Understanding Effective Communication

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Here’s a scenario we’re all too familiar with: the ‘Where Should We Eat’ argument. It’s a timeless paradox often met with silence, a general ‘anywhere’, or the even worse ‘I don’t know’ response, leaving parties confused, frustrated, and breeding grounds for a conflict (“Why can’t you just tell me what you want?!”). Often dismissed as a struggle of decision-making, the issue ultimately stems from a lack of effective communication between parties. 

The Communication Process

The ability to communicate is something that is innate for all creatures in the world. However, to share ideas using words and language is unique only to Man. This is the defining feature of what it is to be human, possessing the capacity to learn to speak the language of our cultures quickly, skilfully, and unconsciously. It is a critical part of our social interaction, and little that is meaningful to our economy or society gets done without our unique ability to talk. 

Every communication process involves a sender, receiver, and message to be delivered. In this, the most important component is the interpretation of meaning from both ends, as it dictates whether the message intended is received, and renews the process once again, leading to a conversation. Unfortunately, this is where the problem lies.  

Communication vs Effective communication

The way we communicate tells a story. It should illustrate not just what’s on our mind, but who we are and what we seek. Consider the ‘Where Should We Eat’ scenario once again. How often have we received proper suggestions or responses? In situations where we almost never get the response or action that we want and intend, it is a pointer for us to reflect on instead of how the information is sent and understood in the first place. 

As with every action, communication should begin with the end in mind. If we aim to communicate without reflecting on our objective, we are simply delivering words to one another, leaving our interactions pointless and potentially destructive. Effective communication should spark abstract-thinking and drive action. It is fruitful and constructive, leaving all parties in the conversation feeling accomplished and satisfied. In turn, it decreases any potential for conflict and builds a sense of connection and relationship. 

Strategizing Communication

So how do we shift the focus from just communication to effective communication? 

Sending your message effectively requires rigour and structure. By devising a clear and thoughtful verbal strategy, you help yourself to think clearly, speak consciously, and act purposefully to drive the results that you want. 

The concept of  Soundwave categorises the way we talk into three styles — ask, tell, and suggest. Within these, the way people talk is further broken down into nine verbal strategies, depicted in the model below.

Through this model, we can understand the relationship that forms between what we say, how we say it, and how we are heard. From understanding the dominant voices we use when we talk through the Brilliance 3 Assessment — which provides insight on what our voices can do, their drivers, and the risk of overuse and underuse of each voice — we can then proceed to formulate a clear strategy. 

And so back to the ‘where should we eat’ conundrum. What would be our ideal strategy? Perhaps an opening statement that recognises the bind that we’re in, such as, ‘Look, we’re both a bit tired of having this conversation in this way; we’re just spiraling down (to articulate). What for you would be a way to break the mood?’ (to inquire). As a first step, that’s not a bad move, is it?

By defining the objective of our talk, discovering how we sound most of the time, and devising a plan to ensure that we adapt talk to the situation in order to create the results that we want, we shift the entire encounter from a simple exchange of words to skilful dialogue that engages deeply and drives purpose. 

At Soundwave, we believe that talk isn’t cheap. By learning more about our conversational style, we seek to empower individuals, leaders, teams, and organisations towards shifting the dialogue, changing the conversation, and shaping the culture. Reach out to us to find out more about how we can help you own the conversation.

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Maalikka is the latest addition to SoundWave's team of marketing and content extraordinaries. As an avid reader, writer and learner, she’s always on the lookout for new information online or interesting conversations to inspire her. Her other passions include gaming, Netflix, and cats.

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