Communication is influenced by many factors. I would say that everything that is around us has some influence in the way we communicate. We send messages in the form of our current reality and the receiver perceives it by matching patterns in his current reality. I’m trying to point out that even the factors that might seam fixed, in fact, change in time. Not all of them but some do.
There are some factors that are we really need to understand in order to comprehend the form of communication we need to adopt. By understanding them, I mean that we have to gain knowledge of the way they influence the communication and what is the limit for their influence. Here are some of them:
There is a great cultural weight in the customs one has. And as we previously discussed, culture and communication are very closely tied. Customs give people a particular view on what’s normal and what is not. For example: Some guys near Iasi, have the custom of a general fight between the upper village and the lower village. They actually take pride in this custom and give great privileges to the winning village. It’s something that imposes a great barrier of communication for me with them because I cannot understand (and I condemn) this behavior. On the other hand, I would be really rude if I would refuse to eat turkey on Thanksgiving, wouldn’t I?
Customs are just like protocols: you have to know them and respect them. But you should also avoid them as much as you can because customs are built in years and it takes years to be understood from outside. This is why communication can be severely penalized by them.
Values and beliefs
Values and beliefs are in some way just like customs. They need to be respected and never debated. But unlike customs, values and beliefs are more personal and stand on the foundation of each individual. Of course, the individual can be influenced by the beliefs of those around him but on the end of the day, each one chooses it’s own set of values. It’s the core of the reference system anyone has. This is why communication is always compared to the values system inside to catalog it.
On the base level, each message is filtered through the values and beliefs to determine whether the information could be accurate, valuable or offensive. It’s not that we wouldn’t like the idea that Santa Claus exists but it’s just that we can’t believe it anymore. Or try talking about flying to Africans in the jungle and you will most likely be burn on a stake. Tell the Indians that cows are just regular animals that we kill for food in millions / year… How’s that for a good communication?
The business world is just like a parallel world to the one we usually are in. It has it’s own rules, language, roles, communication and even culture. Business culture, organizational culture, corporate culture, etc. All of them create different types of communication that depends on the type and size of the business interaction. The alliances or the rivalries also establish a different type of message. Diplomacy and confidentiality also have a heavy word in choosing one’s language.
Roles & relationships
Unfortunately civilization was founded on the idea of hierarchies. This is why communication changes dramatically and takes at least 3 different forms depending on the report between the levels of the parts communication. There is a different way of communicating on the same level of the hierarchy, an upper level or the lower level. This imposes it’s own type of language and a great percent of persuasion advantage (or disadvantage). On the other hand this type of disproportion can be speculated and turned the other way around.
Relationships have the purpose of approaching (or setting barriers) on the same level of the hierarchy. If we would see there two factors on a graph, roles are the vertical axis (y) and relationships the horizontal axis (x). The closer the relationship is, the easier the communication is. The language tends to set it’s base words, the verbal and non-verbal communication is easier to be understood. It’s sometimes so easy that some think it could be telepathy. Have you ever noticed that telepathy was never invoked on different levels or distant relationships? (Communicating with my ex-boss I haven’t seen in years…)
Verbal and non-verbal behavior
And in the end it’s all about what you actually say, verbally or non-verbally. Non verbal behavior is the subject of studying of many researchers. It was stated that we communicate more non-verbally (than verbally) but we actually control it less. It’s a bit of a confusing thing here because it’s also said that practice makes perfect. If we do it all the time, how come we can’t master it? Not that easy.
Verbal and non-verbal behavior changes the way the feedback is received. It changes the others, not the one sending the message. It’s all about trying to reach a common base, a level of understanding each other. You cannot talk calmly to someone anxious before calming him or panicking yourself. And it’s the non-verbal behavior that brings us to the same level on all the relevant areas. Verbal is more direct but it’s a channel reserved for the payload. You cannot just ask “How are you?” and expect to receive the whole answer verbally. It will never happen.
With this in mind, I hope you will adapt your communication by considering a more complex set of factors, including the ones I’ve just presented. Whenever you have the opportunity, make your homework by researching the person you are going to meet! The more you know, the easier it is to interact!