Posts Tagged ‘Communication’

Not quite the 9 o’clock News

Monday, October 14th, 2013

bbc_signer2I’m interested in all aspects of communication but this story really takes some beating.  Leslie Grange, a signer for deaf viewers on the BBC news, appears to have decided that merely reporting the news was a little dull, so to brighten the days of her deaf viewers she started spicing up the stories.  Here are a few examples:-

“Questions started to be raised around the time of the Japanese earthquake when several viewers emailed us to complain about our reports of radioactive zombies sighted near the nuclear reactor. We dismissed them as some sort of organised hoax.”

“However, when there were similar numbers getting in touch to ask if Rebekah Brooks was really in trouble for raping a monkey, and why the BBC was claiming that, as a special summer treat, the Prime Minister had told the nation’s teenagers they didn’t have to pay for anything any more, we realised something was wrong.”

“I would like to apologise to everyone in the deaf community,” Grange told reporters today, “though when I had Cameron tell Obama “your statesmen-like profile leaves my willy plump” – well, frankly I don’t think that is so very far from the truth.”

We tend to accept that information coming from authoritative sources is correct and accurate, and it is only once it crosses a certain threshold that we question it, but perhaps we ought to ask more often “How do I know this is true?”  Within a company it is not unusual for things to be accepted as correct because everyone is repeating them, rather than actually going to the source data.  Group think is a dangerous basis for making decisions. 

It’s not about the nail

Monday, August 12th, 2013

If you are a man, then this video will probably make you feel that this is all about you.  You may even laugh… it is very well done.  However, it raises an interesting point.  At work, we very much focus on the facts that are being conveyed.  We listen for them and pay attention to this type of content. However, just like this video, most conversations contain two types of information, what is happening AND how we feel about it.  Men tend to dial into the former and neglect the latter.  At home, this is a bad idea, but there is a cost to ignoring emotional information in the work place.  We need to know how someone feels about something.  Are they excited, scared, bored?  Do they have an objection that they are suppressing, perhaps based on personal values, perhaps because they don’t think it will work, but don’t think you will listen. 

Asking “How do you feel about this?” is NOT the same as asking “What do you think?” and you should always ask both questions and be clear with the other person that you are looking for a different bit of information.  Ignore emotional content at your peril!  

Communication across the divide

Tuesday, February 26th, 2013

signlanguageI was listening to a radio program based on a book “Far from the Tree” about deaf culture.  It was a phrase that gave me pause; it had never occurred to me that deaf people might have a separate and unique culture.  I listened on and learnt about the nuance of meaning the deaf could convey with a gesture akin to the way we use tonality and the penny dropped.  In the same way as each language enables particular subtleties in meaning in particular areas, so the deaf are able to convey shades of meaning to each other that we can not.  They experience the world differently and share those experiences via a different medium… of course they have their own culture.

beethovenThis got me thinking that in the same way that there is a gulf between hearing and non-hearing communication, there are subtle gaps between each of us.  We all use words which carry uniquely different weights and resonances for each of us; expressions can trigger a variety of emotions depending on our culture and upbringing.  We gloss over all this in the haste of our daily lives but these micro-failures of communication happen all the time, even with those we love.

If it is important, then take the time not just to say what you want, but also to test what they have heard and how they understand that.

“No two animals…”

Sunday, February 3rd, 2013

dogs noseI was listening to the radio this morning and heard a scientist, Professor Brian Cox, say “No two animals see the world in the same way.”  He was referring to how catfish sense things through the murky waters via vibrations on the river bed and a swarm of chemicals in the river. Another example would be how, for instance, snakes find their prey via heat sensors near where their nose is.  Bats and dolphins use echo location, bees and other insects use infra red wavelengths to see markings on flowers that we can’t see.  So he was illustrating that different species have a whole spectrum of senses they each deploy in different ways to map and explore their worlds.  snake, sense, jacobson's organ

As humans we are used to the idea that blind people can find their way, unsighted, through environments that are highly complex and would bewilder a sighted person; perfumiers can distinguish an amazing complexity of scents, similarly wine growers have a much keener ability to analyse tastes. 

