Thoughts on communication

A lot has been said about the importance of communication in our life – be it personal or family life, social life or work life. I have worked in fields – sales & marketing and training – where communication is extremely important. Here is an attempt to pen down some of my thoughts on communication.

Whenever we communicate with someone, there are two parts of the message: the content and the emotion – which is nothing but the vehicle to carry the contents of the message.

Most often, we give so much importance to the vehicle that the content becomes secondary. The listener has to learn how to separate the content from the emotions to get the true meaning. Emotion is not so important, focus on the contents. Having separated content from the emotion, pass the content through your own filters – to ensure what comes in is right and appropriate. Be just and open while filtering.

I have come across many situations when the boss has distanced himself away from the colleagues only because one has not taken due care while communicating.

I met one of my friends some time back. He was very upset when we met. While we started to chat, he continued to drift away from the conversation. I asked him what was going on. Incidentally, he was just out of a feedback session with his boss. In the session, his boss had used very offensive language while giving the feedback. When he repeated the actual words spoken, I was quite shocked since I knew the boss also well. Knowing the boss, I had an idea that the feedback may not be completely wrong, but still the language used was so offensive that my friend was not ready to get the true feedback and kept on worrying about the actual words used.

I told my friend not to worry a lot about what was actually said and asked him to concentrate on the incident, which caused the boss to give this kind of feedback. We went over the incident – there were two incidents, in fact – and realized that in one case, while my friend had been a bit careless, the second was a case of misunderstanding between the two. Having probed deeper into the two incidents, the things were now very clear to my friend. The next day, he went to his boss – apologized for his carelessness in the first instance and clarified the misunderstanding in the second.

This made a lot of sense to the boss and he appreciated the fact that my friend took the initiative and looked at the feedback session in quite an objective manner. He also apologized for his use of wrong words.

This was a simple case of separating the content from emotions. The moment one does that, the mind becomes a lot clearer. Issues come out on the surface and one can then address those. This not only helps solve the issues, it also builds better relationships.

The other side of the above story is when you want to convey a message. The vehicle better be strong and powerful enough to imprint the message. In order to convey a message properly various emotions – humor, anger, concern, fear, etc. – may need to be mixed with one’s words. At the same time, the content and the feelings need to be aligned properly – if one wishes to thank someone and send the words “thank you” through the vehicle of boredom – how will the listener take it? There is no genuineness.

This sounds like a contradiction – you need to separate the content from the emotions while listening but you need to mix the two while sending out a message. And it is not like what happens in electronic communication when the transmitter mixes two frequencies for better transmission and the receiver unit separates the two signals on receipt. That happens for better transmission of the signals. In case of the communication we are referring to – the inter-personal communication – we need to behave as I have suggested since we are dealing with humans and generally a normal human being is an emotional person.

Now, someone might feel that I am suggesting you to be artificial and use the feelings just to get your work done even if you may not be feeling that way. Let me assure you that if one is faking the emotions, one may not be successful over longer periods. Abraham Lincoln has very rightly said:“You can fool all the people some of the time, and some of the people all the time, but you cannot fool all the people all the time.” The feelings you have and the feelings you use to convey a message have to be in line and that will happen only if you strongly believe in what you are saying. Fakes have a very short shelf life.

Another important point to always remember is that God has sent us to this Earth with a manual on communication. He has given us one mouth and two ears – His message is clear: maintain the same ratio in all your communications. Many of us reverse it – we speak double of what we hear.

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