Plaice to Plaice

Posted on Wednesday, September 17th, 2014 by

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Outlook Video Producer Holly discusses what makes a good communicator and how we can all learn something from going back to the basics.

I have an active interest in observing others, ha, that sounds odd… what I actually mean is, I enjoy people watching which is essentially boiled down to an interest in the art of communication.

My mum still reminds me that when I was a little girl, I used to sit by my granddad Bill and watch him intently. I remember doing it too. I remember looking at the lines around his eyes, his age spots, his hard working hands and being fascinated by it all.

I can sit for hours watching people. One of the best places to watch people is London St Pancras station, or a beach, or a bustling bar or pub.  All walks of life, people of all shapes and sizes and so many facial expressions flit in and out of sight as people interact with each other every second of the day.

So what makes somebody a good communicator and ultimately how do we know if our message has been communicated effectively?

As a media person, it’s always been my job to be a communicator as well as create communications. A few months ago I published a blog called ‘#anchovies anyone?’ which laid down the prominence of social media as well as pointing out its limitations.

Over the last hundred years we’ve seen technology revolutionise, helping to improve the efficiency of our daily lives.  It can be argued that email has become the preferred, easiest, most effective, most efficient, method of communicating in the work place.

Emails are great, you can whizz one off and leave it at that because you know that the person you’ve sent it to will more than likely read the email first as opposed to picking up their desk phone.

However in some situations emails aren’t as efficient as we might assume.  Often emails get misinterpreted or aren’t clear which hinders the communication and results in a phone call anyway.  Even phone calls don’t always provide the excellent levels of communication you thought would be achieved when you first embarked on your new project.

We often find ourselves starting with an email, then a phone call, and then to fully get the gist of the brief we set up a face to face meeting. Sometimes even after a project has been delivered a face to face meeting is set up!  Surely it should be the other way round? Yes, I understand the restraints of face to face communication; the cost, availability, the time etc, but I think these restraints are worth the cost and time if it means the message has been fully communicated earlier on in the project leaving both the client and the solutions provider on the same wavelength as well as resulting in the delivery of an extremely effective project?

The power of face to face communication is subtle. Our body language, eye contact, voice, facial expressions, the way we dress, are all subconscious persuasive techniques that are all absent in an email.  Phone is better because we can hear a voice but do we really create the rapport we would from a face to face meeting?

If it’s a myth that 90% of all communication is non-verbal, I’d still argue that a large proportion of communication is non-verbal, so are we just being lazy or are we missing a trick, or are we just forgetting how we all used to communicate before the technological revolution?  The bond we can build in a face to face meeting can be everlasting. We can build trust, empathy, and connect with people differently.  We can react on the spot, clearing up any issues there and then as well as foresee any issues and by that point, let’s face it, you’re more than likely to have built a good rapport which means issues aren’t tricky to resolve or chat about, they’re just easy to discuss and maybe even easier to discuss with the odd joke or story thrown in over a cup of tea.

Back to my original question – what makes a good communicator? I think it’s somebody who can use communication to their advantage. There are techniques that can be learnt, but being a really effective communicator is inherent.  It’s a presence. A personality characteristic. We’ve all seen that person who can walk into a room and grab everybody’s attention without even saying a word, haven’t we?

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