Is What You Are Saying, Really What They Are Hearing?

The Art Of Communication

When I was younger I did some studies in the area of Hermeneutics.

No that is not a biological study and it has little to do with Hermits.

It is in fact the science of accurately interpreting communications that have crossed social & cultural borders, often over prolonged periods of time.

My studies mostly pertained to literature – the written word. For example, what was Cervantes actually communicating, given the period and the culture of his time.

However a large portion of it dealt with the overall concept of communication. One key point that has always stuck with me, was the truth that for every communication, whether it is a spoken sentence, a text message, an email…the accuracy of it is at the mercy of the medium and the receiver.

Put more clearly, for basic communication to occur there are three parts:

  1. The Sender.
  2. The Message (including the medium: as Marshall McLuhan proved, the medium relates symbiotically with the message, influencing how the message is perceived).
  3. The Receiver.

The sender has a set communication and thought that is being put forward. That communication is influenced by the medium in which it is sent. Spoken communication is far more accurate than written communication, thanks to tone, intonations and body language (if their hands are around your throat it likely means anger). “Emoticons” 🙂 notwithstanding, the written word can be far more difficult to qualify. We have all enjoyed mis-communications related to texts or emails.

Is what you are saying actually what is being heard?
Image Source: Churchleaders.com

So the sender has put forth a thought and done their best to communicate it thoroughly within the chosen medium. Now the receiver is going to take in that message based on their pre-conceptions, background, relationship with the sender and the medium (including their own perception OF that medium). Each of these aspects plays a roll in how the communication is interpreted, and can be altered by things such as their culture or age.

The effectiveness of the communication will rely on the sender’s abilities and skills, as well as their knowledge of the recipient (or their audience). It will also rely on the restrictions of the medium in which it was sent and finally, on the dynamics of the receiver.

You cannot control the background of your recipient, their pre-conceived notions or ideas. However you can work with their background and preconceptions – and that is where the relationship between you becomes so important.

Accurate communication becomes easier as relationships develop (which is why literature spanning centuries can be a puzzle)

For example: If I receive a message saying “what were you thinking” from my wife, I will take it a certain way, based on my relationship with her. If I receive the same message from my employer…I am going to take it another way (and probably update my resume).

What does this mean and why is it on our blog? Because as simple as the concept here may be, it is often overlooked when developing emails, social media blasts and publications. It is also one of the single biggest challenges to the cold call.

Communication gets easier as relationships develop. Image Source: Calvin & Hobbes by Bill Watterson

When developing your communications, whether mass, niche or personal and whether to customers, professionals, family or friends – acknowledging the personality of the receivers can save you.

Small Business especially can thrive by being more personable with their communications.

  1. Don’t email or text clients who don’t like email and texts, unless absolutely necessary.
  2. Don’t force your customers to meet you on the medium you are comfortable with – go to them.
  3. Test your communications. If you are emailing, make sure it shows up properly when opened. If Social Media blasting – check how it is viewed across platforms. If publicly speaking, run the message by some test subjects.
  4. Make phone calls, visit locations, shake hands and try to establish a more personal presence. As one fellow blogger put it: “be their white knight”. It is an error to rely only on emails and tweets.
  5. When putting together your campaigns, consider your audience and look at separating them into groups based on the most relevant medium. Email distro lists, Social Media lists, Phone lists…. whatever makes the most sense.
  6. Consider who you are sending to when developing content. Don’t joke about sending a case of beer if they are on the wagon. Hit them up with content that you know they can relate to. Remember that episode of the office where Michael and Andy do their cold call together? Michael meets the client on the common ground of fishing, while Andy blitzes on by with an obviously false story about shooting a shark from the rigging of his dad’s boat.
  7. Provide examples. Link to content or provide images and references. There is often content already out there that can reinforce your idea, look for relevant materials and share them to help present your point.
  8. Develop that relationship. Touch base consistently. Listen to them and build your relationship based what they tell you. Customers will tell you what it takes to get them on board – if you are willing to listen.
  9. Be fun, give the customers a reason to want to talk to you, make the communication and enjoyable experience. Camaraderie anyone?

Communication – Effective Communication – Requires effort, it requires time and it requires diligence, however there is no greater means of securing client faith.

Ben Erickson is a Design & Social Media Specialist with Transition Marketing Services Contact us for a free consultation.

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