Simplistically, verbal communication is often considered the to be the foundation of exchanging information and undoubtedly the spoken word is central to successfully conveying a message. However, it is often forgotten that aside from the actual words spoken, the pitch, volume and intonation of speech can drastically alter the message conveyed. Illustrated aptly when individuals learn an Asian language, for example, the mere tone of your voice can easily alter the meaning of a word, let alone whether the sentence is spoken as a statement or a question. Accordingly, it is clear that confusion and miscommunication is not uncommon in these situations and should, at all costs, try to be avoided. However, it is not only cross-cultural communication where problems exist, but rather in numerous daily situations; with clients, colleagues, teams, departments, organisations and even family and friends. Thus, it is paramount for one to consider the entire array of ways the spoken word can influence one’s communicating ability in conveying an intended message.
It is not only the spoken word that influences the message we convey. Non-verbal communication is always underestimated in its ability to impact on relaying information. Unless the mind, body and mouth are expressing the same thing, the ability to communicate a concise and clear message is lost. Unquestionably, facial expressions and eye contact can impact immensely one’s ability to communicate clearly. We have all been in a setting when someone appears to be talking to you, yet they are clearly trying ‘to find someone else’ in the crowd rather than speak to you. How did this make you feel? Did you want to listen at all to what they had to say? Clearly the answer is ‘NO’ and regardless of what they said to you, this reaction was solely derived from their non-verbal communication. Importantly, it is not merely the face that can have such an impact. Body posture, orientation, proximity and gestures can also influence immensely one’s ability to convey information, as well as the type of information we are conveying. Without careful observing our paralinguistic phenomena, one’s ability to work within any setting is questionable, illustrating the essence of this facet of communication.
Effective communication is not merely conveying a message to others. It also includes the essential element of listening and providing feedback. Can you ever remember being involved in a conversation whereby someone merely blurted out sentence after sentence without stoping to take a breath and then turned to leave before you have even opened your mouth? And was your reaction to this communication positive? The need to understanding another’s perspective is essential in order to successfully communicate a message to someone. It is mandatory to listen empathetically, comprehend and understand the other person’s viewpoint and thereby direct the conversation at a level corresponding to their present state of mind. This allows for a 2-way dialogue to share information, clarify all parties’ understanding and ensure that the message has been successfully conveyed. There is a reason why communication cannot be successful with only one person, thus we should not attempt to communicate as if only one person is present.
The ability to create an arrangement of diverse individuals that strive together to produce, from each of their own unique experiences, an orchestra striving for one common goal is certainly the vision of a great leader. Undeniably this common goal and this arrangement cannot exist without successful verbal and non-verbal communication and effective listening, the essence to effective communication and the cornerstone to success in today’s developed world.
Effective Communication was authored by Miss Mikhaila Lazanyi (VIC) as part of her 2008 AFMW Leadership Scholarship.