected.

Some precautions that would be useful to keep in mind from Richard Magid in a useful article about Intent vs. Impact.

"Challenge One: Every message must first pass through the filter of the speaker’s clarity of expression and then through the listener’s ability to hear what is said.
(Opportunity #1 for Intent not to equal Impact)
Challenge Two: We don’t actually know the intentions of the people we communicate with; often times we assume/judge their intentions based on their actions which may cause their words to impact us unfavorably.
(Opportunity #2 for Intent not to equal Impact)
Challenge Three: Good intentions do not sanitize bad impact.
(“Good Communication” - INTENT must = IMPACT)"

So how do we improve the chance that what our intent is creating the proper impact?  Magid points out some solutions.

"First, ask yourself some questions:
- What just occurred?
- How is the outcome different from what I intended/expected?
- Where can I take responsibility?
- How do I clean this up?
Second, take action to clean up mismatches of intent and impact as quickly as you can:
- Be honest about your intention.
- Discuss with the other person, their perspective.
- How could you have handled the communication differently?
- Take responsibility for your actions.
Things to Remember/Action Steps:
• “An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
• As you communicate with others on a day-to-day basis, strive for Good Communication. Pay attention to the signs that there may be a mismatch between your intent and your impact on a colleague, friend, or someone at home and take immediate action."

Melanie Tannenbaum has some excellent thoughts on what to do about ideas like, "But I didn't mean it!"  First, it would be an excellent plan to assume that sooner or later you will "put your foot in your mouth."  Harm can be done and a thought pattern would be useful.  Tannenbaum says, "So, the point is that we really need to focus on impact, not intent. Was someone hurt by something? Was there a negative outcome? Did someone suffer? If so, that is what’s important. Whether or not the perpetrator meant to cause harm is not."

To say the least, human communication is difficult.  It is worthy of great attention.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Business and Cross-Cultural Communication

Johann Joh explains the potential of problems in communication in this YouTube and some of the considerations that must be made if the stated goals are to be reached.

Cross-Cultural Communication in the Business World

Steve Klemme is a banker and has clients outside the United States.  He has to serve both his corporation and their clients successfully.  Not an easy task, but in this YouTube he gives us an idea of how that can be accomplished.

Another View of Cultural Communication

Dr. Robert Moran talks about high and low context as it directly pertains to language.  This short YouTube should add another dimension to our understanding of culture and communication.

Wednesday, October 09, 2013

LIstening: TED Talk

This speaker says a great deal in just over 7 minutes that can be of value to all of us.  Julian Treasure, the speaker, thinks we are losing our ability to listen.  He may be right.  Watch this and of course, listen.


There is great safety in listening.  Fights can be avoided, opportunities seized, friendships built, raises obtained and many other benefits.  Below is a re post discussing listening which is fitting at this time.

(First posted in April 17, 201. There are many articles published on listening and much can be learned.  Skillful listening is critical to success in reaching our goals.)

Much of the time we confuse hearing and listening. They are different. Hearing is something that many of us can do with varying capabilities. Some need hearing aids and some can hear sounds that are well in excess of the "normal range." Almost none of us are willing to concede that our hearing is something that we should always protect. Aging robs even those who can hear well. How well you can hear makes a difference. If you can't hear the subtleties of pronunciation then you can't include them in your conversation. If those subtleties are necessary for the proper understanding of what you are saying, then you have a problem.

Listening is much more complicated. It includes the attributes of hearing and much more. As mentioned in the book "Communication: Principles for a Lifetime," listening involves such things as:
1. Selecting certain stimuli out of all the stimuli around us. Not only what is apparently being "said" but how it is being "said."
2. Focusing on a particular stimulus or message. The ability to block out stimuli while paying careful attention to specific stimuli.
3. Assigning meaning to messages. Your meaning, of course, but more importantly what "they" mean.
4. Recalling information(stimuli)that has been communicated. There are barriers here that are often ignored.
5. Responding or confirming your understanding of a message. Now you're in a position to "say" something.

The barriers need some thought. There are many and here is a brief list.
1. Rest: the ability to concentrate on everything that is being "said" verbally and non-verbally over a period of time takes energy. After long periods of listening you really should be tired. Don't confuse physical and mental exercise. They both require effort.
2. Health: clearly, if you are sick, concentration is not a reasonable expectation. All you really want to do is get well, then maybe you can concentrate.
3. Physical fitness: in order to have a reserve of energy you must be physically fit and able to think and concentrate over a period of time.
4. Freedom from stress: if you're having personal problems anywhere in your life it makes listening a very difficult task.
5. Drug free: legal or not, anything that affects your abilities think, focus, recall and respond to what is being "said" will get in the way.

Listening is not simple or easy. The more we know about it the better the chances are that we will be able to listen. The question is, "To whom are we listening?" The list is really long, but some that may hit close to home are: children, spouse, parents, grand-parents, friends, fellow employees, supervisors, officials of all kinds and the list goes on.

Listening is central in many ways to being able to reach your personal goals. In addition, those who can listen well are able to help those around them making improvements to the lives of those around them. Listening is really important.

Monday, October 07, 2013

Know What You Are Saying

Over coffee recently, we discussed how conversations are encouraged and how useful they are.  This statement was made; "You seem to know everything about the folk around here." From the question you might not be certain how to take it: negatively or positively

At first the comment was taken as negative: as in nosy, prying, pushy.  The reaction was a quick denial.   "These people just wanted to talk and I listened."  A third party chimed in and said , "People don't just stop me so they can talk", so it wasn't just the fact that these people just wanted to talk. You must have said something. It was accepted that there must have been some sort of "solicitation"  to converse.

After considerable discussion, denials, accusations and disbelief it finally boiled down to two things. First, we all agreed that it was not negative ask questions. The defensive statement was reasonable saying, "Of course I ask questions.  That's how conversations are maintained."  And that is true.  In addition, if you are just a face with no apparent interest in what is being said the conversation will be short or nonexistent. 

We often ignore the nonverbal aspect of communication. If you look like someone who might "know", folk will ask you.  If you look like someone who is as lost as anyone else, why would they ask? Some of us appear to be open to a conversation and some of us less so. When you are apparently open to a conversation you are much more likely to find yourself in a conversation.

Keep in mind, it is impossible to avoid communicating.  Ask yourself, what am I saying?  Don't forget that communication is irreversible.

Wednesday, October 02, 2013

Words Are Important

We often hear folk say, "Talk is cheap."  In many ways, that is correct.  But, it tempts us to ignore the power of words.  Take a look at this example found on YouTube and you'll get another impression of the power of words. 

The more we think about what we say and how we say it the better off we all will be.