There’s more to communication than what you say
I gave an overview of my experiences leading Team Scotland at the Commonwealth Youth Games (http://colingregor.com/commonwealth-youth-games/ ). One of the important areas I found was how the team communicated. Previously, I touched on the What’s App group we had. This allowed for immediate dissemination of information. It also provided a forum for some light-hearted chat. This was an important part of the management team bonding. The interaction of the management played a significant role in setting the tone for the athletes. We wanted them to maximise the opportunity representing Team Scotland at the Commonwealth Games gave them. This meant enjoying the experience so creating a positive atmosphere in Team Scotland was important.
The 7% Rule
Creating a positive environment is about how one behaves, and the example they set. This is a crucial part of communication: it’s not what you say but how you say it. Perhaps you have heard of the 7% rule? Professor Mehrabian concluded communication is only 7% verbal. 55% is body language and the remaining 38% is tone of voice. This study was based on single words, not intended to apply to conversation, or speeches. So I would argue what you say has a greater significance than 7%. If you were to read Abraham Lincoln’s “Gettysburg Address” it would still inspire. Yet nobody knows what his tone was. Nor his movements. However the crucial point here is that your body language and how you deliver your message are important to consider.
I worked alongside Will from Quantum Coaching at a communication workshop and he used the following sentence to highlight this point:
“I didn’t say Mark slept with Oliver’s wife.”
Say the sentence aloud, each time put the emphasis on a different word. Start with “I” and think what you are suggesting. Next, emphasise “didn’t” and consider what is being implied. It works for each of the words. What you are suggesting can change quite markedly. Thus, how you deliver your message is also an important element to effective communication.
Think of how this can impact on text messages and emails. What tone you think you are writing the message in is irrelevant. It is totally dependent on what tone the reader interprets. If they’re angry and read your message, or if they’re happy and read your message will they interpret it differently? I think this is a really important consideration when sending emails. It may be easier to go and speak to your colleague at the other side of the room.
The third important consideration when thinking about how you communicate is your body language. When delivering a speech or presentation you want your body language to match the emotion of the words you are saying. When conversing with somebody one should consider mirroring who you are conversing with. Let’s have a little look at both of these.
Returning to the Bahamas, Team Scotland wanted it to be a positive environment for the young athletes. Thus, on the whole, when any of the management were speaking to the athletes we wanted it to be upbeat, energetic and delivered in an enthusiastic manner. Nevertheless, prior to the competition starting I had to refocus the team and remind them they were here representing their country. A different message requiring a different delivery.
When speaking to a group, or presenting, we think about what we are going to say, but do we think about what we portray through our body language? I would suggest we should.
Equally, when in conversation, do we consider what vibe we are giving off? Most will undertake some form of mirroring on a totally subconscious level: through body language; copying speech patterns; or, repeating certain words. However to add value to a conversation on should pay attention to it. The more different something is to us the more we fear it. Think spiders (with 8 legs), or snakes (with no legs). Thus if you mirror somebody then you are building trust and rapport on a subconscious level.
Try it next time you are in a conversation. Think about how you sit, do you lean forward, are your hands clasped or legs crossed? Compare it to how the person you are talking with is. Now shift and mirror them. It may not happen immediately, but it will lead to a deeper level of conversation.
One word of warning, as you do this make sure it is not detracting your attention from what is being said. As mentioned earlier, body language is important but so is what is said. I will go into more detail in a future blog about the importance of active listening.
When talking, what you say, how you say it and how you deliver it are all important. They must all marry together, so that your message has most impact. One size does not fit all. Different styles should be adopted if you are talking to a group compared to if you are engaged in a small conversation.
Colin is an Executive Coach and Performance Consultant.
He is currently completing his Postgraduate Certificate in Executive Coaching. He works in a one to one environment or with teams to improve performance.