This year at my annual two day training camp I devoted the first day entirely to developing more effective communication skills. Clearly we will all fight many more verbal battles throughout our lives than physical ones. The key measure of our skills as communicators is our ability to effectively employ our ability to communicate to create the reality we intend. Our words (as well as the other components of communication) do, undeniably, have the power to create…and destroy. In fact, the ancient Toltecs regarded the power of speech as white or black magic.
The pursuit of skillful communication is no less complex and challenging than pursuing mastery of our To-Shin Do martial art. As with our art there are many tools and techniques. Here are a few fundamental considerations.
The key components of face-to-face communication are semantics (the actual words we choose), tone of voice, and body language. The current accepted break down is semantics =7%, tone of voice, 38%, body language 55%. My own feeling is that this formula is too simplistic and can be misleading. Every situation is unique and each of these components should be considered carefully.
The key principle is for us to recognize is that in an important, sensitive, or difficult communication scenario with another individual we have to manage two egos, and yours is the only one you can hope to have direct control over. Far too frequently we allow our egos to take control of our powers of communication. This often results in offending the other person’s ego and putting them on the defensive. Once you put the other person’s ego on the defensive your probability of creating a positive outcome is dramatically reduced. In fact, once that occurs, they may no longer hear anything you say.
Likewise, if our ego is defending itself we are no longer focused on what we intend to create. It is nearly impossible to defend oneself and build something positive at the same time. That brings us to the most important principle for effective communication. We must begin with an awareness of what we are intending to create with our communication powers. Then, throughout the exchange, we must continue to keep that goal in mind and subordinate our egos to it. Obviously much more easily said than done.
In the end, the guiding principle is to be as clear as you can on what you are intending to create – and craft your communication accordingly.
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