What you say vs. what you communicate

By David Castillo Dominici, published on 12 November 2013

By David Castillo Dominici, published on 12 November 2013

Interesting distinction can you see it? All too often we say what we think others want to hear. Sometimes to avoid confrontation, sometimes to pursue, and agenda. And even though we say the right things, the right words, and perhaps even the right tone, we get a response that is not what we expected. The reason – that we are communicating something different than what we are saying.

My wife is really good at catching this. (She is one of my best teachers after all). Sometimes I will say something like an apology. And she will remain upset. Why!?? I said I was sorry. (Ever feel that way?) She then points out that yes, I said I was sorry. But my tone of voice, my stance, my body language was communicating something different. Often something like, “I can’t believe I am apologizing for something like this”.

Think about the coaching conversations you have with your employees where you are trying to be “understanding” or “coaching” as opposed to directive and critical. You may exhibit the behaviors but they will pick up on what you are really feeling or thinking. It could be a micro-expression or perhaps an in-congruence between your words and your tone. Trust me they know.

I had a sales manager say to me a long time ago; “If you are feeling irritated or frustrated with a buyer, they will feel it too.” Today’s neuroscience tells us this happens through the function of something called mirror neurons.

So what are you to do? Let me suggest the following:

  1. Become aware of what you are really feeling and check to see if that is aligned with what you want to communicate. In the case of my wife and the apology, it might mean walking away from the conversation for a few minutes to get in touch with my real desire to apologize. When I cool down from the moment, I almost always want to apologize.

In the case of a call to a problem client, you might want to check in and see if you really want to resolve the issue or if you are still upset. Then ask yourself, “Which position will lead to resolution”? And can you get in touch with that.

  1. Recognize that what you are feeling will always show up in the room (or over the phone) and check in to see if what you are feeling is what you want to convey. I often sit in my car before entering a meeting and set my intention for that conversation.
  2. If you “feel” it, (A customer’s frustration, a manager’s irritation, an employee’s disengagement) name it and claim it. Bring it forth into the conversation and resolve it. If you are trying to communicate a message to someone who is pre-occupied with their story (frustration, irritation, etc.) they cannot hear you.

We often take communication for granted because we have all been speaking and writing most of our life. It’s almost unconscious. And there’s the rub. When we can become present to what we want to communicate, and then use our tools of communication to support that, we get better results.

So before your next communication take a breath and become aware of what you want to say and compare it to what you are about to communicate.

Take Good care.

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