Nice and transparant, that communication of yours…

One of the main themes in our management and leadership programs is Communication. Something you never seem to have enough of. Something that is always complex. Something that is not getting the best score in employee satisfaction surveys. What makes communication in organizations that difficult? And how transparent is communication allowed to be?

Communication is mostly non-verbal

True to my profession I tend to watch with trainers’ glasses towards several Real Life Soaps on Television.  Not all participants are able to communicate verbally and some are rather introvert. Where others you can not seem to shut op and really say too much. In both cases, it creates many uncomfortable situations and you will look at your TV screen with great amazement.

Long time ago UCLA professor Albert Mehrabian did two researched on this topic.  He claimed you can display (non) verbal communication in numbers. Based on his experience he says communication is: .

  • 55% Visual (body language, gestures, posture)
  • 38% Vocal (Tone of voice, hard, soft, to-nation)
  • 7% Verbal (Arguments)

When you add 1 and 2 you will get the famous 93% everybody is writing and talking about since 1967. Communication is, says Mehrabian, mostly non verbal.  He said this estimate is more correct when communication is inconsistent – a situation where you verbally expresses something different than non-verbally.

Communication is saying what you think

Saying yes, think no, or the other way around, is something we all recognize. With the groups we guide we dig a little bit deeper in this phenomenon.  It is funny to see how the value game we use shows the participants what the effect of their feelings is. How this feeling is influencing what you say. How it is influencing how you look, sit, and stand. How, based on surrounding values and experiences you decide, in a split second, to say something different than you feel.   And let’s be honest. Sometimes it is not effective to really speak out loud what you were thinking at that same moment. But not listening to your own feelings and suppress them over and over again is the source of many conflicts in long term.  It will burst out eventually. My advice: learn how to recognize your own emotion. Give it some time, a little bit of air. This time-out will smooth the sharp edges. The feeling is still there, but your able to proceed with the conversation in a normal way.

It is a challenge to go from this dilemma to a dialogue. We tend to forget to talk. Often it looks on the surface like a dialogue, but if you would film the conversation and watch it back, you will notice we tend to step in the pitfall of a monologue. Many arguments, much convincing, talk-talk-talk but no listening.

Communication is a dialogue

How to go from dilemma to dialogue? Here are 4 steps, which can help:

  1. Manage expectations; be clear from the start about your own intentions and explore those of other by using open questions. This will make a good start. The follow-up will even be brilliant.
  2. Feedback; the best instrument there is. Unfortunately many do not use it all and leave it hidden in their toolbox. Mainly because we have in general quite a negative connotation with the word feedback. Strange, because it shows you paid attention, you have noticed the other one and you want to say something about that. It is recognition.
  3. Many people, many different wishes; the value game we use gives always a clear insight. An insight on what you value and how that is different from others. That insight creates understanding, and that creates cooperation.
  4. Embrace resistance and move; just because you have an opinion the other should not accept is simply because. Be always prepared for resistance. Put your ego in the fridge, next to your arguments and opinions, and try to be open for the other person’s opinions. Go from dilemma to dialogue!

Do you want to use the value game in your organization? Do you want to shift in communication from the dilemma to the dialogue? We are there to help! Please contact us.


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