Communication: Part II
B. Keith Chapman, President & CEO
In Part 1, we reviewed the role that the sender and receiver play in effective communication. Once this basic principle of communication is understood, one should develop an understanding of the other aspects that hinder healthy communication. As information is being sent back and forth, natural barriers, such as, trying to communicate with someone who speaks a different language or communicating in a very noisy environment, can make communication very challenging. These are barriers that are widely understood and fairly easy to address. However, there are a variety of other barriers that are just as problematic, but not as easy to address. Examples include things like anger, defensiveness, assumptions, lack of candidness, among others. Managing these emotions and behaviors can be overwhelming and even seem impossible to control.
Regardless of who you are or where you may be in life, emotion can always present challenges with communication. We don’t always have control over what life throws our way, but we do have a choice in how we react. Jonathan Mårtensson once said, “Feelings are much like waves, we can’t stop them from coming, but we can choose which one to surf.” The example of a wave used in this quote reminds me of the weight of water. Many people underestimate the power water can generate, just like they underestimate the power of emotion. It is important to remember that not all emotion is bad. Too much of any emotion can make communication very difficult. However, not enough emotion makes communication dry, boring and hard to follow. A good example would be a seasoned fire department incident commander’s radio communication on a working fire versus a first-time incident commander. You will likely hear a big difference in their ability to communicate clearly all of the benchmarks and directives. The seasoned incident commander has learned to control the stress and excitement of the incident in order to communicate effectively. Conversely, the new incident commander has not yet learned how to control all of the emotions and stress associated with his/her responsibility. There are countless examples of how good and bad emotions can distort communication in our daily activities. Learning to exercise self-control and choosing the most appropriate emotional wave to ride can be life-changing.
The book of Proverbs is always good for some words of wisdom. Proverbs 25:28 says, “A person without self-control is like a city with broken-down walls.” Likewise, Proverbs 16:32 says, “Better to be patient than powerful; better to have self-control than to conquer a city.” The practice of self-control is inclusive of many different virtues, emotions and skills. It is interesting that out of all of these, the writer focuses on patience. Patience can be my personal Achilles’ heel. Dictonary.com defines patience as, “bearing provocation, annoyance, misfortune, delay, hardship, pain, etc., with fortitude and calm and without complaint, anger, or the like.” The definition puts some steep standards on the action of exercising patience. While communication is natural, it is complex and can be an extreme test of self-control. Have you taken the time to reflect on your personal strengths and weaknesses? If not, you are likely missing the opportunity to improve your effectiveness and influence. People tend to focus more on the mistakes, reactions, and weaknesses of others. As a result, many miss the opportunity to identify and work on areas of their own skill set that will foster better communication and working relationships.
Challenge: Remember, there are many things that naturally distort effective communication. Emotion usually secures the top spot for causes for poor communication. Learning to practice self-control, demonstrating patience and remaining focused on how you communicate will provide great benefit to you personally and professionally.
Published: August 2018