Communication leads to community, that is, to understanding, intimacy and mutual valuing.

Rollo May

 Communication works for those who work at it.

John Powell

 The most important thing in communication is to hear what isn’t being said.

Peter Drucker

Communication does not depend on syntax, or eloquence, or rhetoric, or articulation but on the emotional context in which the message is being heard. People can only hear you when they are moving toward you, and they are not likely to when your words are pursuing them.

Edwin H. Friedman

The art of communication is the language of leadership.

James Humes

How do you rate your ability to communicate effectively? I guess it is true for most of us that wehopewe are effective. The thought that we might be much more ineffective than what we are hoping for, is disturbing. After all, who doesn’t want to be taken seriously? Who doesn’t want to feel heard and who doesn’t want to feel respected for his/her thoughts, ideas and conduct? Furthermore, we know that effective communication is necessary for progress, for new platforms of understanding and collaboration. As such, it is necessary for our own advancement in life. To reflect on how we communicate and what is needed for effective communication is therefore an essential key to our success.

Three things that we should say about communication is that, 1) it is very important in life 2) it is much more complex than just opening one’s mouth and saying something, and 3) it is something that can be developed to be more effective. It is important because it is the way we form and build relationships. It is the way through which we influence others and through which we develop and unlock our potential. It is complex because it is what happens in the unpredictable, emotional and diverse interaction with others. It can be developed because 90% of effective communication comes from the will to communicate effectively. As John Powell says in the quote, ‘communication works for those who work at it’.

In our fast-moving world and information overloaded workplaces one of the most critical errors of thought is to think that communication is merely the process of handing over information. To communicate is to create meaning and if the other person doesn’t understand what we mean, our attempts to communicate have failed. The vaguer we are in what we really mean, even by just sharing information, the more room we leave for disengagement or wrong assumptions – in other words failed communication. The meaning that we attach to what we want to communicate is all important from the perspective of the listener. Jim Rohn believes that effective communication is 20% what you know and 80% how you feel about what you know.

Long before we might consider using some techniques for easy listening, our first obligation to ourselves and our listeners is that we understand fully what we want to communicate. From right understanding proceeds right thought and from right thought proceeds right speech; from right speech proceeds right action. If understanding is at the base of good communication then it follows that listening precedes good communication. With that said, it is clear that laziness can be a huge impediment for effective communication. To listen well is hard work, it takes a lot of effort. It is in the way we listen or pretend to listen that we either get the connection for effective communication or fail to do so. We need to listen well enough to be able to ‘hear’ what is not being said as well as what is said. The more context we can add to the words uttered, the deeper our understanding. Context takes into consideration aspects such as the age, sex, culture, intellectual ability, receptivity and emotional state of the other person. If the intent is there to understand, we will be asking questions to clarify and deepen our insight.

Lastly, much more important than the words we use is our attitude in general and towards our audience in particular. It is said that words only account for 10% of the communication. The rest is body language (50%) and tone of voice (40%) – both indicators of attitude. Testing attitude questions the leader should ask himself are: Is my attitude positive and my intent to serve others? Do I truly believe what I am saying and do I believe in the people I am saying it to?

To summarize:

  •  To communicate is to create meaning –
  • Meaning arises from belief and understanding
  • With meaning comes conviction and feeling
  • Good listening grows understanding and precedes good communication
  • Attitude either opens or closes the door for communication

Author : Dr Gerhard van Rensburg