Communication (from Latin communicare, meaning "to share" is the activity of conveying information through the exchange of thoughts, messages, or information, as by speech, visuals, signals, written, or behavior. It is the meaningful exchange of information between two or more living creatures.
One definition of communication is any act by which one person gives to or receives from another person information about that person’s needs, desires, perceptions, knowledge, or affective states. Communication may be intentional or unintentional, may involve conventional or unconventional signals, may take linguistic or non-linguistic forms, and may occur through spoken or other modes.
But at times, communication is associated with fear and anxiety. This can be experienced by people who feel that they may have to speak or when they actually are requested to speak. The situation is of a mind-over-matter nature, where the individual experiencing the communication apprehension is worried internally about how his or her communication will be perceived by the recipient.
A form of communication apprehension is lack of communication skills and subsequently a lack of confidence. There are a number of factors that go into communication apprehension and its impact on the individual. If people feel that another person is superior or will judge them, it creates an issue in the level of anxiety experienced. Managers and researchers have long agreed that communication processes are a major factor in organizational success (Roberts & O Reilly, 1974; Snyder & Morris, 1984).
Employees who have open lines of communication with managers are more likely to build effective work relationships with those managers, to increase their organizational identification and enhance their performance, and to contribute to organizational productivity (Gray & Laidlaw, 2004; Muchinsky, 1977; Tsai, Chuang, & Hsieh, 2009). Employees who report positive and open communication with managers are also better able to cope with major organizational changes, such as layoffs and mergers (Gopinath & Becker, 2000; Schweiger & DeNisi, 1991), report higher organizational identification (Bartels, Pruyn, De Jong, & Joustra, 2007, Smidts, Pruyn, & van Riel, 2001), and deal more effectively with job stressors (Stephens & Long, 2000; Tepper, Moss, Lockhart, & Carr, 2007). As a consequence, many ways to improve communication within organizations have been proposed (Atwater & Waldman, 2008; Downs & Adrian, 2004).
Elements of Great Communication, by Aristotle It is easy to take communicating for granted because it is a daily activity.
How much thought do we give to communication? Are you aware that:
What makes someone a good communicator? There’s no mystery here, not since Aristotle identified the three critical elements — ethos, pathos, and logos. — thousands of years ago.
Ethos is essentially your credibility — that is, the reason people should believe what you’re saying. More commonly, though, today’s leaders build ethos most effectively by demonstrating technical expertise in a specific area (which helps convince people that you know what you’re talking about), and by displaying strong levels of integrity and character (which convinces them that you’re not going to lie to them even though, since you know more than they do, you might get away with it).
Pathos is making an emotional connection — essentially, the reason people believe that what you’re saying will matter to them. This is a critical area of competence for present-day leaders. Giving people your undivided attention, taking an active interest in your team members’ career development, and being enthusiastic about both the organization’s progress and the individuals who enable it are ways that leaders do this well. At the end of the day, pathos has the greatest influence on followers’ perception of their leader’s effectiveness as a communicator.
But all the authority and empathy in the world won’t really help you if people don’t understand what you’re talking about or how you came to your conclusions. Logos is your mode for appealing to others’ sense of reason, ergo the term logic. Employing strengths in strategic thinking, problem solving, and analytical skills are how today’s leaders express logical ideas in clear and compelling enough terms to influence outcomes.
While some people can get by on gut feel, as Steve Jobs famously tried to convince us he did, most leaders are required to provide some kind of analysis to make clear their decisions. This is where many leaders feel on the firmest ground — when assembling and analyzing data to address organizational problems. A caveat, though — assembling facts is not the same as presenting them clearly (here talking in complete sentences helps a lot), or marshaling them expressly to demonstrate the merits of a course of action. Facts do not speak for themselves, which is sad, since it would save so much time if they did. Effective leaders know the effort and time spent making explicit the connections they’re drawing from the data to the analysis to their conclusion are well worth it.
These three elements of communication reinforce one another. You may rely heavily on data and analysis (logos) to make a point and in so doing create a perception of expertise and authority on a topic (ethos). And while all three are necessary to excellent communication, improving your ability to do any one of them will help you become a better communicator and so a better leader. Combining them is the path to achieving the greatest success.
