Understanding the basic principles of communication helps in business

There are three basic principles of communication that are useful for business owners to understand. They are:

1. The meaning of communication is the response you get

Have you ever got frustrated with other people because they are not understanding you or doing what you asked?

"You can have brilliant ideas but if you can't get them across they won't get you anywhere" Lee Iacocca

Of course you have! And typically when this happens we tend to blame the other person. However, it’s really an indication that we haven’t communicated very well in the first place.

Instead of getting frustrated, take a step back and think about how you need to change what you’re communicating so people understand what message you’re intending to get across.

Your team members are probably not mind readers – if you’ve got something specific you want them to do, it’s your responsibility to communicate it effectively.

2. Seek First to Understand

The second of our basic principles of communication is to make sure you fully understand a situation before taking action. Before you go charging in making assumptions about people and situations, be aware of the fact that what you perceive may not be reality.

Here’s why…

Human beings can only process a relatively small amount of the information coming in to our brains through our senses. In order to make it manageable our unconscious minds quietly go about filtering what we perceive.

Internal representations that we make about an event are not necessarily the reality of the event itself – it is just a perception.

When we process all this information coming in through our senses we delete, distort and generalise the information according to our beliefs, values, memories etc.

So, for example, if you believe a team member is not competent for some reason, you are more likely to notice everything they’re not competent at and not notice what they may be doing well.

Make sure you have a complete picture before you take action and just because you ‘see’ something don’t automatically assume its reality.

It always pays to ask questions and get other people’s perceptions first – no one person sees the whole reality of a situation so the truth resides somewhere in the middle.

Seek to fully understand before jumping to conclusions.

3. It’s not just what comes out of your mouth

What comes out of your mouth is only a small part of what you are communicating to your team.

"The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn't said" Peter Drucker

In one study researchers determined that only 7% of what we communicate is conveyed through words. 38% is conveyed through things like tone of voice, tempo and volume and a whopping 55% is the result of non-verbal communication. Types of non-verbal communication include posture, movement, gestures, breathing, skin color etc.

One of the most important of the basic principles of communication is to not only pick up on other peoples body language etc but also to be aware of what you might also be communicating subliminally.

Your team will be picking up lots of non-verbal cues every time you communicate with them. If you don’t believe what you’re saying neither will they.

How to improve communication skills

There are a lot of great books that elaborate further on the basic principles of communication and how to improve communications skills. We would recommend reading:

  • The Portable Coach (Thomas Leonard) – He developed a whole program through Coach University on this subject which is outlined in this book
  • Fierce Conversations (Susan Scott) – good for getting to the nitty gritty of what’s going on in your business
  • Crucial Conversations (Patterson, Grenny, McMillan, Switzler) – good practical advice about how to have difficult conversations.

Besides books, NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) training courses are also an excellent place to start learning about the basic principles of communication. There are lots of NLP trainers around so ask around for a referral in your area.

Business Coaching Questions:

  • What questions do you need to ask?
  • Where do you focus your energy most: on seeking to understand other people's viewpoints or on making them understand yours?
  • What perceptions do you need to question?

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