We all know that we are living in a very different world right now, both professionally and personally, and not just because of a pandemic that has forced us to work from home, but also because of our increased ties to social media. Throughout my years I have come to learn and appreciate the power of communication. Seems like a simple term, and one most people will read and probably say to themselves “Ya, no kidding!” but, let’s dive a little deeper and see just how powerful communication is, and how years of experience in different organizations, which are made up of all different types of people and professions, have taught me just how powerful it is.
You do not learn the true inner working of communication and its power at school, or in a textbook, or listening to a podcast – you learn it from experience, and that experience comes from time. Time with different groups of people, in different organizations, and in different dynamics. It is easy to think “I’m a good listener” but are you a good interpreter? Do you listen and understand the intention behind the words? Do you ask questions for clarity? Or do you listen and walk away with your own assumptions, which sometimes can be very different than the intended outcome, leaving you feeling not great or unmotivated. Your words can also leave an impactful feeling on someone. Maybe not your intention, but still can be done without even realizing it. I have found it important to acknowledge what someone else may be trying to convey and reiterate it for clarification. As someone trying to get a message across, it’s important to read your audience and be able to adjust to whomever you are speaking to, and to acknowledge that not everyone has the same emotional make-up, and could internalize the intended meaning differently – so choose your words wisely.
Something that I find very impactful to our society is social media, and its intentions. It has become a very popular way of communicating with one another. We use it for advertising as a business. We use it to wish one another Happy Birthday. We use it to express how we are feeling. We use it for a multitude of reasons. However, I find it can be very negative. It often leaves me feeling upset or angry. So why do I log into it each day if it does not bring me joy? And why do we use it as a form of communication if we cannot control the emotional outcome behind it? Most recently I have found that the social platforms have started to pit us against one another. The moral compass of what any particular social media platform feeds everyone is gone. We are quick to judge one another; we are quick to come to some sort of conclusion on what someone’s intent was, and we therefore have a more twisted and angry social community because of it.
I personally would like to see us return to more of a one on one communication – face to face and over the phone (not text!). Cut out the ambiguity of what we conclude as being the intention behind something. When you pick up the phone and talk to someone, or walk into their office and ask for clarification, you get to the point quicker, you leave feeling clearer around the other person’s intention, and therefore able to have a more productive day. Negative and uncertain emotions can take up a lot of time, energy, and space in our thoughts – time and energy that could be put to better use during the day.
As we move forward to the end of 2020, let’s all start to choose our communication vehicles with the receiver in mind. Be mindful of that person and how they best receive information. Select the outlet that works best to get your message across, and one that leaves little room for emotional interpretation. Be open. Be direct. Be kind.