Communicating as a Leader

Got Communication?

The Amsterdam Red-light District asked:

Do you know what “communication” really means to you, personally? Does it mean the same to you as it does to your friends, family, and co-workers?

Most people think they understand communication, but even a dictionary describes only a sadly pale representation of the potential reality. Definitions do usually include the notion that communication involves more than just the written or spoken word – but did you know that ants and iguanas communicate with chemicals, and bees by dancing?

So, what do you communicate with your choice of personal scents (chemicals)? Do you realize that this includes perfumes, deodorants, soaps, shampoos, and laundry products? What messages do you send with your individual style of dancing? Did you know that the pupils of your eyes dilate when you are attracted to someone?

Most people are aware of the concept of non-verbal communication, and generally assume this means body language and facial expressions. The Victorians, though, could carry on entire conversations using only flowers. The same is possible with crystals, colors, animals (use their images to avoid creating zoos of conversational by-play!), and – with a little bit of a stretch to accept modern-day interpretations – Celtic knotwork. There are dozens of other symbolic languages – enough to suit everyone’s preference and communication style!

Families and close friends usually have their own symbolic language, even if they’re not consciously aware of it. It’s a rare family that doesn’t have an inside joke, where a look, a phrase, or a gesture encapsulates (symbolizes) the entire experience and can set a roomful of people into laughter. More complex than that are the almost instinctive understandings that develop between people who live together or are very close friends – all based on nonverbal symbols of some sort.

Another seldom-explored concept involves how we communicate with ourselves. What messages – symbolic and otherwise – are we sending to ourselves when we overload our schedules with too many chores and not enough relaxation, or when we speak harshly to ourselves over small mistakes? You probably recognize friends’ and co-workers’ tendencies to be much harder on themselves than they are on others; do you see it in yourself?

Do you share the commonly-held belief that personal and professional politics is somehow not quite nice, slightly slimy and maybe even unethical, not something you really want to be doing? Or do you recognize the wonderfully positive impact that you can have when you choose to become personally excellent at the broad range of communication that goes into “playing” politics, whether at home or in the office?

If you are one of many who believe that understanding someone’s viewpoint means agreeing with him or her, you are missing out on a powerful tool for reducing conflict. Likewise, if you forget that communication styles are as varied as hair color (though not as easily changed!), you’re condemning yourself and those around you to frustration and missed messages.

The world of communication is as wide and varied as the people you meet. Finding new ways to convey your message is a lifelong venture that is wonderfully rewarding!

“The most important thing in communication is to hear what isn’t being said.” Peter Drucker, 1909-2005, naturalized citizen of the United States who is often cited as the ‘founding father’ of the study of management.

Article written by Grace L. Judson.

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