Communication Revisited

by Vicki on August 1, 2014

The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.   George Bernard Shaw

Trudy and I have blogged many times throughout the years on the art and science of communicating effectively – in person, through print and online. In fact, a quick look back into our blogging archives suggests that communication might be one of our most blogged about topics.

Why so much attention on communication? It is a critical skill that colors all aspects of our relationships with others. Not having the ability to clearly and accurately convey thoughts, intentions and objectives to others has direct negative impacts on all facets of our life.

In the spirit of always trying to strengthen communication skills, I wanted to share this article by Douglas Van Praet  in Psychology Today.

This article focuses specifically on email and has some easy and practical tips on how we can all strengthen our text-based communication.

Here are some highlights from the article:

  • We communicate most effectively in real-life, real-time conversation
  • 7% of a message is derived from the words, 38% from the intonation, 55% from facial expression or body language
  • The brain cells of speakers and listeners actually synchronize (neural coupling) during successful communication
  • More extensive speaker-listener neural couplings result in more successful communication
  • The deeper the conversation, the more deeply our minds synchronize
  • In the absence of traditional trust indicators (e.g., voice intonation, emotional expression, body language) we default to speed of response as a key marker of trustworthiness
  • Our minds hate open loops or unresolved patterns (e.g., an email that receives no response). Open loops can cause significant psychological unrest.

The article ends with some practical tips on how to best manage communication based on these findings:

  • Be clear (not clever) and simple (not simpleton) in communication
  • Close the loop of conversation – Not closing the loop violates the highly valued norm of reciprocity
  • Respond quickly – Trust is key in relationships. Remember that speed is a proxy for trust in online communications. It matters.

And their last suggestion deserves extra emphasis – when in doubt, move the conversation offline. The phone is an OK option, video-conference is even better.

The richness afforded by an “in person” conversation is still the best option when what you are communicating really matters.

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