Undoubtedly one of the most important aspects of being a good leader is the ability to understand and use good communication.
Few things can destroy a company, a team, or any other kind of relationship faster than a failure in communication.
In order to move through this portion of my brain spillage for this week, we need to come to a clear understanding of precisely what I’m talking about when I reference the word ‘communication.’
Webster’s lists communication as a process by which information is exchanged between individuals through a common system of symbols, signs, or behavior; also: exchange of information.
I think we can all agree that in order for there to be any kind of communication, whether it is via the Internet, a telephone, or a pair of gums flapping up and down; there must be a speaker or an origin point for the message. In the case of this brief expose, I want to put emphasis on the speaker. In what I like to refer to as a ‘normal conversation,’ whoever is speaking should be given the courtesy to speak their mind. The main idea must be clearly transmitted from the speaker to the listener in order to ensure that all parties are caught up to the speaker’s intent.
There are many factors to consider with the speaker, of course. What is the cultural background? What language are they speaking? What tone? What inflection? What type of body language are they using? Is this someone that should be speaking to begin with?
These things matter greatly, especially in today’s adult world, especially with increasingly global access to a nearly infinite and ever-growing repository of human knowledge and information. It is incumbent upon the speaker to ensure that the message is conveyed in an understandable manner so as to ensure that the listener(s) are able to understand the main idea.
When discussing listeners, we must come to the understanding that the listener is required to provide full attention to the speaker in order to get the main idea. The listener must also ensure to seek clarification of the main idea in order to quell any misunderstandings that may arise.
This brings us to the message. Obviously, not all communications between people are very official in nature. Communication is something that occurs constantly, every day, nearly all day. That is, unless you’ve been living under a rock for the majority of your life.
The message contains the main idea and with the main idea comes the basis for attempting to communicate in the first place. The main idea sums up what the speaker originally intended to convey. It can be everything from “The cat needs more food.” To “I’m contemplating marrying my girlfriend in the near future.” In many cases, beyond the speaker and beyond the listener, it is absolutely critical that, if nothing else, the main idea gets passed between the two people.
A very basic summation: Communication involves a speaker who conveys a main idea to a listener (or a group of listeners) who then processes that main idea and responds in kind.
These are simple elements that make up a simple process. But is it really so simple? How is it that in today’s day and age; in a world so heavily interconnected, that we still have major issues with talking to one another?
If observing any appreciable amount of human interaction on Facebook has failed to give a clue, some of the simplest forms of discourse can turn into hours long feuds when the main idea of a message is not conveyed properly during a communication.
As we’ll see in the next section, there is a very good reason why online communication is a difficult task and can sometimes be a veritable minefield to navigate in our daily lives.
The Mechanics of Communication
In today’s electronic age, communication has become primarily the exchange of words on a screen between two individuals who in many cases cannot see one another. As has been shown by psychological studies, communication is primarily centered on body language and tone of voice (inflections, rise, fall, etc.) The computer screen strips communication of these fundamental components and leaves us with words and nothing more from which to derive intent and meaning. These days, with an Internet that is available to a vastly undereducated populace, many people who can barely type a grammatically correct sentence are left to attempt to convey feelings and intent to one another. In this void, unfortunately, the intent is more often than not a lost cause.
People quickly draw conclusions and meanings without seeking to clarify or expound upon what is being said, and many an argument has broken out across the Internet due to this phenomenon.
So, seeing that we primarily operate in the cyber realm how do we go about properly conveying the true meaning behind what we are trying to say in an online discourse? How do we bridge that gap to make up for the lack of facial expressions, body language, or vocal intonations that we rely upon in all of our communication?
It is my opinion that there are two major ways in which we can work to combat the misunderstandings that naturally arise from the Spartan nature of online communication.
The first is the appropriate use of grammar and punctuation and ensuring that the message we are attempting to push out is done so in as concise a manner as possible. Telling someone, “I believe you” is different than telling someone, “I believe you!” It seems petty, laughable, and minor at times, but that little mark exists for a reason. It’s there specifically to allow the writer to convey emotion. This places part of the responsibility of the message on the person presenting it. The other half belongs to the person receiving the message.
For someone who reads a message and gets offended easily, doesn’t see where the other person is coming from, or doesn’t immediately know what the person means, the best way possible to avoid conflict is to ask what was intended by the communication in the first place. It cannot be understated enough how important of a step this is in communication.
All too often in today’s digital age are people quick to jump to conclusions, take objective topics to heart, take stands on issues they know little to nothing about, and a host of other issues that plague today’s online society.
What are some ways you can think of to contribute to making online communication more successful?
Feel free to post below and join in on the conversation!