Our cultures are built and function on language: we can express our intentions, work together, solve problems, and pass on our knowledge. We not only pass on all this information verbally but also by writing. Language does maintain our social cohesion; despite our large and complex society. This is because we can write down information or instructions on how to proceed at a later moment. It sounds simple but the consequence is that we disconnect intention and action from the here and now. For example: if I would like you to prepare a special meal for tomorrow, I write instructions down now so you can do it without me being present. A more general example is a traffic sign; nobody has to be there and it´s effective all the time. This is something animals can’t do, and the reason why their group size is limited. The more complex the group structure, the smaller the group will be. We, however, learn it almost automatically without any form of education. We learn it even before we are able to tie our own shoelaces.
So, language is a very important tool in our society. Commercially we don’t take any risk and study communication in-depth, to convince the potential customers to buy our product. On a personal level, we almost completely trust to learn the language by practicing; with all misunderstandings and conflicts during the process. For me, it´s very weird. They explain to us how to read, write, and speak; but not that the receiver will interpret them against his/her personal background. Considering memories, emotions, and context that could change their perspective from ours. Let’s have a look at the basic principles, and see what we additional can consider or improve.
The four most important concepts for successful communication are:
- verbal and non-verbal
- personal representation system: visual, audio and touch
Non-verbal means body language. 55 percent of a message is determined by it. Our facial expression, the posture of our body and the movements of our hands support the message by adding feeling/emotion. Try to tell a joke with facial expressions and movements that don’t support the content. Verbal means the words, intonation, and rhythm. The words determine 7 percent of the message and intonation 38. The rhythm doesn’t influence the message as such but it establishes a better connection with the receiver.
Everybody has a dominant representation system. It means that a person will relate better to the message when received in its favored representation system.
– A visual-oriented person: will look up to recall from memory, learn by seeing, presentation is important, move hands a bit faster and uses words related to seeing.
– An audio person: will look left-right to recall from memory, learn by listening, easily distracted by sounds, use words related to sounds and talk more to themselves.
– A touch person: wants to touch and be touched, looks down to recall a memory, speak and move controlled, learn by doing and use words related to feeling.
For example; Imagine you want to sell a car. If you know the principles you can categorize the potential buyer. You can emphasize the car properties according to the person’s representation system. By a visual person, you’d use words like “look” or “see” the nice shape or color of the car. With an audio person, you’d say: “listen” to the “sound” of closing the car door or from the engine. And at least, with a touch person, you´d say: “feel the car´s smooth line and the fabric of the comfortable seats.
Perception is an interpretation of the subject as we see it. (see Perception). It has a major impact on the way we and the other person react. To get a better understanding of the other person’s point of view we have to: really listen, don’t think of a reply while they are talking, and think of questions to ask to get more inside. Also, try to imagine what you would say/do if you were the other person. After that, you can react and have a good conversation.
Attitude is the way you approach the other. When we end up in conflict after a talk, very often our approach was wrong. We assumed too much upfront, based on, impressions, hearsay, and imagination. Especially when expecting difficulties, out of fear we assume the worst to protect ourselves. (see Opposed to change) Unfortunately, we focus our thoughts on the negative and do not leave much room to consider the opportunities. An open attitude (which leaves room for other opinions) is most often the best. What do you want to achieve with your communication? Do you want to convince the other you’re right, or accept that there is another truth; and have a pleasant conversation? In a personal conflict, it’s important to explain which impact it has on you; rather than accusing the other what he/ she did wrong. This way you will avoid ending up in a ping pong exchanging of accusations, instead of solutions.