Styles & Communication
In organizations we often encounter people possessing difference styles of management. Each style has to be dealt with in a way such that the desired response it achieved.
Mehrabian and the 7%-38%-55% Myth
We often hear that the content of a message is composed of:
However, the above percentages only apply in a very narrow context. A researcher named Mehrabian was interested in how listeners get their information about a speaker's general attitude in situations where the facial expression, tone, and/or words are sending conflicting signals.
Thus, he designed a couple of experiments. In one, Mehrabian and Ferris (1967) researched the interaction of speech, facial expressions, and tone. Three different speakers were instructed to say “maybe” with three different attitudes towards their listener (positive, neutral, or negative). Next, photographs of the faces of three female models were taken as they attempted to convey the emotions of like, neutrality, and dislike.
Test groups were then instructed to listen to the various renditions of the word “maybe,” with the pictures of the models, and were asked to rate the attitude of the speaker. Note that the emotion and tone were often mixed, such as a facial expression showing dislike, with the word “maybe” spoken in a positive tone.
Significant effects of facial expression and tone were found in that the study suggested that the combined effect of simultaneous verbal, vocal and facial attitude communications is a weighted sum of their independent effects with the coefficients of .07, .38, and .55, respectively.
Mehrabian and Ferris caution their readers about the limitation to their research, “These findings regarding the relative contribution of the tonal component of a verbal message can be safely extended only to communication situations in which no additional information about the communicator/addressee relationship is available.” Thus, what can be concluded is that when people communicate, listeners derive information about the speaker's attitudes towards the listener from visual, tonal, and verbal cues; yet the percentage derived can vary greatly depending upon a number of other factors, such as actions, context of the communication, and how well the communicators know each other.
Communication Mistakes made by Managers
Any controversial decision can engender rumors, anxiety, and resistance. So rather than announcing a controversial decision to an entire group, prep people one-on-one. Learn who will object, and why. Decisions about change are the most charged — reorganizations, changing goals, and the departure of key employees create uncertainty, and uncertainty generates anxiety.
To forestall anxiety, open a dialogue with the other person. Put a name to the problem: “This reorganization means we’ll be doing some things differently, and that makes some people apprehensive.” Then address the concerns raised in response to your statement:
Some lies or partial truths are well-intentioned. Certain topics must remain confidential while they’re under discussion. But be careful how you keep secrets. If people know you’ve lied, you will lose their trust forever. A start-up company’s controller watched the CFO lie to members of other departments and subsequently began to doubt the CFO’s sincerity. He began looking for a new job with a boss whose intentions he could trust. In that instance, lying cost the company a valuable employee.
Rather than lie, train yourself to respond, “I’m not free to comment” or “I can’t answer that fully right now,” when asked about confidential or sensitive topics. Consistency is important. Warren Buffett never discusses his investments, even with shareholders. As a result, his silence on a particular deal gives away nothing.
Surprised that you never hear bad news until it’s too late? Don’t be. The more power you have, the less you’ll hear about problems. It’s human nature: problems are filtered and softened as they ascend the corporate hierarchy, with each messenger seeking to soften the blow. If you want an honest assessment of a problem, seek out bad news. Welcome it. And when it comes, show your appreciation.
Conversely, messages are magnified as they travel down the hierarchy. Jokes are especially dangerous. When the managing director of a consulting firm joked, “If you’re not here Sunday, don’t bother coming in Monday,” his project team wasn’t sure what to do. Put a lid on rumors by using plain, simple language. End meetings by reviewing your reactions and next steps. “I value your analysis, Chris. The sales trend is disturbing. Let’s follow up on Wednesday.”
It’s tempting to gloss over issues because “people won’t understand.” Why explain a reorganization when you can simply say, “Here’s the new org chart”? But that’s a cop-out. Front-line employees may not be masters of organizational design, but they deserve to know the rationale behind changes that affect their lives. If you think your people won’t understand something, remember it’s your job to explain it to them.
Many managers like to gloss over problems when motivating their teams. But if things aren’t going well, those teams are probably well aware of the problems. In fact, they’ve probably known about them longer than you have. Rather than avoiding the situation, enlist their skills in finding solutions.
