A poor blind boy sat on a building’s steps with a hat by his feet to receive donations from strangers passing by. He held up a placard which said: “I am blind, please help.” There were only a few coins tossed into his hat.
A gentleman walking by took a few coins from his pocket and dropped them into the blind boy’s hat. He then stooped down, took the placard, turned it around, and wrote some different words on the other side. He put the sign back to its place so that everyone who walked by would see it.
Soon the hat began to fill up with coins. A lot more people were giving money to the blind boy. That afternoon, the man who had changed the placard’s words came back to see how things were going. The boy recognized his footsteps and asked, “Are you him who made changes to my sign this morning? What did you write? “
The man said, “I only wrote the truth. I said what you said but differently.” I wrote:
“This world around you is so beautiful. You can see it, but I can’t.” (This story comes from speakingtree.in)
Communication is what makes the world go around. How true this is of our family life, our community life, and our business life. It is how we communicate and say things that truly make all the difference in how they affect the person listening.
Let’s consider three universal principles of communication:
- What someone is saying is not necessarily what the other person is hearing.
When a person says something, they know what they mean; but often, if the person listening seems not to understand, the speaker somehow sees it as the other person’s fault for not understanding. The person listening to the speaker could be receiving a message that is quite different from what the other person is saying. What they are hearing is being filtered through their thoughts, feelings, and life experiences. The person speaking is also filtering what they are saying through their thinking, feeling, and experiences. There is much room for misunderstanding between what a speaker intends to say, thinks they are saying, and genuinely communicates. The determining factor is how the listener interprets what they are hearing. The more distracted the listener is when hearing the message, the more likely there will be a poor connection between the listener and the speaker. What is said is not always what a person hears.
- People are always communicating, even if they are not speaking words.
The speaker’s actions, facial expressions, and body language are significant contributors to how what is said to the listener is heard and received. We are always communicating with the integration of sight and sound to others. Whether intentional or unintentional, we talk integrated messages all the time. All of us, have at one time, have been ignored by someone on purpose. The deliberate silent treatment sent a clear message to us. There are many non-verbal communication forms, such as the volume and tone of voice, body language, and facial expressions. Have you ever experienced someone communicating with you very effectively, using just their eyes alone?
- People usually rely on non-verbal cues more than verbal cues.
Often there is a misunderstanding between verbal and non-verbal messages. The one listening will trust “how” something is said, rather than “what” the person said. If what the speaker says does not line up with their voice tone, body language, or facial expressions, they will believe the verbal message’s non-verbal behavior. For instance, a person can compliment someone on how they look or compliment what they are wearing. Still, if they say it in a sarcastic tone while looking away when saying it, the listener will perceive the message as insincere and interpret the real meaning as untruthful. All that was said non-verbally tipped the scales for them over the actual words verbalized.
These 8 Steps below on Effective Business Communication from middlemarketcenter.org agree with all the above. Here is an abridged version:
Eliminate assumptions. Assumptions often cause misunderstandings, which can escalate into troublesome situations. Don’t assume that what happened before is what will always happen.
Find the right place and time for all involved to talk. Communication won’t work when one party is distracted. Find a quiet location in the office and, if the transmission is problematic, make sure you have privacy.
To be heard, listen first. You never want to begin by imposing a solution. If there’s a problem, describe it and how it is impacting your business. Then, ask openly, “What can we do to resolve this situation?” Stop and listen.
Ask questions. Questions are beautiful tools. If you’re not sure about a detail, ask for confirmation. If you want to hear feedback from the other person, ask. When you combine listening with asking relevant questions, you’ve opened up assertive two-way business communication.
Expressing emotion is important but always be respectful. The feeling is part of that business communication, but it shouldn’t be the end of it.
Pay attention to nonverbal messages. Be careful about your tone of voice, too. If nonverbal messages are overwhelming the conversation, it might be better to wait until things settle.
Recognize and reinforce positive behaviors. Effective communication is a constant activity, and you should thank the other person for accommodating you. It’s a win-win, and it will keep the channels of communication open.
Be patient and don’t expect miracles. Communication is so important — and so hard. It doesn’t eliminate differences, but it does allow for them.
The story of the blind boy’s rewritten placard teaches us that “how” we say what we say can open or close hearts, change the outcome from failure to success, and cause other people to engage with us who otherwise would slight us.
It is hard to disagree with the truth that it is much more important “how we say” something rather than “what we say.” As the man said to the boy: “I only wrote the truth. I said what you said but differently”, and that made all the difference!
Take these basic principles for a test drive! Be mindful of your words, facial expressions, eye contact, tone, and body language. Unify them with intentionality whenever possible and experience the sense of well-being and acceptance as your reward!