However, his statement is true at a much more basic, though more subtle level.  We each have our own little world, which we label ‘real’; we have a set of rules of what is right and fair, and how things ‘should’ be.  We have a set of values and beliefs about what is true and how the world is.  Some of these come from our upbringing, our societal and familial beliefs, some from our experiences.  We each build a little inner model that helps us understand and navigate our lives.  However, what is seldom discussed or realised. is each of these unchallenged models is totally different, and we only find out about that when we get into arguments with people about what is right or real.  We often hear about how men and women have different views on what is important, or what is ‘going on’.  That is just one slightly more visible element of these different worlds we inhabit.  There is more information about this here.

We need to be aware of these unchallenged assumptions, beliefs and views as they interfere with our communication and can cause friction and arguments, just think about the troubles in the Middle East.  One really good example is how the Americans are indoctrinated into believing they are the biggest and best nation in the world and appointed by God to keep the peace… their peace, which in fact means waging war all over the world, far away from their homes!

If you wish to avoid unnecessary misunderstanding and stress remember Professor Cox’s words “No to animals..” And that includes you an me.. “ see the world in the same way”

Canine blogging

Saturday, June 16th, 2012

A friend’s son was saying yesterday, that on walking their dog, she had insisted on stopping every 30 yds to investigate every lamp post and leave frequent little doggie messages. This put me in mind of yesterday’s blog about Neanderthals where I was suggesting their cave painting was the equivalent of blogging. It seems to me that this canine behaviour is exactly the same, each dog needing to communicate, to both pick up and leave messages, almost like tweeting. So perhaps the need to communicate and broadcast our thoughts is far deeper than one might think…?


Seeing what is (and isn’t) there…

Wednesday, May 16th, 2012

DSCF0258I was in reflective mood this morning, so I went for a stroll.  The birds were singing gloriously and the squirrels were chittering angry at me for crashing their party.  I looked up at the clouds and I have truly never seen such 3D images.  They seemed to be an advancing armada of space craft, at least to me.  There is a long history of people looking skywards and seeing patterns, pictures and portents in both the clouds and the stars.

Then it occurred to me that we do much the same thing with other people’s actions and words.  We see, or think we see something and we interpret it, often in a self-referential way, so that the story pivots about us and how it impacts us.  As a race, and as a species, we have got quite good at interpreting signs and nuance, but an awful lot of the time we are just plain wrong.  We see a person grimace when they look our way and think they don’t like us or are angry but don’t know that they have a back problem.orion 

We can’t stop making these interpretations, it is part of our nature to do so, and to scan our environment for threats, but how often has someone close to you said something like “I know you are cross with me”, when you are neither cross nor even thinking about them?  If we can’t stop drawing conclusions from incomplete data the least we need to do is to check our assumptions, in an open, non-accusatory way, by saying something like “How are you feeling?” or “What are you thinking?”, simple open questions.  This can help avoid an awful lot of hurt and needless upset, and in business, can prevent wasted energy and poor decisions.

“All meanings, we know, depend on the key of interpretation.”  George Eliot

“All things are subject to interpretation whichever interpretation prevails at a given time is a function of power and not truth.”   Friedrich Nietzsche

The first cuckoos and their lessons in branding

Sunday, May 13th, 2012

I was walking yesterday and heard my first cuckoos. At first there was just one in the distance, and I thought “How perfect!”, spring sunshine and birdsong. We walked a little further then heard him again, only clearer, he seemed to have moved closer. Then I realised the song was different; a moment later it was clear there were two males, both singing their distinctive version of the familiar call, both proclaiming the efficacy of their wares to all the females nearby.

It occurred to me later, on reading a familiar online network’s blogs that we are like these cuckoos, puffing out our chests and singing to the world, hoping someone is noticing… We know the cuckoos strategy works, but does ours?! Its highly distinctive call serves two purposes; firstly it is claiming a territory and is highly recognisable, but its second purpose is the pay- off, it is seeking to attract a mate.

How do we ensure that we are offering something not just distinctive, but also something our audience really wants, or are we just making a lot of noise and achieving very little?

WHAT will it take to Change?

