Have you ever noticed how some people seem to speak on our level and others
seem to be making noise, but not making any sense? Take a look at the following
10 assumptions. If you think this way, you may need to make some changes.
1. We thought that we could take someone else’s message and simply
pass it on. This is like learning to paint by numbers. The true artist
paints from an inborn passion about what s/he sees. When we paint by numbers, we
attempt to copy someone else’s passion. If we want people to truly hear our
message, it must be communicated with passion and belief. We must own it. We
must communicate the importance of our message. This happens when we’re are able
to communicate with conviction. If we are not gripped by our message, our
hearers won’t be either.
2. We thought the message was more important than the people we were
talking to. There’s a difference between talking to a wall and talking
to a person. Yet, if we don’t communicate properly we may get the same response
from both. Our message must communicate a belief in people. Our communication
must show respect and what kind of expectations we have in our hearers. If those
who receive our message feel like they are being talked down to or belittled,
they will turn us off quickly.
3. We thought that how we lived didn’t have an effect on what we
said. Many times we try to communicate from the perspective of the
person we’d like to be instead of the person we are. Authenticity is a powerful
communication tool. We must communicate with words consistent with our actions.
If we talk the talk, but it doesn’t match the way we walk the walk, then we will
face a credibility issue. Sometimes the way we live our lives speaks so loudly
people can’t hear what we’re saying – unless the two match up.
4. We thought that leaders should always say something. A
leader may be passionate, knowledgeable, and have something very worthwhile to
say. But if the message is delivered at the wrong time, it won’t have a chance
to connect with the hearer. There are times we must know when to communicate and
when to be silent. Leaders understand that the right message given at the wrong
time can have negative consequences. Consider the timing of every communication.
Ask yourself – Is this the right time to say this?
5. We thought that our own style of communication would work in every
situation. While we may have a certain way of communicating that is
most comfortable to us, our hearers have a variety of ways that they process
information. Use variety. Mix it up. Within the first 15 seconds of our
communication, people are making decisions as to whether they will keep
listening or reading. What will we do to make our message stand out from the
rest? The key is to be creative while remaining consistent and
6. We thought that people would know how to respond to our
message. When I was in the third grade, the popular way to ask a girl
if she liked you was to write her a note expressing your affection and then give
her three options to proclaim her answer (yes, no, and my personal
favorite…maybe). Of course, my preferred (but often rejected) response was a
"yes, but at the very least, I had let her know her options. When we
communicate, we must clarify the appropriate response. We should help our hearer
to know how they should respond to our communication. Clearly spell out what
kind of action steps they need to know. Give appropriate deadlines and
guidelines if necessary.
7. We thought that we only had to say it once. The truth is,
we need to say the important things often. Dr. Phillip E. Bozek in his book, 50
One-Minute Tips to Better Communication says, “Busy readers tend to notice the
beginning and endings of documents. Place must see information in strategic
first and last locations on the page, and place the less important details in
middle paragraphs.” In whatever mode of your communication, if it’s important,
it’s worth repeating.
8. We thought that all we had to use was words. With all of
the options available to us through technology and the internet, there is no
reason for us not to use visuals and media to enhance our message. Many times it
is not enough to say something in order for our hearers to get it, a message
must be demonstrated and visualized as well. It is true that a picture can
sometimes say it better than we can.
9. We thought if we had something important to say, that people would
naturally connect with us. One of the first questions your hearer asks
themselves is, "Who are you?" They won’t believe your message unless they find
you believable. It is our responsibility to connect with our audience. People
need to develop some kind of relationship with us if they are going to hear what
we’re saying. The definition of rapport is “Relationship, especially one of
mutual trust or emotional affinity.” The rule of thumb is: No rapport – No
10. We thought that people wanted to hear every detail. The
best communicators have the ability to take something complex and to make it
simple, understandable. Because there is so much information to sort through out
there, we must keep our communication brief. A shorter, concise, focused
statement communicates much louder than pages of detailed information. Most of
the time, brevity will be our best friend. Remember, our job as a communicator
is to express, not impress. We shouldn’t try to wow our audience with our
expansive wisdom. Just say what needs to be said in a way that people will hear
Tim Milburn develops student leaders through his organization, Studentlinc.