Project management header
products page

Communication part 1

Send and receive

A common phrase is ‘Don’t shoot the messenger’. In a lot of situations the messenger is the manager trying to get things done.
He or she gives an instruction and it doesn’t get carried out.
The fault must be with the individual receiving the request.

In simple terms communication is sending information which is received by someone else.
Also, the receiver must send a return message that suggest they understand the message.

What can happen in practice is due to the speed of interpretation of the brain.
When we try to communicate with someone the other person’s brain is already interpreting the message and creating thoughts before the transmitter has even finished. This can lead to associations that may be different to the intended message.

If you wanted to transmit the thought of sadness you wouldn’t say to someone, “please be sad”.
It just wouldn’t happen.
However, if you were to speak about particularly tragic events this might instil a feeling of sadness.

It is hard to ascertain another person’s true character but a pretty good idea is to try to put yourself in their shoes.
This should give you a better incite.

Thought control

Communication is about influencing peoples’ thoughts.
A lot of communication is carried out with barely a word.

Body language

The raised eyebrow suggesting dissatisfaction.
The shrug of the shoulders suggesting indifference.
The wide eyes suggesting surprise.
The clenched fist suggesting anger etc.

As little as 7% of communication can be by the spoken word.
Perhaps 38% being vocal (tone and intonation) and the other 55% (body language) being non verbal cues.

This split was put forward by Albert Mehrabian (currently Professor Emeritus of Psychology, UCLA).

This ability to transmit thought by the observation of behaviour and posture is known as ‘body language’.
One aspect of body language you can try is to mimic the other person’s body position.
This is thought to transmit a feeling of empathy with the other person.

Thought transmission

Ideally you are trying to transmit thoughts to another.
If you wanted to speak to an employee about lower than expected product yields your first thoughts might be to say, “we need to speak about the low yields you have been getting recently”.
The effect of this is unlikely to generate a table of data in the mind of the worker.
It is much more likely to generate plenty of negative, unrepeatable thoughts concerning the manager and lowering motivation.

The best way is to try to get the worker to think about what you want to transmit.
In other words, you want to modify your actions so that he or she is thinking “recently my product yields have been below par”.
The only way you can know if he or she is thinking in this manner is if they actually say it.
In other words, you must try to make the person say the thoughts that you wanted to transmit.

The power of silence

Have you ever asked a question only to be met by a wall of silence?
Silence is hard to bear.
Is the silence maintained because:

  • The individual doesn’t want to answer
  • Doesn’t know the answer, so says nothing
  • Is taking his or her time whilst thinking of an appropriate answer

Whatever the reason silence can be deafening.
So what happens?
You break the silence by usually suggesting a reply to the question along the lines that you were looking for.
You then try to seek approval for this answer from the person in question.

Silence is a very strong weapon in your armoury, don’t waste it.

If you answer your own questions you will have no idea at all that the person has received the thoughts.
If the person just replies that “I agree” or “yes” he or she may be humouring you.
The only thing you could be sure of is that they were thinking of “I agree” and “yes”.

Under no circumstances should you break the silence, you must make the individual reply.
The reply you are looking for is the question you wanted to pose in the first place.

In the example cited above we may have approached the individual with the phrase “we need to speak about the low yields you have been getting recently”.

This could have been met with:

“OK”, or
“I’m not sure what you are talking about”, or
“I thought they were OK” etc.

This provides no concrete proof of the understanding of the thought you are trying to convey.

However, you may approach the situation in a different manner.
What if you say, “what has your production performance been like against standard this month?”
Then remain silent.

You are more than likely then to receive answers that include the question you wish to put in the first place.
Once you get this reply you know the individual is thinking about the low yields.

If you are still met by silence then you must use appropriate body language that suggests, ‘I’m going to sit here all day if necessary until you answer’.

You can do this by many means, for example, sit back comfortably in your chair, clasping your fingers together and putting your hands into your lap, turning the head quizzically etc. But don’t speak.