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.


What is the Right Thing?

by Trudy on December 13, 2013

I have had the privilege this year to work on a project that establishes effective communication principles around a very important and emotionally charged social topic – the wage gap in Canada.

The journey I have been on this year with this topic has been profound.  It has challenged me on so many levels, and as I dove deeper and deeper into the facts, it required me to reflect and rethink concepts personally and societally.

It is the kind of project one cannot walk through unchanged, and for that I am grateful.

It also explains my negative response to news that some Wal-Marts hold a food drive at the store for Wal-Mart associates in need. One would presume this is due to inadequate financial resources in their homes.

You should also know that Wal-Mart earned a $15.7 billion dollar profit last year.

This is just one example, of far too many that exist, of a corporate responsibility issue, and it is shameful. Shameful for all the businesses that under-pay their employees in the name of smart business and profit, and yet maintain it is perfectly legal as they meet the minimum pay requirements. It is shameful for governments that establish minimum wages that are inadequate to live on.  And shameful for all of us that feel the lowest price is more important than ensuring people make a decent living.

This is a complex issue, that requires awareness and action at all layers of society, and there is no simple fix.

But maybe there is a simple place to start. Maybe we all just need to think about making decisions that are about doing the right thing.

I guess therein is the debate:  which right is the right, right thing?

I encourage all of us to consider what “doing the right thing” means to you.

‘Tis the season after all.


No Cheap Talk

by Vicki on November 8, 2013

I went to a new bank today. My purpose for being there was to make a certified deposit for one of their members (I’m not a member).

Here is how the conversation went from my perspective –

  • I was greeted promptly
  • I explained what I needed to do
  • A rigorous inquisition ensued (I had receipts as well as business cards from the bank the funds were withdrawn from – it was legit!!)
  • The teller asked if I was happy with my current institution. I said yes.
  • She said, “It is important to be happy with your institution, isn’t it?”
  • She ignored me for 5 minutes while she waited for the member’s home branch to accept the deposit. Repeating over and over that they should not be taking so long.

As I was waiting for the deposit to be completed, I found myself thinking about how the conversation went and how it could have gone instead.

As Susan Scott, internationally recognized leader in executive education, says about conversations:

…Whoever said talk is cheap was mistaken.  Unreal conversations are incredibly expensive for organizations and for individuals.

…The conversation IS the relationship.

…If the conversation stops, all of the possibilities for the relationship become smaller and all of the possibilities for the individuals in the relationship become smaller.

…Our lives succeed or fail one conversation at a time.

…While no single conversation is guaranteed to change the trajectory of a career, a business, or a life—any conversation can.

…Each conversation we have with our coworkers, customers, significant others, and children either enhances those relationships, flat-lines them, or takes them down.

To be clear, the conversations Susan is referencing are not about the platitudes of life where you just talk with someone to fill the void…..she is talking about “fierce” conversations.

…A fierce conversation is one in which we come out from behind ourselves into the conversation and make it real.

…Fierce conversations are about moral courage, clear requests, and taking action.  Fierce is an attitude.  A way of conducting business.  A way of leading.  A way of life.

The conversation I had with the bank teller could have been different. It could have been deeper and more meaningful. It could have positively colored my perceptions of that bank and the people who work within it. But it didn’t.

What kinds of conversations are you having? With loved ones? Socially? With colleagues? With clients?

Remember Susan’s advice – talk isn’t cheap.

Book Notes by David Mays
Fierce Conversations, Achieving Success at Work & in Life, One Conversation at a Time, Susan Scott, Viking, 2002, 266 pp., ISBN 0-670-01324-0


Communication: More than what you Think

October 11, 2013

Today’s blog is a bit out there. But stick with me, it’s a fun one. One evening this summer, I caught a segment on Joe Rogan Questions Everything (please don’t judge me for my TV watching….I’m pretty open minded and interested in lots of weird and wonderful genres). This episode explored the world of psychics […]

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June 25, 2013

As you may or may not know, Calgary suffered from devastating flooding last week. Tens of thousands of people were evacuated, thousands of homes have been destroyed, critical city infrastructure decimated and iconic areas of Calgary such as the Stampede Grounds and the Zoo severely damaged. But in the midst of all the destruction and […]

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