It is not ‘What’ you say - It is ‘How’ you say it.

Aug 3 / Jen Tyson
We often think of communication as what we say when we’re in front of a person and the words we use, but there are a whole lot of other things that make up our communication. Words and punctuation will be a factor, but research shows only
 7%-10% of how our communication is received or how it lands has to do with the words we use.
The rest is influenced by non-verbal communication factors, such as body language, tone, mindset, intentions, mode of delivery and more.
There are various charts and graphs that illustrate this to get the point across. This is one of my favourites out there.
Rather than arguing whether it is 7% or 10%, depending on the graph you are looking at, the point is this:

The actual words we say have very little to do with the way our communication lands!

So often I see people run into trouble, heck I have myself, by focussing on just getting the words across, instead of looking at the way we communicate as a bigger picture with multiple, equally important factors.
If you think of an example of when you were on the receiving end of a conversation and the person was talking but you were reacting internally because the body language, facial expressions, tone or all three were not lining up with what they were saying.

When looking at body language in this context it is important to look at it from an ‘element’ of communication perspective, we don’t need to dive deep into the study of body language, or become suddenly overly self conscious. I am talking about an increased awareness of our own body language and how it may be helping or hindering our ability to communicate well with those around us.

When you get your message across well the first time, with little room for mis-interpretation, offence or negative reaction, work life is just easier, some of the positive ripple effects are:

  • More productivity
  • Better working relationships
  • Better work environment
  • Less time spent on ‘cleaning up or correcting’ conversations that didn’t go well

Other factors that fall into the bigger bits of the pie are:

  • Facial expressions
  • Voice pace and tone
  • Habits that distract the listener
  • Mindset and intentions - unconscious bias or assumptions
  • Poor listening skills 
How do you know if your own communication picture is matching up to get the results you are after?

ASK for feedback.
It can be a brave and vulnerable thing to do but I recommend it. Ask one or two people you work with or communicate with frequently if there are any things in the areas above that they feel could be getting in the way of great communication landing well.

  • Be sure to ask people who will give you compassionately honest feedback, people you trust
  • Be open to what they say
  • Seek to refine and make changes by practicing skills to change the way you come across, one skill at a time, if you try to make too many changes it can be overwhelming.
  • Rinse and repeat, when you make a change, just check in what worked, what didn’t work and then seek to try again
  • Practice makes permanent.

  • Non-verbal communication is more important than the words you say.
  • Mindset and intentions have a huge impact on outcomes.
  • Make sure you use the right media to deliver the important messages, in-person is often best.
  • To change habits of communication, start small with one thing and build up, keep at it.

Jen Tyson

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