All the time you are communicating, whether you are aware or not. Silence is also a type of speech and there are times when silence may be louder and more stinging than a rowdy rebuke. Be aware and be alert to the way you communicate and this is a huge step towards your greatness. A few remarks casually spoken could easily spark an uncontrollable flame. Dr. Mehrabian knew some important keys to communication.
In 1971, Albert Mehrabian, a professor at the University of California, Los Angeles, published a book entitled, “Silent Messages”. The book drew on his extensive research in the 1960s on the effectiveness and types of communication. His research results revealed a surprising blend of verbal and non-verbal communication. He concluded that the credibility of communication is based 55% on the body language, the non-verbal elements, and 38 percent on the tone of voice that is used to convey the message. What do the actual words account for then? According to the study only 7 percent is attributable to the actual words. That may look small, but the weight if the content could be high in other terms. Communication is more than just the words, it is also how you say them and what you do. Saying one things and doing something totally different leads to confusing messaging and ineffectiveness. For your words to matter, align what you say, how you say it and what you do. You can not talk yourself out of situations you behave yourself into.
Recently I was in a coffee shop and across from where I was there was a group of three people who were having a meeting. What struck me was the meeting setting and the communication that was happening. One of the people was speaking, one was listening and had a notebook and taking notes. The other was on the phone incessantly with occasional glances and blank nodes. The “phone addict” looked distracted and was exchanging messages on WhatsApp, with a face that looked pale blank and sat as though frog-marched to the meeting. The meeting member who had a note book open seemed like an important foreign business visitor or investor. He spoke little, asked questions and took notes. The one who spoke all the time seemed to dominate the airtime and did little to listen. The question that I had as I left the coffee shop shop was: “Am I aware of how I communicate and the messages that I am sending out every time I communicate?”
Every time you communicate you are auditioning for leadership. People are looking for clues that you are a worthy leader. Look at how you package yourself? Do people see a leader in you? Instead of talking all the time about people and spreading flavours of gossip discuss big ideas and possibilities. Instead of being a recreational complainer solve problems and explore solutions. Take personal responsibility and be engaged. Ask how you could help and make a difference. Be proactive. Instead of speaking like a victim, speak like a leader. You are responsible for whatever happens in your sphere of influence. Instead of sowing discord be the one who brings unity and builds bridges. Instead of always criticising express praise where it is due. Speak about the good work that others are doing and build on positive efforts. Through your communication inspire others and give them confidence and boldness.
Every time you communicate you are creating and strengthening a culture. The stories you tell reveal what you believe and the value that you have. Communicate with respect and you will earn respect. The quotes you share reveal your mindset. Express a growth mindset and be willing to listen and learn. The books you talk about say a lot of who you are, what you think and how you view life. Regard with suspension those who do not read. Every time you open your mouth you are creating a culture. You are pointing to what you will accept and tolerate. Be intentional in your communication and be mindful of what you are spreading with your communication. The culture around you is created by how you communicate. Your words breed your environment. When you change your words you start disinfecting your environment.
Each time you communicate, you are generating an environment that shapes the people and relationships in or affected by that environment. Dr. Dorothy Law Nolte in 1972 wrote an immortal poem entitled “Children Learn What They Live.” In the poem she shared beautiful gems that show that what children live with shapes how they behave and what they become. Dr. Nolte’s poem reads:
“If children live with criticism, they learn to condemn.
If children live with hostility, they learn to fight.
If children live with fear, they learn to be apprehensive.
If children live with pity, they learn to feel sorry for themselves.
If children live with ridicule, they learn to feel shy.
If children live with jealousy, they learn to feel envy.
If children live with shame, they learn to feel guilty.
If children live with encouragement, they learn confidence.
If children live with tolerance, they learn patience.
If children live with praise, they learn appreciation.
If children live with acceptance, they learn to love.
If children live with approval, they learn to like themselves.
If children live with recognition, they learn it is good to have a goal.
If children live with sharing, they learn generosity.
If children live with honesty, they learn truthfulness.
