Three Beatitudes for Better Communication
Bill Cottringer

“The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place.” ~George Bernard Shaw.

I first heard this simple but profound prescription for better communication below, used as a beginning and ending to a talk given by a Washington State Health Official during a seminar on better planning for emergency response, particularly a widespread medical viral attack. It is a very useful framework to improve a core problem we have today, that compounds into most other problems—poor communication. Here is a sensible model of good communication to consider:

1. Be Brilliant.

Poor communication is more prevalent than good communication. That is because good communication doesn’t happen by chance, but rather requires an active effort to apply smart thinking to your communication. Here is some ways to be brilliant in your communication:

• Start by develop smart thinking to plan your communication better. This involves becoming more aware of the importance of applying three basic aspects of intelligence in communicating. These are using your IQ, EQ and FQ, which are your intellectual intelligence, your emotional intelligence and your flexibility and open-mindedness. These sills remove many of the ornery obstacles to better communication.
• Work on being as clear as you can to avoid any chance of misunderstanding—work for profound simplicity in what you say or write.
• Choose words wisely—most words have too many denotative and connotative meanings; use the psychology of word power to emphasize your most important ideas and increase their impact. This includes using fast vs. slow, good vs. bad, lively vs. dead and familiar vs. unfamiliar words appropriately.
• Good listening is the most important key to good communication. Practice two-eared-listening—aggressively listen to what is and isn’t said, as well as both what is being said and how it is being said. Pay attention to the reason for your given anatomy and talk once with one mouth and listen twice with both ears.
• Correct misunderstanding/miscommunication in avoiding any assumption that you are doing okay without actively seeking and applying useful feedback to improve.
• Know your audience well to customize communication and maximize impact and understanding. We all process information differently—visually, auditorially and tactilely and the best communicators have a wide repertoire of strategies to connect with their audience best.
• Be careful to match your body language with your message as incongruences are distracting, like shaking your head yes when you are really meaning no.

2. Be Brief.

Thanks to the Internet we are all in total overload with the information we have access to and which is imposed on us. Google, Bing, Facebook, Twitter, news and other social media collectively increase this overload exponentially. Nothing will change for the better until we learn the utter importance of being cost-effective with our words and learn how to be brief enough to avoid losing the person or missing crucial information in the exchange. Here’s how to be brief:

• Practice the K.I.S.S. military principle to avoid deterioration effect of message from General to Captain to Sgt. to Corporal, where the original message gets gradually distorted and the final received message is completely unrecognizable.
• Be respectful of other people’s valuable time and gnat-like attention span and keep a sharp eye out for the unnecessary which just wastes time as unheard or unread.
• Write and sound bites are best heard and remembered above the majority of irrelevant noise; Practice “P” points for best communication—saying just the right amount at the right time in the best way to get the best results. Learn to speak and write in headlines.
• Emotions confuse thoughts, but are always part of communication that need separating. There are really only positive vs. negative emotions (dog’s rule: “wag more, bark less”) so further splitting them into qualities of happiness, fear, envy, frustration, surprise, anger, etc. just increases the overload.
• As dogs know well—“bark but don’t bite.” Be assertive in between extremes of passivity and aggressive, which just prolongs unnecessary conversation and leads to go-nowhere discussions.
• Only provide a few essential details to make your message understandable by the average person. Knowing your audience well helps here.
• Control your non-verbal communication and other body language so as to not add extra meaning that is not needed or that can alter the message.

3. Be Gone.

Lingering mentally or physically after communication has been completed the best it can be, doesn’t serve any useful purpose. That is, unless it is used to answer important questions someone has that haven’t already been asked and answered. Being gone involves these practices:

• Be careful about word connotations and what is heard that didn’t need to be said. Certain words have too many different connotations, which just need to be avoided, like truth, love, right and wrong, justice and the like.
• Leave the abstract for philosophers—close the gap between the word and the real thing it is supposed to represent. This may be especially difficult in the Information Age of ideas today, but it is certainly something that needs to be gone in most communication.
• It is important to realize we can be part of three different types of relationships where good communication is essential—two to be gone from, one to stay: (1) casual relationships offering small clues that can benefit you (2) intensely painful/troublesome relationships that expose critical conflicts and offer valid, essential feedback you need to hear and use to become your best, and (3) being able to practice all this in the presence of a safe, nurturing soulmate, to comfortably continue learning, growing and improving into your best self, and improving your communication as you go.
• Stay away from trouble topics like religion, politics, morality, values and beliefs. Trying to express your own thoughts on these things accurately and completely may be as difficult as trying to change someone else’s mind about these things, which we all know is virtually impossible. Why bother?
• Use silence strategically—sometimes keeping a criticism to yourself about someone else ends up being more influential that way, in changing the other person for the better. This is energy physics 101.
• Don’t impose advice, at least until it is asked for, when it is most likely to be heard and used.

Consider these three beatitudes in helping us all stop the needless problems and conflicts arising from poor communication. You can help but make progress by using just a few of these suggestions in your next communication.

“When you take the time to actually listen, with humility, to what people have to say, it's amazing what you can learn. Especially if the people who are doing the talking also happen to be children.” ~Greg Mortenson.

Author's Bio: 

William Cottringer, Ph.D., Certified Homeland Security (CHS) level III, is Executive Vice-president for Employee Relations for Puget Sound Security Patrol, Inc., in Bellevue, Washington, and adjunct professor in criminal justice at Northwest University. He is author of several business and self-development books, including You Can Have Your Cheese & Eat It Too, The Bow-Wow Secrets, Do What Matters Most, ‘P’ Point Management, Reality Repair, Reality Repair RX, and Thoughts on Happiness from Covenant Books.