Special Report #2

The Communication Loop

What Is It?
Why Is It Important?

When asked for a definition of the word, "communication", most of us have a ready answer. It can mean talking with others, getting a point across, listening to others, and reaching out to others.

Actually, the word, "communication", like a lot of our American language words, comes from the Latin. It has three roots to it, "comm" meaning "together", "uni" meaning "as one", and "cation" meaning "the action of".

So, if we put the three Latin roots together, communication is "the action of coming together as one". Therefore, our primary reason for communicating is to make a connection with another, to have a meeting of the minds, to build rapport.

When you think about it, it makes a lot of sense that we would use this tool of communication for this purpose. As early as hundreds of thousands of years ago, our ancestors of the human species lived in tribes with each other. They connected through the common bond of "likeness" or "similarity". The tribes were homogenous in nature. They recognized each other by the common bonds of like communication.

Today, as a very diverse society of tribes, we have a huge challenge in communicating with each other. Leaving the actual language differences aside and just discussing the variations in mainstream American communication can be daunting at best.

Because we are a social species, communication is our major tool for connecting with our brethren. Apart from the giving and receiving of information, the act of communication feels a primal social need within us. You would think with it being so important, we would spend much more time educating our young and ourselves on how to use our communication behaviors most effectively. However, we don't!

That's why there are people like myself who specialize as communication behaviors coaches.

So, why do we call the act of communication a "loop"? Well, there is a sender, let's say "YOU", and a receiver, let's say, "a colleague of yours". You have a message to get across to this colleague. So, you tell him what you want to say. Sounds simple, doesn't it?

It isn't!

Actually, WHAT you say has very little importance in communication. It's all about HOW you say it that counts.

Think about a discussion you just had today. Can you remember verbatim, word- for-word, what you said and what the other person said? I'd venture to guess that you can't. Most of us can't.



Because we actually take our communication cues from the body language, posture, gestures, tone, speed, and pitch of voice and eye contact of the sender.

When the communication loop brakes down, it means that the sender was not "congruous" in his/her use of combining the content (words) with the tonality (sound of voice) and the body language (movement).

How important is this "congruity"?

Well, Dr. Albert Mehrabian, Professor Emeritus at UCLA, has been conducting human communication studies since the 1960's and what he discovered is still true today.

If we take communication as equaling 100%, only 7% or so of our processing of communication comes from the content or words. Another 38% comes from the tonality, modulation, speed, pitch of the voice used to communicate. However, a whopping 55% comes from what we see of the communicator, his/her body language, posture, gestures, and eye contact with us.

That means that most of us need to see the person with whom we are communicating to get the most understanding from the interchange. That's why a lot of us do not like to talk about tricky issues on the phone - we're missing that 55% of communication. Think about E-mail - we're only getting 7% of communication through E-mail. No voice and no body language to give us communication clues. So many of us now use E-mail to hide from actual communication.

So, what have you learned?

1. We humans have a primal need to communicate

2. We use the communication loop to communicate and if it breaks, the sender has the primary responsibility for mending the break.

3. We need to be 100% "congruous" in our communication so that our receivers can fully process our message.

Remember, it's all about the "HOW", not the "WHAT"!

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