Communicating Effectively

God, in her infinite wisdom an patience created us all a bit different from each other. This is fine.Until we start communicating with each other. From a communications perspective, it is an absolute nightmare. Because we are different from each other, our methods of processing information and communicating are also different.

The theory on effective communication is ripe with models and data points on how to connect with our audience.From casual one on ones to rousing motivational speeches, there is abundant theory on how to communicate effectively. Depending on our interest in the subject and more importantly, our motivation for learning communication, the rabbit holes can get as deep as we want it to.

I think this is insane. And my argument may seem simplistic to you. It is this – why can’t we communicate by just being ourselves? Do we have to learn effective communication?

As with every important question in our lives, the answer to the question above is “it depends”. Depends on what? It depends on what we do for a living and what we wish to accomplish through our communication.

if your bread and butter is directly related to how well  you express yourself (which is most of us), then we need to understand the rules of game. Not to get ahead or win it all, but sometimes just to satisfy the need to connect with another individual. To hear, to appreciate and to express intelligibly requires understanding the various communicating styles and learning types.

Apparently, our personality too plays a very important role in how we communicate. All of us fall under one of the following four categories:

  1. Action Person  – Loves to cross things off their To Do List.Restless, action and goal oriented, walks around with a can do attitude, impatient and twitchy at times
  2. Idea Person – Imaginative. Deep thinkers. Ego centered. May not be very practical at times and may appear aloof . Most idea persons think they are God’s gift to humanity.
  3. Process Person – Loves to organize logic oriented. Sequential. Practical. Wants to know Facts. Plans a lot. Might be perceived as unimaginative, boring and controlling.
  4. People Person – Emotional. Connectors. Excellent Motivators and believe in teamwork. Wants to include everyone in the meeting. Loves to know the humane side of things. Very emphatic listeners. Might be perceived as soft and indecisive.

And of course, communication itself can be divided into the following categories

  1. Verbal  – The process of responding to the sounds transmitted by someone or something by using words and sounds of our own.
  2. Non Verbal – Written, Visual, Audio, Body language.

Body language? How can we use body language for communicating? Well, in the animal kingdom, every animal uses its body to effectively express itself. As part of the . Anyone who has seen Ceasar Milano – The Dog Whisperer – can confirm how Ceasar uses his body to dominate and control the dogs in his show.

Body language is not just our posture, but also our gestures. The way we use our arms, hands and fingers is also very effective in communicating a variety of emotions and expressions. However, culture plays a dominant role in interpreting the gestures. The thumbs up signal, which is the “good luck to you” signal  in US / UK can land you in trouble in Iran. Similarly, the gesture for asking for food in India –  the curled fingers pointing towards your mouth –  can be very offensive in Italy.

As If the above complexity isn’t bewildering enough, there are four styles of using language while communicating too. They are

  1. Assertive – I’m ok, you are Ok. I will say what I have to say without violating any of your rights.
  2. Aggressive – I’m ok. You are no Ok and I will say what I have to say even if it means violating some of your rights.
  3. Passive – You are ok, I’m not ok and I will not be saying what I have to say because of my insecurities
  4. Passive Aggressive – I’m ok, You are not ok, but I will make you think i think you are ok by using false praise, sarcasm or just plain silent treatment.

And all of the above is from the speaker perspective. The other side of the equation is the listener or receiver. How does the listener process all the information that is assailing his ear drums?

Primarily, we process information through the dominant hemisphere in our brain – Left or Right. If the person has a dominant Left brain, they process information sequentially and generally appreciate numbers and logic better. If your right brain is dominant, then you appreciate visuals and process the big picture better. That is not to say that left brained individuals cannot process visuals or right brainers cannot understand logic. Our brains can be taught and trained to use both the hemispheres. In fact, without tapping into both the hemispheres, we cannot perform some of the basic activities such as running.

So, how do we learn? We learn using the following seven styles

  1. Aural –  Musically gifted. Can pick up the intricacies of an opera but may not be able to fix the bulb properly.
  2. Visual – seeing is believing.
  3. Verbal – Learns by reading and understanding the words.
  4. Kinesthetic – Learns by doing.
  5. Logical – structure is very important. Definite beginning, well connected middle and an end that is in sync. with the beginning.
  6. Social – Learns by connecting with the people around.
  7. solitary – Learns by themselves.

After compiling the above models and styles, I see how it can help us by understanding our own communication style. This knowledge and self awareness will surely help us identify our dominant style and use it to our advantage and and improve our not so dominant styles.

Given all the complexity around communication, I still believe it is a fool proof strategy to be ourselves while communicating. This will help us build trust with the listener and that will make communication natural and effective.

what do you think?


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