There is no question that there is more communication than ever today.
Take a look at your small business communication and even your personal communication:
- Hundreds of e-mails
- 2-3 hours of TV
- Your favorite weekly (or daily) podcasts
- Hours per day on the computer
- That book you’re reading — plus the magazines, websites, and newspapers
- Those conference calls
- Time spent on social media
We send and receive a lot of information. The problem is, what do we really hear?
Answer: Despite Our Best Efforts, We Hear Very Little
When your focus is everywhere, it’s actually nowhere. That’s to say if you’re writing an e-mail while talking on the phone, it’s unlikely that you’re doing a very good job with either. People’s brains just aren’t wired that way.
One of the obvious characteristics of communication is the perceptions of the presenter and environment of the communication. What we all know and seldom acknowledge is that our perceptions of the presenter have a dramatic effect on our understanding and acceptance of the communication.
People always laugh when I say, “I am originally from Chicago but have lived in New York for 30 years. I have become a combative New Yorker, but my wife is still a nice person.”
These issues are frequently ignored when considering why people reject communication. We are so proud and convinced of what we are saying that we simply ignore how the perceptions of the listeners will alter our effectiveness. Mark Penn in “Microtrends” identifies 75 emerging groups in our population that bring different perceptions, needs, and experiences to their decision making.
Technology Can Get In The Way Of How We Communicate
A great example is PowerPoint, which is among the most overused current communication tools that ignores the needs of the audience. I certainly applaud the benefits of the technology, capabilities, ease of use, and its inherent ability to make presentations simpler and clearer.
However, it is a tool gone whacky. There is nothing worse than having the lights go out, and sitting through a 30-60-minute canned PowerPoint sales presentation that talks about how passionate, skilled, excellent, involved, experienced, and differentiated the supplier is. It isn’t engaging the audience they way they need to be engaged. They audience hears but doesn’t listen.
Improving Your Small Business Communication
There are simple actions required to improve communication. They are:
- Organizations and individuals with open communication are more effective. Practices like “need to know” are obsolete. The more people know, the more effective they are. The lower in the hierarchy communication is allowed, the more effective it is.
- Understanding what and who you are communicating with reduces the barriers to effectiveness. This can be a major barrier to success in mergers, organizational changes, and takeovers. People who have been on the front lines for years are suddenly ignored and replaced by outside “experts” with predetermined solutions.
- Communication also needs a “WIN-WIN” instead of a competitive environment. We all know positive feedback is received more favorably but continually revert to criticism, blame, and one-upmanship in pressure situations. As a result, we frequently provide more confusion than resolution.
In summary, we have tons of input to listen to and need to consider the environment, format, and purpose of the communication. To often, our goals, style, parameters, and time constraints dictate our communication. Instead, we need to make our purpose and our listeners much more of a priority.
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