If children live with fairness, they learn justice.
If children live with kindness and consideration, they learn respect.
If children live with security, they learn to have faith in themselves and in those about them.
If children live with friendliness, they learn the world is a nice place in which to live.”
You can easily replace the word, “children” with people or anyone. Your communication is shaping the people around you and those that you lead. If you are aware, you will realise that the key to greatness is communicating positively.
Every time you communicate you increase or decrease the value of other people’s time. When you communicate late, you waste other people’s time. When you use more words than necessary and make your communication longwinded, you waste other people’s time. When you arrive at a meeting unprepared and the meeting starts rumbling on and losing focus you are abusing other people’s time. Make a difference and value other people’s time. Show up early and ready, and other people will feel valued and appreciated. Communicate precisely, and your points will come home clearly. The point of communication is new to exhibit how many difficult words you know or can string together in a confusing sentence. It is to send a message, so make it easier for the receive to get the message clearly. Communicate clearly and with focus. Make other people feel that you have invested in them through your communication. Multiply and amplify value. Every time you communicate keep it simple, and content-rich. Never aim to bamboozle or impress, just aim to inspire.
Every time you communicate you are standing for something. You will either stand for something or fall for anything. Be purpose driven and make your stand on issues and principles clear. Do not equivocate, run with the hare or hunt with the hounds. Mahatma Gandhi, said it clearly and assertively: “I will not let anyone walk through my mind with their dirty feet.” That is a clear stand. Clean your communication and purify your intentions. Be purpose driven and mission focused. Be intentional in your communication. Take a bold stand and be true to the voice within you. Tell your story and be your own voice. Communicate your mind with respect, and take your stand with boldness. Be clear about the things that you involve yourself in.
Every time you take time to really listen you influence. I realise that we spend so much time learning how to present and to speak. What I find needs to be learnt is how to really listen. Listening is more that just giving other people the space to vocalise their mind, while you shut off yours. Learn to hold your tongue and give others the floor. Be open to hear and really give attention. Hear what they have to say and what they feel. Let them express themselves without your knowing and self-important interruptions. You connect better when you listen than when you talk.
Every time you go into any meeting you have entered a zone of communication. Be engaged, be interested in order to be interesting. Attend meetings with a good notebook and a working pen. Write out in advance the points that you wish to raise. Be prepared. Remember that your non-verbal communication is as important as the verbal. How you sit shows whether you are interested in the meeting or not. What you do during the meeting is a loud and clear communication statement. Switch off your phone if you have to and put it away until after the meeting. Fiddling with your phone or rings is a communication put off. Checking your social media feeds during a meeting does not allow you to fully engage and communicate effectively. Give other people space to air their views and to participate. Meetings are not just telling shows. In a meeting appreciate and commend the good things that others contribute. There is no need for you to shoot down everything that is said for the sake of just being a verbal vigilante.
Keep improving your communication. Keep expanding your vocabulary. Keep reading widely and learning. Keep connecting to others through as many platforms and channels. Keep fascinated with people. Take to heart this message on communication shared by Avigail: “The resource we lack mostly, more than money, time and team-togetherness is attentiveness. Even when people are motivated and passionate to hear what you have to say, their attention narrow band, constantly, drives them away. So keep your messages short, precise and right to the point. Make sure the subject of interest is mutually joint. Otherwise you will find yourself taking the stage and preaching your pitch, but no real audience will stay long, or will be within reach. Effective communication is like playing: “catch the ball” You want to keep on playing, after your first call. Keep the interaction of motivation going and win-win flow. This way you will engage effective communication and prevent any woe.”
Committed to your greatness through effective communication.
© 2019, Milton Kamwendo
Milton Kamwendo is a leading international transformational and motivational speaker, author, and executive coach. He is a cutting strategy, team-building and organisation development facilitator and consultant. His life purpose is to inspire and promote greatness. He can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org and Twitter: @MiltonKamwendo or WhatsApp at: 0772422634. His website is: www.miltonkamwendo.com.