I was watching a junior hockey match recently from a position where I was able to hear one of the coaches giving his pre-match instructions. As I listened to the coach talk I began to notice the reaction of his young players. Some were engaged, some looked a little confused and some looked completely detached.
The players reactions were easy to spot and they hadn’t escaped the coach’s attention. His response was to repeat his instructions only more loudly, more directly and more bluntly, especially to the players who looked confused and detached.
This was an important game between two rival schools and the bragging rights that would go to the victors was a highly valued prize. Teamwork was going to be a critical factor in the outcome of the match but by giving the instructions in the way he did, the coach had compromised team cohesion and promoted dysfunction instead. His team strategy was good but he had failed the communication challenge. He had failed to get his strategy understood, remembered and ultimately applied on the pitch.
His team lost the match and the bragging rights.
So what do you need to consider when communicating your thoughts to others?
There are 6 key factors to consider:
What do I want to say?
When we think, we create ideas, images and thoughts in great detail and in many different contexts. Our thoughts form a constantly changing flow of images, emotions, dialogue and sensations that our verbal skills could never keep up with. It is essential therefore that we focus on and clarify exactly what it is we want to say before we even consider uttering a single word.
What am I actually going to say?
Our brains work faster than our mouths and it often happens that our thoughts move on before we have time too finish explaining them. This causes incomplete communication. We can also find it difficult to express our thoughts in words because our verbal skills are poor in comparison to our imagination and thinking skills. This dilutes our message and makes it more difficult for others to understand what we want.
What do others hear?
Whenever we communicate with others you can be certain that their brain will be unconsciously filtering what you say and how you say it. That filtering mechanism is extremely useful to them because it helps them to make sense of the communication but as the communicator you must be aware that their state of mind, experience and beliefs will dictate what they actually ‘hear’.
What they are going to understand?
What makes sense to you might not make sense to someone else. We all have our own individual way of interpreting words and creating thoughts and images. Even simple words like ‘teamwork’ and ‘effort’ can mean completely different things to different people. It is all about personal perception.
What they are going to remember?
The brain only has a limited attention span and we all have different capacities to remember things. As the communicator you cannot do anything about their ability to remember things but you can help by keeping what you say short, concise and interesting!
What will they apply?
What someone does with the information you’ve just communicated to them is largely out of your control. If you’ve considered the previous points above then you’ve significantly increased the chances of the final outcome being close to your initial intentions. It’s always worth doing a sense-check at this point by simply asking questions like “What do you think about this?” or “What is it I want you to do?” The answers you get will give you a great insight into how effective your communication has been and a good way to avoid mishaps.
Would you like to know more about how to improve your communication skills? Get in touch with us, we’d be delighted to hear from you.