What is one thing we all desire? To be understood.
Two of the most powerful words in the English language are “I understand” – that feeling of connection that stems from someone “getting us” or us getting them. These two words are universally applicable in business and in life. They bring the critical elements of empathy and compassion into all that we do, and they strengthen our relationships in all facets of life.
Perhaps more than any two others, the words “I understand” create unity and community. They help forge a global society by placing commonality before distinction, and unity before separation.
In his international best-selling 1989 classic, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, the late Stephen Covey taught us to “Seek first to understand, then to be understood.” This timeless concept speaks powerfully to the most effective communication mindset and the two traits of every great communicator.
What is Communication Truly About?
At its core, communication is about understanding – having our needs, desires and messages conveyed in a way that elicits understanding from others (that makes us feel understood). It also is about understanding and accounting for the needs, desires, perspectives and challenges of those we serve when entering into communication so that we may create our messages and conversations accordingly.
There are two fundamental, overarching aspects to every great communicator:
- They are technical
- They are tuned in
While the second is arguably the most profound, the first can be equally challenging to master:
1. Technical: Being aware of the meaning of words + how we use words to create meaning. This is about using our logical brain to understand the meaning, intention and resonance of words
When you drill down your thoughts and communicated messages to their most basic form, what you have are words – words with meanings and intentions that shape the course of our personal and professional trajectories.
As business owners, powerful communication is the foundation of effective marketing and that foundation begins with the conscious use of words. Not only do we need to relate in a way that is deeply human (that elicits emotion and creates connection with our audience), though we also must choose words that reflect our value and resonate with our audience.
We need to be conscientious of:
(1) the meaning of words
(2) how we use words to create meaning
Meaning gets created through value – the impact our words have on ourselves and others. In their book, Words Can Change Your Brain, Andrew Newberg, M.D. and Mark Waldman detail how certain (positive) words – like love or peace – are proven to turn on genes that reduce physical and emotional stress. Paying attention to how words feel isn’t just “touchy-feely” business, it’s neuroscience.
Of course, being technical means having good grammar. Nothing detracts from communication more than poor grammar…though this process doesn’t have to be complicated or complex. More than big fancy words, audience attention can be garnered through finesse – the attentive use of descriptive words at the right places and the right time, alongside proper sentence structure, spelling and punctuation.
Used strategically, the placement of language, wording and inflections can maximize the resonance your message has with your audience.
2. Tuned In – Presence! Your audience wants to feel understood by you. Tuning in is about using our intuitive brain to consciously and subconsciously tap into those we are communication with (Note: with, not to) and being empathetic and compassionate in our relating to them.
Compassion, by definition, is the desire to end the suffering of others. While most of us in the first world are fortunate to live without the suffering of war, poverty or hunger, we do suffer in many psychological or spiritual ways. When we are truly present with those we serve and speak with (personally and professional), we can create greater empathy, growth and ease-of-life for them by understanding where they current are.
Gaining awareness of your audience means asking heart-driven questions:
As you communicate, align yourself with your audience – who they are and where they are. Keep their needs, challenges and perspectives in mind ALWAYS. “Write with the reader in mind” or “speak with the audience in mind.”
Where technical is diving into the details of our communication, tuning in is taking that moment to step back before initiating it. It’s easy to get caught up in the technical, though without tuning in, we are likely to create communication that will fall flat and lack resonance with our audience because they lack heart (empathy, care, compassion).
Both the personal and pragmatic are equally important.
In figure skating, value is given to both technical ability and artistic impression. Consider your ability to “tune in” to be your “artistic impression” – that unspoken sentiment that leads people to want to know more about you AND leads to an unshakable bond between you and your audience.
Communication can be challenging, though it is designed to help make our lives easier. Back to the point about creating unity – forging common bonds can only be made possible when we allow ourselves to be fully present with our audience.
The communicator who is both technical and tuned in not only writes and speaks with great grammatical proficiency, they write and speak with wording that their audience will understand…wording that MEANS SOMETHING to them. Their messages are constructed with great conscious intention.
If every opportunity to communicate is an opportunity to meet your audience where they are and take them on a journey to somewhere even better (a place of greater empathy, growth or ease-of-life), where are you taking them and how are you leading them there?
The words “I understand” are not born in the mind, they are born in the heart.
Let yourself communicate with heart.
#businesscommunication #personalbranding #brandmessage #relationships #entrepreneur #businessowner