We started with grunts, moved onto crude paintings, took the leap into spoken language, then written language was born, and now we speak roughly 6,900 languages. Most of us like to think we are at the pinnacle of sophistication in our ability to communicate with other people. Then Elon Musk proposes the concept of direct brain-to-brain transmission… what can’t this guy do? The purpose of communicating is to share ideas, feelings, emotions, thoughts, etc. Aside from creating differing avenues through which we can communicate (phone calls, texting, emailing), the way we communicate hasn’t changed much since speech first came to be.
And if we think about it, we aren’t always that great at it. Try having an argument with your significant other, or reason with your boss about why their new plan is awful. We aren’t always in touch with exactly how we feel or think, and then when we try to communicate these vague or confusing concepts, we choose which words (sometimes correctly, sometimes not) to convey the message to somebody else. Then, the other person hears those words from their point of view, with their own feelings and thoughts influencing the meaning of these words. And we go back and forth in what we call a conversation.
Musk wants to eliminate the guesswork and bias that goes into communication to allow us to literally wire our thoughts and feelings to another person. Obviously, we aren’t there yet, so it’s worth talking about how we can improve our current methods and modes of communication to eliminate professional mistakes and personal flounders.
Effective Communication is Key to your Success and Happiness
As a highly social species, we rely on relationships for our happiness and survival. Everything from the clothes we wear to the words that come out of our mouth communicates who we are to other people. It’s crucial to our success in business to be able to communicate effectively, and it’s definitely necessary to foster strong relationships.
An excellent communicator is self-aware and can easily identify and label their emotions and motivations. Having the insight required to self-reflect leads to an increased ability to convey how you are feeling, and why you are feeling a certain way. When you can do this, it becomes possible to enlist someone’s help in finding a solution. This is beneficial in both professional and personal settings. When you let emotions exist inside of you without seeking to identify their source or define their purpose, they can have control over you.
For example, it is difficult to act rationally when you are angry. Having the capacity to feel your anger, sit with it for a moment, and then tell your partner why it makes you angry that they constantly leave dishes in the sink will come across much more effectively than yelling at them for the 7th time this week to “PUT YOUR DISHES AWAY!”
Word choice, tone, volume, and body language all serve to help or hinder us in our ability to communicate effectively with another person. Try it now. Think of a sentence, maybe something you’ve been wanting to say but haven’t had the courage to.
First, say it softly and without confidence, then say the same sentence with hand movements and a loud voice. Try it again with an angry tone, then say it with a smile on your face. You’ll be able to see, even without an audience, the different effect the words can have on the meaning and effectiveness of your message. But remember, the first step in communicating well is developing a strong sense of self-awareness and a willingness to be introspective to better understand yourself before you toss words out into the universe.
Communication Made Simple
There is a saying that goes, “I’m sorry for the long email, I didn’t have time to write a short one.” It’s time-consuming and frankly, an art, to convey meaning in fewer words. In our very digital age, the rules of communication are more complex. Much of what we say is sent through text or email, and the spoken word still requires attention to tone and volume. Here are some communication “musts” that will take you far in your business interactions.
Even though texting has become the go-to for a quick message, the casual tone you use to find out which bar your friends are at does not convey professionalism. Make sure you stick with proper capitalization and punctuation.
Email communication is a large part of business communication, especially if you work remotely. The key here is to put in the extra effort to send a short concise message that gets your message across in as few words as possible. The longer it is, and the more you try to dress it up with big words, the more you risk muddling your message. Try sticking to the Five W’s: Who, What, When, Where, Why. This can also be applied to texts and spoken communication.
Danger of Assumptions
Never assume. Don’t assume your reader knows how you feel or where you are coming from. Be direct, clear, and polite about your position. Don’t over-explain, but make sure whoever is reading your email will not be forced to fill in any blanks. It could create an uncomfortable or even expensive situation in the future. If you are unclear, the reader is given the freedom to infer. They may infer incorrectly.
Saying Too Much
Since we’re talking about communication here, for the most part that involves speaking or writing. But sometimes, a well-placed pause is far more powerful than the impact of any statement. Additionally, let the others do all the talking; too much talking can confuse the message. If you can sit in on a meeting and stay out of the gossip and emotional excitement of a passionate debate, so that when you do finally speak, it will carry more weight and value. You will be known as somebody who contributes value instead of just noise.