The Eyes Have it

In our continuing focus on communications, Strategic Partner, Diane Janovsky, demonstrates that there is clearly more than one way to communicate! In fact, you might say that it is a “graphic exposé” of other methods to make sure that the message is received as intended. Enjoy this week’s Power Idea!

One of my favorite quotes about communication (or lack thereof) is this one, attributed to Alan Greenspan: “I know you think you understand what you thought I said, but I’m not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant”.


With a touch of humor, but grounded in truth, the quote captures the complexity of the communication process.
Just because a message is sent, it doesn’t necessarily mean that it is received or understood in the way it was intended. The sender and receiver may think that they have a common understanding, when in fact they do not.
It’s one thing when we recognize that we disagree, but it’s even more challenging if we’re not even aware that we are not on the same page with someone else. As George Bernard Shaw said, “The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.”

So how do we improve our chances of avoiding communication disconnects, particularly in the workplace? Remember that communication is a two-part process:

A highly effective way to help clarify the sender’s message and as well as the receiver’s feedback is to use visual aids.


First, some background on the effectiveness of visuals. Although we use all our senses to take in information, in general, people tend to be “visually wired”. And, according to research by 3M, visuals are processed 60,000 times faster than text.

The benefits of using visuals in communication include:
* Less time needed to process the message
* More accurate understanding of content
* Better retention of information
* More likely to grab and hold attention

As a simple example, compare this road sign versus the verbal description next to it:
The red border attracts our attention and the graphic quickly communicates the gist of the warning. The extra bonus is that symbols like this also eliminate language barriers. No translation of words is required!


In business communication, the use of visual aids is more common when delivering a message, although there is always room for improvement in how it’s done.


Using visuals in a feedback process is especially important when groups or teams are creating new concepts, developing or improving processes or solving problems. Capturing written notes or minutes is good, but even better is using one or more of these tools during the discussions to confirm shared understanding.


One of the most important skills we have as members of an organization is the ability to communicate. Hopefully this article has sparked some ideas on how to leverage our natural human preferences and use visual aids to close the loop between the message that is sent and the message that is received.

“The art of communication is the language of leadership.”- James Humes