Thursday, July 18, 2013

They Are Always Communicating

The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn't said.  –Peter Drucker

Just as everything about you is always communicating, so too is your audience (be it one person or ten) always communicating with you—even when they are not saying a word.

We all are aware of this reality. Maybe you have perceived that, while an individual was speaking cheerfully, their demeanor was rigid and fearful. Or what about the time you were speaking with someone whose eyes were glued to yours as if she were hanging on every word, but you intuited that her mind had wondered off? There was something about her giving you important information--information that you will want to utilize.

It is difficult, if not down right impossible, to pay attention to what my audience is communicating if I am inside my own head, concentrating solely on my what I am communicating. Some of the most authentic people I know are so focused on speaking the truest sentence possible that they are oblivious to all the non-verbal communication that is going on around them. These people are not communicating. They may be speechifying, talking, or bearing their souls, but communication takes place between two or more people. If I am not paying attention to your verbal and non-verbal communication, and responding accordingly, then I am not listening to you. If I am not “listening,” we are not communicating.

Whenever I look at my notes, I am taking my attention away from the people with whom I am communicating. 

When I chose to ignore the fact that people are nodding off, reading a book, glaring at me with fire in their eyes, shoulders are heaving with silent tears, have a blank stare, or are fidgeting with car keys, I have ceased communicating.

When I am thinking about what I am going to say next, once you shut up, we are not communicating.

Don’t get stuck on only thinking and feeling your own thoughts and feelings, but continually reach inside the hearts and minds of your audience, and feel how he/she/they are experiencing and hearing you, and ask yourself: is this what I am intending? Is that going to move me closer to my intended outcome?

Pay attention to what your audience is telling you. What are they responding to and what are they missing or ignoring? What are their postures, breathing patterns, and eyes (the window to their souls) communicating? What is his silence or her skipping over major points of your communication while responding to you, communicating? Are they listening to you, or are they still thinking about a point you made five-minutes ago? Does your audience understand what you are saying, or are they “hearing” something you are not intending to communicate?

Calibrate: constantly be aware of what your audience is communicating, determining whether or not they are moving along in the direction you intend, and then adjust your communication strategy accordingly. Unless you are only interested in getting it off your chest, giving me a piece of your mind, spitting out your spiel, or chastising me for being stupid, insensitive, foolish, hard headed, myopic, a heretic, blind to what’s good for me, or whatever else that got in the way of you attaining the goal of your communication. If that’s the case, you just go ahead and deliver your data and emote all you want. I’ll be over here reading Sports Illustrated.

Copyright, Monte E Wilson, 2013

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