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Basic Communication

How does excellent communication happen?


Excellent communication is not something that happens overnight.  It is not something that can be imposed on an organisation.  It is a process of planting the seeds and nourishing those seeds because as you do this communication will grow by itself.  Communication is, to borrow a phrase from Isaac Asimov, “Autocatalytic”.   Autocatalytic is best summarised by the following phrase "Each thread I strengthened, strengthened a nearby thread of the same kind and the two together strengthened several others nearby" (Robots and the Empire p185).


Communication is like that.  Once it starts to grow it continues to feed on itself and to grow more and more, becoming stronger and stronger.  So what do you need to do to plant the seeds of growth and to provide a nourishing environment for this autocatalytic process to take place.



1 Appreciate communication is not the words you say but the representation that takes place in the mind of others.


In order to be able to communicate with others it is important that you can appreciate things from their perspective, understand what concerns they have, what aspirations they have, what problems they are experiencing, what they are enjoying, what they want more of.


2 Acknowledge communication is a two way process.


Do you believe communication is good in your team because you have lots of meetings, send lots of memos , keep your staff informed about where the firm is going?  These factors are necessary for excellent communication but they are not sufficient.


One of the key communication skills is to shut up!  Listening is probably the most underdeveloped communication skill that managers possess, especially when it is coupled with the ability to ask questions.


Why is listening so important?  Firstly it enables you to better appreciate things from the perspective of others (ie point 1) and when you see things from the other persons perspective or understand how they may be feeling about an issue you are well placed to create a representation in their mind that will get your message across.


Listening also enables your staff to be heard.  By being heard they get to make a greater contribution and therefore have greater intellectual ownership of the firm and so make a greater commitment to it.  Being heard also enables them to get things off their chest, to explain things from their viewpoint.  People that are listened to feel more important, are more committed and more motivated.


A third benefit of listening to members of your team is that your staff will have brilliant ideas.  You will be amazed at the quality of some of their ideas.  These ideas are often easier to implement because you don't have to sell them to your staff.  After all, that is where they have come from. 


Effective listening, of course, is more than just being silent.  It is being interested in what people say and acting upon what they say or letting them know why you haven't acted upon it.  Listening is also about encouraging people to say more by giving them your full attention and by asking them questions.


Listening is a skill which seems to be relatively undeveloped in managers.  Maybe it is because of a perceived pressure of time, or the thought that we know what other people think or need or that we are the best person to make decisions.   Following are a few thoughts on what may assist you to develop your listening skills:



a Be aware of some factors that inhibit listening.

  • Barriers - this could be a physical barrier such as a desk or even body language barriers, folded arms, turning away from other person, poor eye contact, the lets go/I'm in a hurry signals

  • Interruptions, lack of privacy, distractions

b Be aware of factors that can encourage other people to talk more and express deeper level ideas. 

  •      Role play meetings: For example each person could have a different role in a meeting.  As a starting point you may base the roles on Edward De Bono's "Six Thinking Hats".  One person who is positive and supportive of every idea that is bought up (the yellow hat), another who is always coming up with new ideas (the green hat), new ways to look at things a third who speaks straight from the heart (the red hat), which is the opposite of the fourth who is concerned only with the facts and the figures (the white hat).  The fifth role relates everything to the big picture (the blue hat) and the last role is the easiest to play and the one we need least of  - the devils advocate, who knows every reason why something won't work (the black hat).  Depending on your purpose you may just choose one or two of these or even some totally different roles.

This has a two edged advantage because not only does it bring ideas out into the open but it also helps people appreciate that people who play different roles to them or think differently from them do have a valuable function to perform in a team. 

  •      Brainstorming.  Brainstorming is a bit like a role play meeting where everyone one wears a green hat.  Brainstorming is about solutions.  The objective is to come up with as many ideas as possible, no matter how wild they may seem.  The focus for coming up with ideas will be a question.  For example “How can we increase income?”.   Ideally, each group would contain around 5 people and the initial idea hunting would be for only about 5 minutes.  Invest time in exploring the ideas in more detail and selecting the ideas upon which we would act.

  •      Give people the opportunity to prepare what they will say.  This may involve giving people questionnaires and it will certainly involve giving them time to think issues through.

c Do some exercises to increase your listening skills. A simple exercise which people have used involves a person not being able to say something until they have summarised what the previous person has said. 


3 How to improve your communication by distinguishing the predominant mode of communication  


The internal representations we make are composed of 6 elements.

·        Visual

·        Auditory (tonal)

·        Kinesthetic

·        Olfactory

·        Gustatory

·        Auditory (digital) 


For each of us there will be one of these representation system in which we are capable of making the greatest distinctions.  This representation system will be dominant in any internal representation that we make.  It is likely that this will determine our predominant mode of communication.  Any communication to us will be at its most effect if delivered in this mode because it will enable us to make the richest internal representations. 


It may be helpful to consider that each of these representation systems are like another language. Therefore, if someone’s primary language is English Visual then clearly you will have the most communication with them if your message is delivered in English Visual as opposed to say English Auditory.


To enable your communications to have the most impact for someone else you need to determine the predominate mode communication so that you can deliver your messages packaged in this mode.


4 Develop an understanding of the NLP Communication Model

This will help you understand the impact of each person’s way of representing the world inside.  Develop rapid rapport.googleadd2)