“It how’s not what you say to the players that counts, it’s what they hear.”
–Red Auerbach, Former Head Coach of the Boston Celtics and 9-time World Champion (in a 10-year span)
Communication is often assumed (or explicitly said) to be a matter of transmitting information from a sender to a receiver. Personally, I think that’s simply broadcasting. Real communication includes both the sending and the receiving—the mutual sharing of the information—and therefore, if it’s not received, it’s not actually communication.
If this is true, you may find that a whole lot of what you thought was communication, really wasn’t. You may also find that this gives you a new perspective from which to craft your communications and that there are some immediate opportunities for increasing your effectiveness and impact. Whether in terms of your marketing, sales, leadership, teamwork or relationships, communication is key—and you can only make the difference you want to make to the degree that your communication is effective.
For it to make any difference though, you have to be willing to be responsible for your communication. That is, you have to own from your end how it turns out—what got across in the communication and how it came across. So, in this (somewhat radical) view, you take responsibility not only for what you say, but what is heard. I’m not proposing this as “The Truth” from up on high or even asserting it as fact. I’m saying that it’s a place to work from that will give you an access to results that would have otherwise been blind to you. No responsibility, no access.
If you are willing to look at your communication that way, you clearly want to start with the “listening” you’re speaking into. Communication (like life) doesn’t happen in a vacuum– and you are unavoidably speaking into a dynamic bundle of current circumstances, concerns, old frames of reference, beliefs, assumptions, intentions, etc. You have to be to some extent aware of what the “receiver” has going on and what matters to them, otherwise your communication is likely doomed to go nowhere. You have to so to speak get into their world and speak to their concerns.
In the domain of communication for action—when you’re wanting someone to take a particular action out of your interaction—I recommend that you ascertain your level of relevance, value and credibility. Whether it’s asking someone to the movies or inviting people to subscribe to your newsletter or offering your product or service, these three elements must be present.
Let’s assume you’re promoting a time management workshop. First, is it even relevant to them? If they aren’t aware of a need for that service—if for instance they’re good at managing their schedule and have no sense of overwhelm in their day-to-day operations, then such a workshop may in no way seem relevant to what they’re dealing with. If it is relevant to them, the next question is, is it of value? In other words, if the benefits you’re promising are realized, are they worth the time, effort and money that are required to realize them? If not, then the conversation stops. Lastly, are you credible or believable? Is there the level of relatedness and/or history (personal or professional) sufficient to generate trust in your claim of value?
If those three elements are present, then action follows. If not, then it likely won’t. The key is to recognize the concerns and commitments of who you’re speaking to and communicate accordingly. This does not need to be an overly complicated process, and in many cases does warrant some thinking and listening in advance. It also calls for listening keenly during the interaction so as to be clear what piece may be missing and how best to clarify or put it in. If you’ve done the groundwork to know that what you’re asking of someone is relevant to their concerns, has real value to them given those concerns, and is supported by a sufficient level of credibility, you are likely to have a clear and powerful conversation that leaves all parties better off for having it.
Please consider this and try it out, and let us know what you think. If you’d like to have a one-on-one conversation (no charge) to support you in applying this idea to an area of your own communication where you’re committed to elevating effectiveness, let me know via the blog/website or at firstname.lastname@example.org and we’ll set up a call.
© ALS Consulting 2014