23 Oct 2014

Is Communication An Overly Communicated Topic?

By Lama A. Makarem –

Hundreds and hundreds of articles are written about communication. In almost every soft skills training, no matter what topic we’re discussing, communication is addressed. Is communication overly communicated as a topic?

The answer is a definite NO. Why? I believe lack of effective communication is still the number one reason for most of the problems in this world. However, the question remains: if there are so many training workshops and seminars and so many articles about communicating effectively, why do we still have so many problems?

Whether it’s about effective communication or any other skill, it’s the “doing” that we have a problem with, rather than the “knowing”. All these articles and workshops about communication increase our knowledge; but are they necessarily improving our behaviors or skills when communicating? How well do we practice what we know?

It’s a common problem we generally have about this gap between the “knowing” and the “doing”. We all know how important it is to eat this versus that, to do this versus that, or to say this versus that. etc… but do we always do it?

We need the will and the desire to practice what we know about good behaviors until they become habits. And we need this practice to be ruthlessly consistent for optimum effectiveness. It’s about turning a conscious incompetency into an unconscious competency.

So why is consistency in effective communication so important in life?

Life is about relationships, and communication is one of the most important pillars of a relationship. Hence, the quality of our life; whether at work, at home, or in society, is absolutely determined by how well we communicate. Almost everything we do on a daily basis is a way of communication; the way we look, the way we talk, the way we listen… aren’t we constantly doing these things?

While we are mostly doing these things in public, what’s more important is the quality of communication in private and not only with others. Communicating with self in form of meditation or with divinity in form of prayers is as important if not more. The quality of the former will definitely affect the quality of the latter.

Furthermore, when communicating, I believe we are guiltiest when it comes to effective listening. Most of the communication problems have a common root cause: WE DO NOT LISTEN. We do not listen enough to the spoken word nor to the unspoken word. Peter Drucker, “founder of modern management”, says: “The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn’t said”.

While listening, one of our most common caveats is when we assume that we can multitask. Listening and doing something else is not truly listening. True listening is about concentration. How can we concentrate on something when doing something else? Reading is another way of listening. It’s listening to the written words. The better we listen and concentrate on the written words, the better quality our reading becomes.

Finally, here is my modest advice for a more effective communication: We often hear: “It’s not what you say; it’s how we say it”. While it’s totally spot on, it’s not the “what” and or the “how”, but rather it is the “why” and the “when”. It’s not what we say, it’s how we say it, it’s why we say it, and it’s when we say it!

In addition to how we say it, knowing why and when we say what we say does it all. And knowing the “why” in most cases determines the what, when, and how.

I guess now I know why wiser people talk less. It’s because they filter what needs to be said with a why question. “Why do I need to say it?”. And, quite often there is no need to say what we think we need to say. At the same time, “timing is almost everything”. “When” we say things is just as important. Most of the time we regret what we communicate when we’re angry (verbally and non-verbally), the reason being is we didn’t choose the right time to communicate- the “when”, and we didn’t have the time to filter the “why”. Which, I believe, is nothing but another aspect of NLP and Emotional intelligence.

To sum it up, here are two of my all favorite quotes about communication:

“Wise men talk because they have something to say; fools, because they have to say something” – Plato (428 BC – 348 BC).

“Speak only if it improves upon the silence” – Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948).

Lama Makarem