When you communicate (verbally) with a specific person, are you hearing the real message being conveyed? If your focus is on the words that are used, it is likely that you are only hearing part of the message, and often the most superficial part. If we only consider the words and do not attempt to identify any underlying emotions, we are likely to miss a vital part of the message. Even a statement as simple as “Sure I’ll take care of that” may have a different meaning if accompanied by a sarcastic tone or eye rolling behavior. When in doubt we need to check the message out. How to communicate more clearly is the focus of Chapter 2 of The Mandt System, RCT event.

Albert Mehrabian studied communication and concluded that there are in fact 3 parts that make up the whole of communication. 7% are the words we use. 38% are the way we say what we say, the pitch, tone, inflection. 55% is in the body language used when the person is communicating. When there is a lack of consistency between these three elements, our credibility may be questioned. The more consistency there is between the elements, the more believable you are. We need to strive for consistency between these elements to better ensure clear communication.

It is important to determine the real message simply because conflict often occurs due to misinterpretation of misperception an issue discussed in Chapter 3 of the RCT event). Below are aspects of communication that might assist in determining what the underlying message is.

The Words: All of us get a visual image of what we are trying to convey and then encode or translate that image into words. We pick the words we use based on our background, age, culture and what is most familiar to us. The person we communicate with will then de-code the words based on their background, culture and what is familiar to them. Differences in cultures, age, environments may create misinterpretations of the words used and lead to miscommunication. When there is doubt we should check the message out, asking for clarification while treating the person with respect and dignity.

In interacting with an individual who is upset and saying, “If you take another step closer I will throw this at you”, we need to look behind the words to understand what is truly being conveyed. Is this person angry and threatening or are they frightened and trying to ensure their safety by gaining more space?

Tone and Inflection: The Mandt System® teaches that the tone of voice is “like the soundtrack in a movie”. It provides information about intent. The tone and inflection used when conveying information can provide clarification of the real message by indicating the emotions behind the message. Insight is gained by paying attention to the tone and inflection. Husbands understand that their wife’s response, “nothing is wrong” may have different meanings based on the tone used at the time.

Facial Expression and Body Language: A message may have a completely different interpretation if the words are accompanied by a closed off body, (arms crossed across the torso) or by the rolling of the eyes. Even if the words indicate agreement or acceptance of the statement or request, the body language and facial expression may indicate resentment or resistance despite the words used. What Every Body is Saying by Joe Navarro is written by an expert on nonverbal behavior and gives insight into what our body language and facial expressions may be conveying. It is reasonable to think that the more we understand someone’s nonverbal communication, the better we can understand and help them meet their needs in an appropriate manner.

Intent: One of the most interesting aspects to consider is why the person chose to share what they did at this time? What was the motivation or goal the person was trying to meet. When someone brings up what appears to be a “random statement or subject”, it is interesting to ask yourself, what is the person telling me by bringing this up at this time? When information is shared, it is sometimes helpful to ask yourself what is the purpose of sharing this with me? Is the person providing information they think will impress you or to indicate a level of superiority or authority? Is the intent simply to put information in a context or provide some other clarification?

Sometimes it feels more convenient to disregard the underlying message and avoid dealing with the underlying issue. In those situations it may be wise to consider if the avoidance is going to be sufficient in reaching your goal or would it be more effective in the long term to address the issue as soon as it is identified?

Aaryce Hayes – SVP Operations