Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The illusion of communication

Global business with employees and customers all over the world. How do we ensure that what we are communicating is getting received in the proper context?

"The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place." 
~ George Bernard Shaw
How many times have you felt like this, "Wow, that meeting went well. Everyone seemed to get where we are going." As Mr. Shaw so eloquently points out, there are may times we feel that we have communicated a vision or idea fairly well.Only to find out that there was a disconnect between our message and the people that we wanted to communicate with.

One of the points I made in my last post was that you have to keep your vision or message simple. Many times we add so many unneeded words to our presentations and briefings that after a few minutes our audience has hit the "Mute" button. They are on auto pilot. 

Effective communication happens when the delivered content reaches an audience and is processed in the correct context. If I told you to, "Go and clean the overhead in the head below the ladder well." You would probably be very confused and unsure about what exactly I wanted you to do. But, if you happen to be a Navy veteran you would know exactly what I wanted to be accomplished. Which is to clean the ceiling in the bathroom at the bottom of the stairs. Uh oh, I think I just heard someone click their "mute" button....That is just an example, a very extreme example but never-less you get the point. 

The reason I bring this up is that in today's culture we have to be able to communicate on a wide array of different media and outlets. Our companies are Global, not just located in a city or town. Even if your company doesn't have offices or people within your organization in other countries, more than likely you have employees in different states and time zones. The one thing I have learned in the Navy is that even if you are from the same country, you may have a hard time communicating with someone else from another region or state then you. Being able to understand not only American culture but that of another culture located in another country makes our communication skills even more relevant then ever.

 An example of this would be you've been given responsibility for a new project with a Japanese client. You arrive in Tokyo (Beautiful city by the way) and are met by Representatives of the company. Wanting to make a good impression, you throw a hand their way and stare them in the eyes ready to impress. Did it work? Take this into consideration; In Japan, it is considered disrespectful to stare into another person's eyes, particularly those of a person who is senior to you because of age or status. Now, I didn't mention whether or not you are considered to be senior to these people meeting you. But, good chance that they would consider it offensive. So, now instead of making an impression, you've already managed to miscommunicate your intentions. Now, if you would have done your homework you would've known the following:
Meeting Etiquette in Japan (Resource on Japanese etiquette)

  • Greetings in Japan are very formal and ritualized.
  • It is important to show the correct amount of respect and deference to someone based upon their status relative to your own.
  •  If at all possible, wait to be introduced.
  • It can be seen as impolite to introduce yourself, even in a large gathering.
  • While foreigners are expected to shake hands, the traditional form of greeting is the bow. How far you bow depends upon your relationship to the other person as well as the situation. The deeper you bow, the more respect you show.
  • A foreign visitor may bow the head slightly, since no one expects foreigners to generally understand the subtle nuances of bowing.

. Ok, wow, you didn't know this article was going to break into a Japanese etiquette lecture. Sorry, I missed my own point. I didn't keep it simple. 


Allen said...

Good article, Greg. Keeping communications simple is key to success. When I worked in the Theatre years ago, I taught the three essentials of theatre were an actor, an audience, and a story. That simple communications model keep everything from getting too complicated. We need to strive for this simplicity. K.I.S.S.
Allen Evitts

Greg Farley said...

Allen, Thank you so much for your time and comment. It is appreciated.

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