What Message Are You Sending Really?


What message are you sending when you speak?

It never ceases to amaze me that whenever people are involved in a communication breakdown, we naturally assume the breakdown is the fault of the other person.  If one of my direct reports fails to carry out instructions that I gave them, then I will naturally assume that the breakdown in communication occurred with them.  That is always my first instinct, but as a semi-enlightened human being, I can usually think about it for a minute and realize that the issue may be partially or entirely with me.

There are a lot of things that can impact how effectively you communicate.  The words you chose, the moods of the individual’s involved, and even body language.

On my recommended reading list, there is book titled Leadership and Self Deception.  I read the book several years ago.  I then developed several training classes based on the concepts in the book and I have successfully delivered those training classes numerous times.  I have given the book as a gift over a dozen times as well.  The reason I mention all of this is because the book does an outstanding job of explaining how our behaviors greatly influence the message that others receive from us.  Maybe even more so than the words we speak.  Shaking your head back and forth, constantly looking at your watch, or sitting with your arms crossed can have a profound impact on how your words are interpreted.

Do you think that your communication style changes when you are speaking with someone that you do not like?  I have really been trying to observe my own behavior when I am speaking with people that I like, and comparing it to my behavior when speaking with people that I may not be as fond of.  One thing I have noticed is as the conversation is beginning, I tend to stop and face people that I like.  For those I may not be as fond of, I tend to stop and just turn my head when speaking with them.  I guess deep down I am trying to send a subtle message that this conversation is not going to last long.

I have also noticed that my vocabulary changes slightly depending on who I am speaking with.  I am an educated and semi-intelligent person, so I know a few big words.  I find those big words tend to get tossed around a lot more when I am conversing with individuals that I may not care for.

If I had the time and desire, I am sure I could find dozens of differences in the ways I communicate, but my informal study has provided me more than enough data to conclude that I do indeed behave differently depending on how I feel about the person I am speaking with.

What about you?  Do you think that you communicate differently when you are speaking with someone you may not like?  Do you think that the people you are communicating with are able to pick up on your non-verbal cues?  What impact do you think that has on your ability to communicate with them?  Should we be concerned about this, and if so what can we do to minimize the impact?

(Photo credit: P Shanks) via Flickr

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