Communication comes in many different forms, both verbal and non-verbal, and each one is critical for all living beings, yet, even though there are so many ways to communicate these days, there seems to be too many times when we just can’t seem to communicate with each other in the most effective and sometimes, simplest ways.
Recently, while engaging in some normal activities, I observed the various methods of communications that were being used, and then determined if they were successful, or not. My observations reiterated to myself why it is so important to communicate clearly based on the situation and subject.
A weekend of communication observations:
Settling into a very comfortable leather pedicure chair, I felt delighted with the bright pink polish that I had selected to be used on my toes. Yes, pink is just what I needed to get my feet sandal ready!
The nice man greeted me with a smile and a nod while he held up my pink bottle of polish. I smiled, nodded and said, yes, that is the color I want. I knew that there would be a language barrier between us, as did he, but throughout the entire relaxing experience, the communication between us consisted of smiles, head nods, and short yes or no responses. We didn’t speak the same language at all, although I knew that he knew more English than I knew of his native tongue, and yet, that didn’t stop us from having a nice time just using those simple methods of communications. This was a great example of successful limited verbal and non-verbal communications.
Happy with my pedicure, I headed to my local grocery, which had been undergoing major renovations for months. I dreaded this errand as the last couple of times that I had gone there, I couldn’t find anything that I needed. But this store was more convenient than the others, and I was hopeful that they would be finishing up soon, so I sucked it up and headed to the store. When I pulled into the parking lot I found that most of the lot was blocked off due to resurfacing. I located the opening for the two rows that were open based on an arrow they had posted, and made my way in search of a spot to park. This is a very large grocery store in need of much more parking than 2 rows, so I shouldn’t have been surprised of the limited available spaces, but I was very surprised when I got to the end of the lane, and there was nowhere to turn around and nowhere to park! After a very tight 5 point turnaround, I grabbed the first recently vacated spot.
In the store, things were still not completed, but I could tell they were getting close. The shopping took me twice as long as normal trying to find everything, and now, I just needed to locate mouthwash. I found the aisle labeled toothpaste, mouthwash, etc., so I turned the corner to find….empty shelves. Really trying my patience! Okay, there had to be a sign directing me to the new location of the mouthwash, but to no avail. I spent another couple of minutes roaming up and down the aisles until I finally found it. At the checkout, the cashier asked me if I found everything okay. I bit my tongue from what I wanted to say, figuring that she had already heard it all, and it wasn’t her fault anyway so no reason to take my frustration out on her. As I left that store, I thought, if they would just have communicated more clearly regarding parking and where the new locations of items were, it would have saved time and frustration. This was an epic failure to properly communicate, causing undo frustration, and possibly some customers. A great example of how bad communication, or lack of any communication, can cost you customers, as I questioned if I would ever return after that experience!
Driving on the highway towards home, I was behind a driver going much slower than the posted speed limit. Not able to get around him, I tried to remain calm, although my patience was already thin after the grocery store experience. With most of the traffic passing both of us to the right, I waited my turn to do the same since the slow driver in front of me was clearly not going to move over. He actually seemed oblivious to everyone passing him on the right side! Just as I was starting to get into the right lane, he also got into that lane with no signal advising me of his intent, he just went. He continued to go slower than the speed limit and crossed back and forth between lanes, never putting a signal on and causing some issues with the other drivers. I got around and away from him thinking, they make turn signals for a reason! To communicate to other drivers. Another epic fail. This failure to use a simple turn signal which could have caused wrecks.
The following day was my 4 year old granddaughter’s birthday party. When I arrived, she proudly showed me how she was a beautiful princess! I adjusted my tone just a bit to match her enthusiasm and watched her take off to play and show everyone else how pretty she was. I sat at a table with my elderly father in law who doesn’t hear very well and found myself speaking very loudly about the weather, gardens and anything else, noticing to myself how I adjusted my volume in my voice to accommodate his hearing loss. Successful adjusted communication methods.
The next day was a mother’s day celebration with my small family. I watched my grandchildren play, laugh and talk to each other. I watched my daughter’s cats and dog spar with each other, and look up at her, then down to their empty food bowls, and then, without a bark or meow, the bowls were filled. Non-verbal communication at its finest. I think that the animals do communication best.
Returning home from the eventful weekend, I sat on my porch and observed all of nature happening in my yard. I filled the bird feeders and it didn’t take long from the bird word to get out that the feeders were full once again! Around 15 types of birds ate, chirped and sang harmoniously together, while they filled their bellies with the assorted seeds and nuts. Later that evening it stormed. My older cat doesn’t like storms and doesn’t like to be held, so she stayed at my side during the entire loud storm. She didn’t say a word, just needed to be near me to feel safe. Her eyes and actions said it all. Animal communication wins again.
The power of communication is strong and powerful and with just a few examples that I provided, you can see how they can be successful or completely fail.
A quote from Zig Ziglar says “The biggest communication problem is we do not listen to understand, we listen to reply”
I think if humans could just learn to adjust their communication methods based on a situation, we would be much better communicators. We don’t always have to speak to get a point across. As a matter of fact, the use of body language, can be much clearer than the spoken word. Think about how strong a smile, frown or an eye roll can be. No words, but you know what is being communicated.
Take a cue from the starlings as they begin their migration. It’s a beautiful thing to watch. Their synchronized movements are a way to communicate the location of food sources as well as a way to create a defense mechanism against birds of prey. Beautiful and smart!
The world is full of different kinds of communications, and all are vital methods in getting ones message across. We have to adjust for the situation, but we can never stop communicating.
Peter Drucker said “The most important thing in communication is hearing what isn’t said.”
Listen to the spoken and unspoken word. Read the signs and between the lines, and then you can communicate accordingly and successfully.