When it comes to effective communication, speaker and listener both share equally in the responsibility of communicating. Communication is a two-way process that involves both how we send and receive messages.
Improving communication starts by understanding that our personal filters determine how we package a message (the information we send out), and, conversely, how others receive or decode the intended message. As soon as we are cognizant of how we filter and distort the information we receive, we are better able to take responsibility for listening more effectively.
From the time we’re born, we learn to communicate. Most of us think of communication as consisting of the words we use, but the truth is that only seven per cent of what we communicate to others is made up of the actual words we use; in fact, a whopping 55 per cent of what we communicate is non-verbal (body language, eye contact). The remaining 38 percent is vocal, which includes things like pitch, speed, volume, and tone of voice.
Despite this, we often consider ourselves effective communicators if we are eloquent speakers, focusing consciously on the initial seven percent – leaving the remaining bulk of our communications to our unconscious minds.
Only seven percent of what we communicate to others is made up of the actual words we use.
Getting the message across
Ralph Waldo Emerson once said, “Eloquence is the power to translate a truth into language perfectly intelligible to the person to whom you speak.” Each of us has a complex set of perceptual filters that we use to sort through information. These can also act as barriers to communication. These filters include:
Emotion: a listener’s emotional state will dictate their reaction to, or willingness to accept information.
Culture: a person’s origins or upbringing can have a huge influence on how a message is received; for example, it could be that their native language may not contain similar words or concepts.
Situational Context: environmental factors – including how the message is delivered – can have an impact on how a message is perceived. Temperature, noise, (dis)comfort can all detract from a message.
Personal Beliefs: these are the world map of how we listen, perceive, and interpret information.
Keeping these filters in mind enables responsible communication – carefully-chosen words can transcend the above filters, and it is at this point where effective communication is achieved.