In goal-setting, compensation, and evaluation, it’s easy to confuse process with outcome. You promise your team a 7% raise, but then the board, concerned about the downturn, caps raises at 3%. You fight like mad to raise the number, and you compromise on 4%. But your people don’t appreciate it. In fact, they’re downright resentful. How could they be so insensitive to all your hard work?
Simple. Your hard work was process, and you promised them an outcome. You want them to appreciate how hard you tried, but they wanted a specific result. Since they didn’t get it, they can’t see past that fact. You want people to value you for your hard work. But when evaluating others, it’s always easier to judge outcomes. Most organizations penalize employees for the wrong outcome, even if they follow the right process. Perversely, others are rewarded for the right outcome, even when they flout the rules about process.
E-mail is great for conveying information, but don’t use it for emotional issues; e-mail messages are too easy to misconstrue. If you’re squirming while reading an e-mail, leave your computer and deal with the situation in person or by telephone.
At the same time, phone calls and face-to-face meetings are inefficient ways to disseminate information, but great for discussing nuanced issues. You can respond directly to the listener’s reaction, and you can use your tone of voice and facial expressions to control your message. “I’m sure you did a great job” could be read sarcastically in an e-mail, but the same words can be delivered sincerely in person with the right tone of voice.
Furthermore, some people are listeners, while others are readers. Listeners won’t focus on written memos but are great in conversation. Readers write great memos and are also glad to read them, but conversation sometimes fails to fully engage them. If you talk to a reader or write to a listener, your message might not get through. Don’t be afraid to ask people how they prefer to receive information; most people know the answer. If they don’t, a little attention on your part will reveal what works best. (And for some people, it’s a combination of the two.)
What you don’t say may be sending as loud a message as what you do say. If you don’t give praise, people get the message they’re unappreciated. If you don’t explain the rationale behind decisions, the message is that you don’t trust them. And if you don’t tell people where the company wants to go, they don’t know how to help it get there.
When fundraising became the CEO’s priority at a distance learning company, he stopped communicating his vision to employees. Since money was constantly on his mind, he did mention financial goals. Eventually, the company culture became money-focused, and the vision was lost. But when the CEO delivered a vision-oriented presentation at a conference, one of his employees approached him afterward to say that she had never felt so inspired. As a result, he changed his internal communication strategy to emphasize vision once more, and saw morale soar.
By their very nature, mistakes of omission are hard to uncover. Review your major goals and the communication that’s needed to support those goals. Ask what message may have been sent by your silence so far. And be willing to ask people, “What messages are you getting from me?”
Blocks to Effective Communication:
How to Sharpen Your Communication Skills
“Communication and interpersonal skills remain at the top of the list of what matters most to recruiters.” That’s according to the most recent Harris Interactive/Wall Street Journal business school survey published in September 2007. So why do we ignore the relevance of communication until it becomes an issue? One reason may be because we don’t take the time to quantify what we mean by it.
Richard Anderson, CEO of Delta Airlines, In a New York Times interview has defined his expectations for effective communication.
“Measure what you treasure” is a saying used by compensation professionals in reference to aligning rewards to corporate goals. The same philosophy can be applied to communication. If you value communication skills you will recruit, train and hire for it. Oral and verbal skills are a baseline; organizations also need to look at the broader context of how such skills are used to inform, persuade, coach and inspire. That requires years of practice and example. It is up to leaders to show the way by communicating clearly — but also teaching others to do the same.
Communication apprehension can lead to a number of serious consequences that should not be taken lightly. The fact that this creates varying degrees of anxiety for the individual can cause unhealthy levels of stress in both the physical and emotional sense, and that can have a negative impact on both the body and mind. Other consequences of this anxiety is that it can limit people in a number of areas of their lives, including their career prospects, advancement at school and social interactions with others.Effective communication occurs only if the receiver understands the exact information or idea that the sender intended to transmit. Many of the problems that occur in an organization are
(Mistry, Jaggers, Lodge, Alton, Mericle, Frush, Meliones, 2008):
Studying the communication process is important because you coach, coordinate, counsel, evaluate, and supervise throughout this process. It is the chain of understanding that integrates the members of an organization from top to bottom, bottom to top, and side to side.
Prof. Sanchita C. Banerji