By F Kamaruddin
The way we communicate with others and with ourselves ultimately determines the quality of our lives ~ Anthony Robbins
Two chickens stood on opposite sides of the road. One asked the other, “Hey! How do I get to the other side?” The other chicken replied: “What are you talking about? You already ARE on the other side!”
We like that quote from Anthony Robbins because it helps to highlight the need to be aware of how people are experiencing our communications and to craft the right approach for positive results. We love that chicken story because it reminds us to consider the many different points of view and perceptions being communicated. And because we welcome all chicken and egg questions.
One of my personal interests is observing how people send and receive messages as they communicate, not unlike watching a tennis match. Reading this blog post by Olivier Blanchard* really made me think of how applicable his points are in many (if not all) forms of communications and how important it is for us to be clear about our intention of communicating something, which is the answer to “What is the purpose of saying that” and/or “What do we mean when we say that?”
In his post, Olivier touched on the #PearlHarbor and #PearlHarbour trending topics on Twitter, “hours after a devastating earthquake and tsunami struck Japan and left hundreds, perhaps thousands of innocent people dead” and how they represented the occasional ugliness of the social web. Personally, I found many of those tweets and Facebook updates disturbing. They spread like wildfire. If they were meant to communicate hatred, I’d say they’ve succeeded. Putting my professional hat (or head) back on, I’m interested in the intention of making those statements. If I can relate it to internal organizational communications, it would be in the form of feedback received from focus group participants. I don’t find it unusual to see emotions in descriptions of challenges and roadblocks employees face in their journey to become more effective. We look at how our participants describe issues relating to management, system, people, technology, environment (internal and external) and more. To get clarification, we ask questions like “What do you mean when you say ‘change management’? Do you mean there’s a need to get other people to become management team or do you mean there’s a need to manage changes? What kind of changes?” You get the picture, right?
I responded to several statements in the above post-earthquake trending topics. There were some unsavoury replies on how I would naturally side with one party based on my current location in the world. I didn’t get many responses other than those, though. I find that unfortunate because I believe questions are great tools to seek clarification. Yes, how we ask questions are important too. We’d be happy to discuss that in upcoming posts.
What stayed with me most is Olivier’s call for us to keep in mind that “100% of the social web’s potential is tied to human potential” and many things, both good and bad, can fuel that potential. Please let me share with you what I learned from the recent uproar:
We need to continuously ask ourselves: “WHAT DO I MEAN WHEN I SAY THIS?”
Finding the best starting point is a lifelong journey. That point in communication is a clear picture of our purpose i.e. identifying what is it that we want to achieve when we communicate. This helps us understand our own communication intentions and preferences. Understanding what my communication may say about me helps me get up, take a walk and have a rethink instead of immediately clicking the ‘send’ button to emails that would otherwise be listed as regrets.
In my work, we help our clients craft their communication plan. We also conduct workshops to identify what can help get the understanding of the key messages and the right channels to get the message across to everyone. Increasingly, those channels include Facebook pages, management blogs and Twitter. Things that were said in private before are becoming more public. Is there something we can do to survive and make these changes work for us? There is. One thing we can do is get a clear picture of what we are communicating. This is one of the keys to add more meaning to action, including agreements to disagree. Ready to start now? Let’s go.