Monday, May 7th, 2012

Today, the second guest Blog from Maurice de Castro, leadership expert and speaker, telling the rest of his personal story:

Maurice de CastroIn yesterday’s blog I referred to a time when I faced the challenge of playing my part in helping to turn a business around that was on a slippery slope to nowhere. I used the Yes BUT story as a means of expressing the power and impact of just a couple of words. Well here’s another powerful example.

During that same period in that same business I made another huge mistake which I learned from and has served me well for many years since in both my professional and personal life.

Here is the mistake.  As the business was in such bad shape when I arrived I spent a ridiculous amount of time asking people “WHY?”

  1. “Why do we have to lowest sales performance in the country?”
  2. “Why do we have the highest cost base?”
  3. “Why is morale so low?”
  4. “Why is customer service so poor?”
  5. Etc., etc., etc.

That seemed a good place to start and made sense at the time but it just didn’t work. I realised after a while that every time I asked the question there were no shortage of answers. Everyone had an answer, every answer was different and every answer became a personal belief.

As you know it’s not that easy to change a belief.  It occurred to me that everyone had a story and I had done nothing but get them to focus on that story and replay it to me. Whilst many of those stories made sense the fact that there were so many made it impossible to identify what the real issues were and more importantly get people to think past them.

I realised that people love a good story.  After a while I worked out that I had to change tact completely as the WHY was only pushing us back even further. So I changed the question.  The new question was.

  1. “WHAT will we do to have the highest sales performance in the country?”
  2. “WHAT will we do to be cost leaders in this business?”
  3. “WHAT will we do to raise morale?”
  4. “WHAT will we do to make our customers love us?”

A simple word and a simple blog I know and many readers will be way ahead of the game and say well of course that’s just common sense. Well as they say common sense doesn’t seem to be that common any more.  It wasn’t for me back then but it is now.  By the way, with Yes AND together with WHAT, everything changed.

Yes BUT, No BUT, Yes BUT …

Sunday, May 6th, 2012

Maurice de CastroToday, a guest blog from Maurice de Castro, leadership expert and speaker, talking about his personal experience in leadership:

From a leadership perspective one of the most crippling environments you can ever find yourself in is the Yes BUT culture. Those two small yet devastatingly powerful words only serve to maintain the status quo and deprive innovation, creativity and imagination of the fuel it needs to see a company thrive. A number of years ago I was asked to lead a particular business through a rather dark time. Terribly low morale, very high costs, poor sales performance, low customer satisfaction and so on.

The business had created its own debilitating web of Yes BUT’s” so that nothing could or would ever change. It was full of good people working extremely hard but trapped in their own creation. Have you ever watched a fly try to free itself from a spider’s web?  Well it’s a little like me trying to stop my wife buying yet another pair of shoes, it ranks on the impossible list. The fly has to be freed.

After many months of sleepless nights I finally found the solution. I asked a toy manufacturer to provide me with 1000 plain white round squeezy stress balls. On each ball I had the words Yes BUT printed on one side with a big red cross struck right through the middle of the words. On the other side of the ball I had the words “Yes AND” printed. I invited every member of staff to join me at a large local theatre where I very clearly presented our Yes BUT dilemma and gave everyone their own ball. I asked them to take theirs ball with them everywhere they went in the business and if they EVER heard the words “Yes BUT” used I asked them to throw their ball at that person as hard as they could regardless of their position. For the next 3 months balls were flying everywhere and I mean everywhere, it was like a war zone. Within 12 months everything changed. Everything! Two small words made the massive difference between success and failure.

Communications.. it’s all about the context!

Tuesday, May 1st, 2012

icey windowsHere is a little tale:-

Wife texts husband on a cold winter’s morning:
“Windows frozen.”
Husband texts back:
“Pour some lukewarm water over them.”
Wife texts back 5 mins later:
“Computer completely f*cked now.”

Now this conversation may or may not have really happened but it makes the point very well that communication is all about context, and the meaning we take from a piece of communication depends on what is going on around us and what our concerns are.  What seems clear and obvious to one party might not be so clear to the recipient.  If what you are saying is important take a moment to consider your audience and their situation before you fire off a quick email that might cost you hours of work!