Effective communication is key for any business, be it between colleagues, management or with clients. In my experience, what many individuals find hard with communication is the variability between not only how they would interpret information, but knowing this can be vastly different depending on who they are communicating with. In this ultimate guide we will look through the science of communication in a business setting and get to the bottom of why there is a mismatch. Then, we will review ways in which communication can be adapted to offset this issue. Lastly, given at the time of writing, many businesses are experiencing different communication channels and challenges resulting from changing the way we do business since the onset of COVID-19. We will review methods to reduce this impact throughout our daily interactions.
The Science of Business Communication
How Noise and Experience Disrupts Effective Communication
The key to effective communication is understanding that all communicators come from their own experiences and position when communicating. As the first model (an adaptation of the Shannon-Weaver communication model) shows, communicator A will encode the message through their field of experience. This is what actually shapes the way that they communicate and how they put the message together.
Once “encoded” it can pass through any channel the message is being communicated (face to face, email, phone etc.), where it is decoded by communicator B. Through this communication process, generally there is noise, this could be distractions, or limitations of the communication method. An example of this being that you can generally get a much greater impression of a person’s intention of the message whilst talking face to face, than you can via email. This is from certain social cues, such as body language and tone of voice.
Lastly there is the viewpoints and experiences of the individuals where the message is encoded and decoded. Put simply, one person’s interpretation of a message may differ greatly than another’s. These can all lead, quite simply, to a gap between the intended message, to the final message that has been received. It is this very gap which leads to ineffective communications.
Feedback Loops and Alignment Support Effective Communication
Effective communication starts by understanding the fundamentals found within the first model and looks offset it’s weaknesses.
We must note, and understand that through whatever means, communicators are different. We encode and decode messages differently based purely on our personal views on the world, experiences and personality.
It is important to note, and accept that every channel creates noise, so any communication can be understood incorrectly, is always a possibility. Not only this, but diffferent channels create different levels of noise. Different individuals prefer different channels, so using the wrong one can make this even worse!
Where this second model is different, is that it creates a feedback and alignment loop between the communicators. Person A is checking and realinging their communication to Person B. Allowing the gap to be reduced and the true outcome to be delivered, rather than allowing the gap to linger. Whilst this is all great in theory, let’s take a look at what that means in the real world.