Communication 101

Three Levels of Communication 

There’s a popular book by John C Maxwell named Everyone Communicates, Few Connect.  After reading it, and from my experience in the marketplace nearly 15 years, I’m convinced that most people are not communicating well, although they think they are.  In fact, I would break down all communication into three categories which I will explain below.  I believe that most people never truly make it beyond the first category.  My belief is easily supported by the lack of harmony in the workplace, governments, and even in partnerships and marriages. Perhaps the hardest thing in life is to effectively communicate so that others not only understand what you are saying, but can logically and maybe even emotionally connect with what is said and take action.  Let’s explore what I believe are the three levels of communication.

  1. SAYING SOMETHING.  This is the most basic level of communication.  We all say things through speaking, writing, signing or some other form of communication.  Unfortunately, much of what we say is not necessarily heard, read, or seen, and much less is fully understood by our intended recipients. I cannot tell you how how many times I’ve asked an employee about some unfinished task or some other issue and was met with the reply, “I told him or her to do it…”. Therein lies the problem, just because something was said, does not mean that the message was understood well and acted upon.  I believe most communication falls within this first category- things are said, memos are written, laws are signed, but they are not effectively communicated so that the recipient understands the message.
  2. EFFECTIVE COMMUNICATION.  This level of communication occurs when a message is properly understood by the intended recipients and can be repeated back essentially verbatim to the person who originated the message.  I rarely see this in relationships or companies anymore.  We are so distracted by smart devices and screens in our cars, kitchens and even bathrooms that is is difficult to understand what is being communicated to us and even more difficult to understand the messages being conveyed.   Moreover, often the message being communicated doesn’t effectively state why the intended recipient should pay attention to the message.  Too often we ask people to do things without explaining exactly why it is important that they do it.  Without a sense of importance, no message will be effectively communicated.
  3. CONNECTION.  This is the ideal in regards to communication. Connection goes beyond just speaking and effectively communicating, it creates an emotional response in the recipient that causes him or her to reflect on what is being said and possibly take action. Martin Luther King Jr., John F. Kennedy, Socrates, Winston Churchill, Ayn Rand, Ralph W. Emerson and even Karl Marx and Hitler went beyond speaking to and communicating with people, they all connected with and influenced people on a high level.  The ultimate goal of any leader is to connect with people.  I believe this is the reason leadership is so difficult.  It’s very difficult to actually connect with people on a high level. It’s easy to “say something” or even have your message understood. Connection is hard.

 When you are speaking, writing or engaging in any form of communication, it may be useful to ask yourself, “What level of communication am I engaging in?” It could very well be that you think you are connecting with an audience, when in reality you are just speaking and what is being said is just as easily being ignored. It’s difficult to connect, especially in our very distracted world but connection is the key to building real relationships and creating massive action.  Connection is the ideal when communicating, although it is rarely achieved.  My suggestion would be to at least work on effectively communicating so that your recipients actually understand what you are saying and why you are saying it.  Too many words are wasted nowadays. Don’t let your words be wasted as well!      

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Winning Friends, Influencing People

How to Win Friends and Influence People

I am often asked what books or people influenced the most in my life.  There are so many books, quotes, poems and stories that have changed my thinking and helped form me to become the person I am now.  There are however only a few books that I return to almost every year when I feel that I need to review the lessons written on those pages.  I just finished re-reading a classic by Dale Carnegie, a book that has been read by countless leaders and influencers over the past eight decades since it’s original publication.  If you are looking for one of the most powerful and useful books ever written, read How to Win Friends and Influence People.  The lesson are timeless and applicable no matter who you are.  It is a textbook on how to communicate with others and influence others to your ways of thinking.  At the end of each chapter is a recap about the lesson of that chapter. I have listed those principles below because I believe they may help others.  For more in depth stories about how these principles have been used throughout history, you will have to read the book in it’s entirety. Enjoy…and take notes.

How to Influence Others

1.Don’t criticize, condemn or complain.

2.Give honest and sincere appreciation.

3.Arouse in the other person an eager want.

Making People Like You

  1. Become genuinely interested in other people.
  2. Smile.
  3. Remember that a person’s name is to that person the sweetest and most important sound.
  4. Be a good listener. Encourage others to talk about themselves.
  5. Talk in terms of the other person’s interest..
  6. Make the other person feel important and do it sincerely.

Win Others to Your Way of Thinking

  1. The only way to get the best of an argument is to avoid it.
  2. Show respect for the other person’s opinions. Never say “you’re wrong.”
  3. If you are wrong, admit it quickly and emphatically.
  4. Begin in a friendly way.
  5. Get the other person saying “yes, yes” immediately.
  6. Let the other person do a great deal of the talking.
  7. Let the other person feel the idea is his or hers.
  8. Try to honestly see things from the other person’s perspective.
  9. By sympathetic with the other person’s ideas and desires.
  10. Appeal to nobler motives.
  11. Dramatize your ideas.
  12. Throw down a challenge.

Be a Leader: Change people without resentment

  1. Begin with honest praise and appreciation. 
  2. Call attention to people’s mistakes indirectly.
  3. Talk about your own mistakes before criticizing the other person.
  4. Ask questions instead of giving direct orders.
  5. Let the other person save face.
  6. Praise the slightest improvement and every improvement.
  7. Give the other person a fine reputation to live up to.
  8. Use encouragement. Make the faults seem easy to correct.
  9. Make the other person happy about doing what you suggest.

Where Are You Going?

Know Where You Are Headed

I don’t know if you feel the same, but I’m sick of hearing that “life is a journey” and that “it’s about the journey, not the destination”.  These cliches do very little good for anyone and more that’s likely believing them can actually hold someone back from achievement.  I agree that it is important to be mindful of what you are experiencing in the moment and be grateful for the experiences we have in life, but I would argue that if life is a journey, all journeys should have a destination.  In other words, there should be a direction or a target in which you set out to reach or you will end up aimless and drifting though life.  In my experience, the majority of unhappy people are not unhappy because they failed to reach a goal or hit a target.  They are unhappy because they have no idea what they want, where they are headed and feel like they have no control over what is happening in their life.  In other words, if you don’t set a destination for your journey, life will happen TO YOU, not FOR YOU. 

While hitting targets and reaching goals is important for a sense of fulfillment and importance,  I would suggest the real power lies in setting the goal, not reaching it.  Making a decision about the direction your life is headed in shows yourself and others that you have agency in your own existence.  It’s not possible to always achieve every goal we set due to unforeseen circumstances that are outside our control.  But missing a target is much better for a sense of well being that having to target at all.  Aimlessness is a tragedy that will throw your life off track.  Having a sense of purpose and direction is vital to feeling alive and happy in my opinion. That is why we must be careful about internalizing platitudes that are perpetuated online if they allow us to rationalize away the fact that we have not decided what we want from life.  We have to decide what we ask from life.

I admit that it is difficult to know exactly what we want in life at all times.  This is especially true when we are young.  But having a general sense of what makes us happy and what type of life we would like is important.  If you have no idea what you want from life and your philosophy is that “you are just here to enjoy the ride” or some other similar philosophy, I can guarantee you that at the very least you will continually wonder what your purpose is and you will often be at the mercy of others who have a created a plan for their life.  Of course, plans change and destinations must be adjusted or postponed for external events- that’s just life.  But that doesn’t mean we should give up on setting goals and targets for ourselves.  These are essential for our well being.  If life is a truly a journey, it would do us all well to remember the final destination is death.  It is up to you to decide what destinations you’d like to see along the way before the journey ends.