What is Communication?

The following is a guest post by John Klymshyn. What is Communication? first appeared in Wolf in the Workplace, the newsletter of Wolf Management Consultants, LLC.

How would you define communication? Many of us relate this to “Getting my point across” or: “Making sure that someone understands what I am trying to say”. Isn’t it interesting that we tend to view the process as one-sided, and that the information is only going in one direction? This is the definition of broadcasting, not communication. Our definition of communication is:
The positive, progressive, exchange of ideas.

If we want to communicate with someone, we need to be willing to listen to what this person has to say. And I mean really listen. One of the habits that gets us into trouble and prevents the positive, progressive, exchange of ideas is that when we think we have heard enough, we start to talk. What we don’t realize is that when we talk over someone else, we are telling that person that what he or she has to say is not important. Put yourself in one of the following situations, and think about what the result would be if you cut someone off before they finished talking:

  • In a meeting with your boss
  • When presenting to a new customer
  • While talking with a child

Now, if any of those folks were made to feel that what they have to say is not important to you, how would that effect the future of your relationship together? Let’s bring it even closer to home. When was the last time someone interrupted you when you were speaking? How did that make you feel?

Here are some important concepts to remember in order for us to be strong communicators:

First, people buy based on emotion. If I feel comfortable with you, I am more likely to accept your idea, proposal, or guidance. Look at the above list of scenarios. How relevant is this idea to your succeeding in any or all of those settings?

Second, the last eight words that anyone says carry the emotional impact of their message. This teaches us two things. One is: We must allow people to finish, in order to have people feel comfortable in expressing to us what is on their mind. The other: People tend to work out their thoughts, feelings, and ideas by talking.

There is a small but very powerful word that begins more sentences in the English language than any other, and that word is “I”. I am the most fascinating subject on earth, to me. I wonder how many readers of this article feel the same way about themselves? What are the chances that your customer or employee feels the same way?

It is of paramount importance that we conduct conversations and communicate according to the 80/20 Rule. In theory, that means we listen 80% of the time, and respond 20% of the time. Note that 20% of the job is not to talk, or sell, but to respond.

Here’s the boiled-down version of this logic. If the last eight words that anyone says carry the emotional impact of what that person has on his or her mind, and if most people buy based on how they feel, this gives us great insight into how to communicate effectively. In order to manage, persuade, or simply move a conversation one step closer to a win, we need to ask questions, and motivate people to get them talking about themselves (how they buy, what they believe, and how they feel about what we are proposing). This information is so powerful, that after using it for just a few months, I was gaining more sales, and getting along better at home. As a matter of fact, my kids were selling me ideas. Instead of asking me yes or no questions, they would propose an idea, and then ask me, “How does that sound?” or “What do you think about that, Dad?” What a difference.

In closing, communication is a skill, which implies that it can be learned. Since it can be learned, it follows that there are correct and incorrect approaches.


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