Friday, May 24, 2013

What We Have Here is a Failure to Communicate

“The problem with communication is the illusion that it has occurred.”  — George Bernard Shaw
My days are spent talking. Either I’m standing in front of a group giving a speech or workshop (as is the case this week) or I’m speaking in a small group or with an individual. Basically I get paid to speak. It’s not a bad gig and I enjoy it. Yet listening to the leaders in this current workshop you’d think talking was a lost art form. They bemoan the fact that they believe they communicate well, but find out that they’ve barely been heard, and not understood, or they’ve not been heard at all. One of the leaders in the workshop shared with us the George Bernard Shaw quote that “The problem with communication is the illusion that it has occurred.”
I’ve always found it amusing that communication is referred to as a “soft” skill. Of course this actually reflects that its well nigh impossible to calibrate communication, compared to a skill such as accounting where there is clear definition. Yet too often, people refer to these “soft” skills as though communication is easy or it doesn’t matter as much. It is very difficult to do it properly. That is why, when communication is done effectively it is so obvious.
Interestingly enough, we live in an age were there is the illusion of constant communication. Cell phones are glued to people’s ears. Fingers are toughened through constant tapping on screens. We have facebook, twitter, IM, Skype, Oovoo, and a myriad of devices to communicate. And yet so often people complain about not knowing what is going on, or they have misunderstood some form of electronic communication and had to apologize.
Let’s face it. The most powerful and clear form of communication is face to face communication. We can hear the person, watch their gestures, listen to their tone and get the message. Nothing can replicate face to face dialogue. And even then, I often think I’ve explained something very clearly only to find my listener received a totally different message.
Technology is great for many things, but getting a message across about business, politics, religion, opinion or love is best done so you can look into people’s eyes. Even then, we all need work on how to be concise and clear. Want to know how good you are? Ask someone to summarize something you spoke about. You will find very quickly if your communication is real or an illusion.

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