I choose my words carefully, especially when speaking but also when writing. In fact, if I’m honest, I focus far too much on my choice of words rather than the way I deliver them. The consequence of this is that I am often interrupted as my listener becomes impatient with me whilst I choose the perfect word for that moment. The listener fills in the gap themselves, in anticipation of what they think I’m going to say. And hey presto, the communication is totally ineffective. The messsage is lost.
Then there’s the scenario when you are talking to someone who isn’t really listening to you. You are trying to have a conversation or dialogue, and they just want to tell you something. Have you noticed how it can switch you into the same mode?
Words make up only 7% of communication: body language is 55% and tone is 38%. If you really want to get your message across, then paying close attention to the responses of the listener, and continually adapting your communication until you can effectively communicate your message, is what’s needed. It requires you to be watching and listening as well as talking. Absolute multi-tasking!
My brother is a simultaneous conference interpreter – you know, the people who sit in booths in conference arenas with headphones on all day long? I asked him recently whether they needed to be able to see or make eye contact with the person they are interpreting for. His response was Yes! Because his job is to interpret what people mean, as opposed to what they say. And in order to do that, he’s got to be able to see all the non-verbal communication.
If you are having trouble being clearly understood, perhaps it’s not what you are saying, but the way you are saying it?
Here’s some dialogue from a very funny film called ‘Lost in Translation’ to make you smile 🙂
Director [in Japanese, to the interpreter]: The translation is very important, O.K.? The translation.
Interpreter [in Japanese, to the director]: Yes, of course. I understand.
Director [in Japanese, to Bob]: Mr. Bob. You are sitting quietly in your study. And then there is a bottle of Suntory whisky on top of the table. You understand, right? With wholehearted feeling, slowly, look at the camera, tenderly, and as if you are meeting old friends, say the words. As if you are Bogie in Casablanca, saying, “Here’s looking at you, kid,”—Suntory time!
Interpreter [In English, to Bob]: He wants you to turn, look in camera. O.K.?
Bob: …Is that all he said?