Communication is the process of transferring the information in your mind into the mind of someone else. The best communication is when the exact picture, feeling, emotion or concept that is in one person becomes present in another person.
Considering that is a fairly complex process, we have remarkably few means by which to achieve it. Essentially we have speech and body language. Of course we have writing but that is really just a way to record speech. By using words and body movement only we attempt to the best of our ability to get another person to understand us, to transfer what is in our mind into theirs.
The communication process is fraught with difficulties. We know that men and women communicate differently. Generally speaking women enjoy detail while men go for the headlines only. Women will use touch and facial gestures far more than men to get the message across.
And of course we could add cultural differences and generation differences to the mix. An older woman told me recently that she was surprised to hear her teenage grandchild respond: Im good, when asked how he was. Her generation replies with: Im fine, or Im very well, thank you. I wonder if she knows that: Sorry, my mistake, has now evolved into: My bad!?
Effective communication happens when we take the time to become aware of these differences, which are barriers to communication, and work to overcome them. That process starts with self awareness, particularly an awareness of our own communication preferences.
Throughout our lives we have developed preferred ways of doing a wide variety of things. For example, most people are right handed and would never think of writing with their left hand. But if they lost the use of their right hand they could learn to write with their left hand. In the same way we have learned a range of preferences, each of which have an alternative. And if need be we can learn to use the alternative.
For example, some people prefer to communicate using great detail, others prefer less information and speak in terms of the big picture.
If we want to communicate clearly we need to be aware of the way in which we naturally tend to communicate and we need to be aware of the alternatives. In that way, when our preferred communication style is inappropriate, we can adapt our style to something more appropriate.
In the sales situation, for example, if the salesperson is a detailed speaker and the client is a low detail, big picture person, the salesperson must adapt to the big picture style if they dont want to risk boring the client, making them feel uncomfortable and therefore losing the sale.
The first step in this skill is to know what your natural preference is. Then you need to learn the alternatives. If you are not aware that you have a preference it will determine how you communicate and you will be powerless to change it. We are controlled by what we are not aware of. Being self aware and knowing the obstacles which may trip you is a great advantage in effective communication. By being aware of our preferred style we become aware of when we are using it, we can monitor if it is an appropriate style for the situation and if need be we can adapt our style to ensure effective communication.
Transferring the thoughts, feelings and concepts in our minds into the minds of another is a process which needs to overcome a number of hurdles. The better we are at removing those hurdles, such as differences in communication style, the more effective we will be a communication.