Really? Somewhere along our human evolutionary process some of us swapped the concept of speaking one’s mind with being careless about the impact or effectiveness of our words. The message became the focus rather than the impact of the message.
To be clear, I am a staunch advocate for clarity in communications. It is this clarity that creates effective communication which is in turn is one of the most basic interpersonal skills that are greatly sought after by employers of all kids.
Is it possible then to “just tell it like it is” without breaking our cultural norms for polite conversation? Absolutely! Let’s break down what is at the core of wanting to speak one’s mind:
- I want to be true to my convictions
- I have an important message to deliver
- I refuse to be a “me too” person and just go with the flow
- I take pride in my preparations, assessments, and when I am asked for my opinion… Well, they’re going to get it.
Well, that’s admirable!
So, if you resemble those four remarks, then what is truly important to you is for your hard earned information to be delivered untainted, un-adulterated, un-biased. You want your message to be your message and not some redacted version of it. You want to deliver the message you have and not necessarily the message someone else wants to hear… right? You want your message to hit the mark! (right! you say)
Before I share my suggestions, let me get a little Dr. Phil on you: “How’s that working out for you?”
Let’s consider the process of conversation from a psychological point for just a minute. A conversation’s flow is made up of the sender and the receiver interaction – independent of the topic and method of delivery. Whether you like it or not, having only one telephone will not get you communicating with anyone unless there is a receiver on the other end. You have to dial their number, find the other person available, and then engage them in conversation. Human conversations in person work the same way.
Besides the common courtesies of our society (which vary from culture to culture), there is a fundamental process that has to take place for a conversation to flow. This is called looping. According to Daniel Goleman in his book “Social Intelligence” (Random House, Inc., 2006), “looping lets feelings, thoughts, and actions synchronize.” You’ve seen extreme examples of looping between a mother and child cooing, between dancers, between a conductor and the orchestra.
Visualize a line of communications flowing from you to the other person and back from them to you. When we converse with another human, we are sending and receiving a tremendous amount of information below the conscious mind for better or worse. If we’re happy we’re transmitting positive and even tender feelings. If we’re not, we may be sending signals of tension or rancor that subconsciously drive the other person away – without them or us even realizing why.
It is widely accepted that only about 7% of the communication of a message is conveyed in the words we use. That message you want to “just tell it like it is” is only 7% words. Your tone during the conversation will convey about 38% of the message.
What do you believe if 7% of a person is telling you “yes”, but 38% of the same person is telling you “no”? But wait, there is more… those two percentages only add up to 45%. We’re not even half-way yet… Your facial expression and body language will deliver the other 55% of the message! If you think I’m pulling your leg, then Google the terms: “Nonverbal communication” and read any of the over a million hits if you want to check my facts.
But let’s get back to “wanting to tell it like it is.” Can we deliver the message effectively without compromising it? Yes, we can. Remember what you say verbally is only a small portion of the conversation. It will hardly be effective if you miss on the other 93%…
So, what can be done about this? How can you just tell it like it is?
Let’s determine first what you are trying to accomplish by delivering your message. Are you looking to persuade the other person? If so, you will have to ask questions first. You will need to fully understand their point of view and their emotional ties to it before you can present your own argument – your 7% of the message. Without this knowledge, you’d be showing up to play a game with a bat not knowing your opponent is playing tennis.
Perhaps, you’re trying to educate? If so, it would be very helpful to understand where the other person’s level of knowledge is, don’t you think? Once again, you find yourself asking questions to determine how in depth your delivery should be so it does not go over the other person’s head. Do you have to establish a base of knowledge for the other person to understand and relate to that 7% of the message? Do you have a dissertation prepared and all you needed were brief summary with bullets?
Maybe all you are doing is reporting back after an assignment. You might like to be a little like Sergeant Joe Friday in DRAGNET and deliver “just the facts, Ma’am.” However, we now know that there is much more to delivering your report if your intent is for it to be understood and acted upon. You have to consider the soil in which your seeds of wisdom will be planted. Sometimes, we have to prepare the soil first and not to carry the metaphor to far… fertilize it.
So the message here is one of encouragement. There is no sacrifice of self when we take the time to learn about the person to whom we will deliver a message. Be honest with yourself, do you just want to throw up information and turn around satisfied or do you care if there is someone there to catch it?
In my practice, I work with professionals of all walks of life that are learning how to employ new knowledge to be applied to their business. Such includes emotional intelligence (awareness of your own emotions and those of others), reading body language and facial expressions, and learning about how differently others think. This effort and education is highly prized in business to improve effective communications because it deals directly with 93% of that communication. It is especially useful for many technical subject matter experts who are less adroit in customer facing situations who need to provide pre-sales consulting to drive more revenue home.
Let me ask you, how do you want an itch scratched? You want it the way you like it, right? We all do. The rub (pardon the pun) is that we are all different. If you want to be effective, you first have to learn how the other person likes their itch scratched or you will only enjoy a hollow victory of delivering your 7% of the message your way and missing the mark on the other 93% of the communications exchange.
Let’s engage in communications!
Let me hear your opinion or experiences in communications. Send me a message if you know a business owner who would benefit from my working with his/her staff along the lines of this posting.