9 Questions about communication

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We spend almost 70% of our waking time communicating with others. Failed communication can lead to conflicts and frustration. Nevertheless, most of us were never taught how to communicate in a way that produces desired results.

So what is good communication, and what are obstacles that prevent us from reaching our goal or objective in the communication progress and does communication change?

I asked Dave Charon, MBA, entrepreneur and summer director of the Global Leadership Academy 9 questions about communication. Here are his answers:

1. How would you describe good/effective communication?

Effective communication is: an interconnected connected system where people and ideas flow quickly, comprehensively, and sustainable. Effective communication is NOT just getting your point across to others quickly

It is extremely hard to do and takes lots of conscious thought and effort to set-up and maintain.

  • Quickly: The time it takes to think, message, listen, understand and then take action
  • Comprehensively: The people and ideas are sent and received completely
  • Sustainably: The cost, whether financial, emotional, or otherwise is very low allowing ideas to flow in the system easily without it breaking down (e.g. shouting and screaming makes things clear, but not sustainable)

2. Why and when do we need it?

Effective communication is important all the time in every situation whether professional or personal. Depending on the situation, effective communication can save lives, marriages, countries, or just help avoid every day issues

3. What are the greatest challenges to good communication?

  • People who think communication is about WHAT YOU SAY, versus HOW YOU SAY IT
  • People who focus too much on BEING HEARD, instead of LISTENING TO OTHERS
  • People who use the WRONG CHANNEL TO SEND A MESSAGE, such as choosing to discuss a difficult situation with someone else through a weak channel such as TEXT, EMAIL, or THROUGH SOMEONE ELSE
  • Not re-evaluating whether effective communication is happening, checking to see if people actually understood what was said.

4. How important is listening in communication?

Listening is equally, and some would say even more important, than talking when it comes to good communication.

5. Is there a way we can measure or assess effective communication?

Yes, you can measure almost anything though it really depends on the context as to what measures you use. You can survey people about how effective communication is, you can map and graph emails in terms of frequency, length, quality, content, there is something called Network analysis that is used to analyze workplace communication, lots of different ways to measure something.

6. Can culture, gender, nationality or social class have an effect on communication?

WOW, all of these factors can change everything when it comes to communication. In the literature on this you can possibly look up “source monitoring” or as I remember it – people’s inherent ability to always assess the source of the information rather than the information itself. We are not objective creatures as we would like to think. Gender and gender roles can certainly come into play at times such as the recent videos around “mansplaining”. There are certainly ways to work through these differences but it takes genuine time and understanding on the part of everyone in that communication system

7. What role do facial expressions, gestures and pauses play in communication?

Again there is tons of research on the impact of nonverbal communication, often much of it points to it being far more significant than most people realize.

8. Has the development of the internet and social media caused a change in the way we communicate (quality, quantity, style etc.)?

Social Media has absolutely changed the way that we communicate, now messages can travel around the world in a matter of seconds and sometimes reaching an audience far larger than any single newspaper could ever hope to reach. Though I tend to think of things in terms of tradeoffs, not just good or bad. Social Media is fast, frequent and brief when it comes to its messaging – snippets, browsing, BUT when it comes to truly understanding someone or something, especially if it’s more complex than a sound bite, or if it’s even totally fake news, Social Media only perpetuates ideas it doesn’t demand that the user really take the time to process or understand these ideas. Just take for example reading someone’s post about “their day” and how different that is than sitting down with that person and actually talking about their day.

9. Do you believe that teenagers could benefit from communication courses?

I believe that teenagers absolutely could benefit from communication courses, no matter what their academic interest or future career. I was recently reading about innovators who help bring about the invention of the computer and this one famous mathematician/ professor who demanded that all her students be able to write about and explain their mathematic equations as well as their importance. Communication is not just an essential professional tool but it fairly critical to navigating life on earth with some 7 billion people.

In communication, we have to take full responsibility for both what we say and what message reaches the other person. We have to be sensible to the communication styles of the people that we are talking with and choose our words, gestures and facial expressions prudently, ensuring that the right message actually reaches our counterpart. We especially have to bear in mind factors such as gender, age and culture.

All this does not mean that you should sacrifice yourself and give up on your personal beliefs! But it is important that we consider that mostly it is more about how we say something than about what is said. Good, effective communication can make life easier in many aspects and can prevent avoidable conflicts. Communication should not only be accepted as something that we do the most time of the day … we should acknowledge its value, importance and potential in our daily lives and actively train communication skills. Here it has to be acknowledged, that communication is not just verbal face-to-face, but can also be written (letters, e-mails, messages etc.), by pictures or take place over long distances.