Do you remember the movie that had the famous line, “what we have here is a failure to communicate?”  We have provided the answer below in this week’s Power Idea from Senior Strategic Partner, Laura Dillingham.  Laura is one of our foremost experts on communication and is going to bring us back to basics in how to communicate effectively.  Why is this important?… the basis of most misunderstandings, conflicts and relationship challenges both on and off the job happen as a result of poor communication.  This is a must read article!

Are We Communicating Yet?

Currently we have more communication vehicles than ever before, however, we seem to understand each other less. Take a moment and think about communication. Historically communication was done face-to-face, over the telephone or through letters, memorandums and faxes. Those were pretty much all of the methods available. Surprisingly enough, even then there were times when communication was difficult, misunderstood, late, not attempted or not even done.

So let’s start by looking at the changes in communication. Face-to-face communication is rare but it does happen. Letters are almost obsolete for the most part, as are memos. The fax machine is slowly being replaced with scans. Today, communication is accomplished through emails, texts, Instagram, Snap Chat, Facebook, LinkedIn and more. It uses abbreviations and emoji. It’s continuous, world-wide, instantaneously 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, 365 days a year and yet we have less communication and more misunderstandings than ever. Even bullying has gone from in-person to cyberspace.

In this Power Idea we are going to briefly touch on four areas of communication: emotions within communication, principles of communication, active listening and non-verbal communications.

Let’s start by defining effective communication. I’m partial to this definition so it’s the one I’m going to be using. Effective communication means the sender sends a message in such a manner that the receiver receives the message, interprets the message and acts upon the message the way the sender intended. Effective communication holds the sender and the receiver responsible for the process and ultimately the end result.

Emotions within communications can be difficult using today’s methods of communication. So what do we do to try to include our emotions? We put emoji and symbols to try to convey the tone of the message to the receiver. What’s critical about emotions within communications is that there are certain messages that should never be sent using any other means except face-to-face and if that’s not an option use a phone. Examples of those types of communication are:

  • when the message has consequences such as a firing
  • when the message may be devastating to the receiver such as a death
  • when there are consequences such as safety and risk concerns.

If you’re not sure it’s simple…pick up the phone and call and talk to the person. One phone call can eliminate misunderstandings, hurt feelings, broken relationships and numerous emails, texts, wasted time and more.

The principles and responsibilities for communication have remained consistent in spite of the changes in communication methods. If we remember to use them we will significantly reduce the possibility of miscommunication. In communication, the sender and the receiver each have five specific responsibilities.

The Sender’s responsibilities are:

  1. Start with an idea, concept or purpose
  2. Develop that idea, concept or purpose into an objective(s); what do you want the outcome to be
  3. Encode the message. Encoding involves determining what words to use, know something about the audience such as what information do they already have
  4. Put the message in a sequence that makes sense
  5. Choose the medium(s) to deliver the message; written, verbal, power point, graphics…

The Receiver’s responsibilities are:

  1. Receive the message
  2. Decode the message; understand the words and the content
  3. Assign meaning
  4. Provide feedback; either verbal, written or non-verbal
  5. If the receiver doesn’t understand the message they should go back to the Sender for clarification and/or explanation

If there’s a problem go back to the Sender’s Step 3. Encoding is where 90% of all communication errors occur.

Active listening involves the ability to put your own thoughts on the back burner and focus on the sender and their message. Active listening is critical during face-to-face communication and even on the phone. To let the sender know you are fully engaged you can smile, make eye contact, nod, say yes and don’t fidget or be distracted. Active listening involves the ability to summarize in a succinct way what you have just heard. It also involves asking questions and providing feedback when appropriate or when asked.

Non-verbal communications are important because they can either reinforce the message, cloud it or even cause misunderstandings. Examples of non-verbal communications in person are: facial expressions, hand gestures, eye contact, attitude, composure, clothing/dress, voice modulation/intonation, body movement, head movement, body language, ambulation, pregnant pauses, dancing around, yawning, snapping fingers, squinting eyes, cosmetics, cologne/perfume and even personal hygiene. Examples of non-verbal communication in written communication starts with not knowing enough about the receiver so sending too much information or not enough, vocabulary, tone, sarcasm, joking, condescending references, asking a question or making a statement which may make the other person feel bad or defensive or even missing a deadline or timeframe with a late response.

Communication is difficult and will probably continue to be difficult going forward. Especially in this age of technology where we send instant communication and expect instant responses. However, if you employ just a few of the techniques suggested you will see tangible results and improvement in not only your communication but in your relationships, personal and professional. However, in situations where miscommunication occurs, nothing is more effective than immediately picking up the phone and resolving the issue. Key to remember is when a relationship is important we will not allow miscommunication to damage or destroy it.  (answer to question – Cool Hand Luke!)

We hope you have enjoyed this Power Idea.  If you want to know more about Communications, don’t hesitate to contact us at and we will be happy to set a time to talk.


Have a Great Week!