When you think of the word communicate, you probably imagine speaking words or reading something. But communication is more than just words. It is the look in someone's eyes or the quiet shrug of the shoulders. Being an effective communicator doesn't only entail sharing words, it is about sharing emotion and ideas, and being able to truly listen to others.
A story from the sixties has been making rounds on the Internet again. A nine-year-old American boy visited the Masai in Kenya. He did not speak the language, and the village children did not speak English.
A photographer clearly showed that communication was no issue, however. The kids traded knowledge creatively, without requiring words or written text. The chieftain's son taught the American child how to shoot a bow and arrow and throw a spear. In return, the American boy taught the village children how to play baseball.
The American boy learned to track and stalk animals and how to hunt. He was eventually adopted as a blood brother to the chieftain's son. He had an incredible adventure, most of it without the benefit of language.
This type of scenario is not uncommon with children. Watch them at an airport the next time you travel or spend some time relaxing in a park where kids are playing. Even babies who cannot speak can clearly communicate their needs.
Increase the likelihood of others
hearing what you say
Communication is the oxygen or the life-blood of collaboration. When people are connected with a shared purpose and they can communicate why that purpose matters, a team can coalesce and move more rapidly to greater heights.
But this kind of collaboration cannot happen unless people can share and connect with others through effective, purpose-driven communication. To increase your communication skills, first stop your inner dialogue.
Give others around you a chance to speak and try not to interrupt. Remember the example of children, and don't limit yourself to just language. Observe people and attempt to understand their emotions and motivations, not just what they say.
“The art of effective listening is essential to clear communication, and clear communication is necessary to management success.”
James Cash Penney
How Communication relates to Collaboration
Communication is one of the 4 pillars under the competency of Collaboration in the . A clear articulation of what is being said, in conjunction with the ability to listen to others are the foundational steps for connecting and engaging effectively.
5 Tips for Communication
- Stop your inner monologue
- Learn to chunk down
- Stop interrupting and be patient
- Attend a silent retreat - read related article
- Study micro-expressions
Most of us will never experience the adventure that one little American boy was fortunate enough to have. While your communication skills may not be tested in the same ways, you can become a more effective leader if you learn how to listen to others. Sharing ideas and emotions doesn't always require words, but an open mind.