For years, communication has been ranked in Top 10 lists of work complaints most often finding itself at #1! Humans are social beings. As a species we have developed language in order to communicate with one another and it has become a staple of our existence and growth throughout time. In fact, at least 50-80% of our daily work activities are directly related to communication with others. So why is it that such a critical element to our species is so hard to master?
Bryan Banville, president & co-founder of Institute for Mastering Success, shares 10 Big Ideas on how using Howard Gardner’s multiple intelligences theory can improve communication in the workplace.
1. The Silent Killer
Humans were anatomically designed for communication. Our brains, mouths, ears, and vocal chords were all created to allow for us to build relationships, share ideas, and express love. So what happens when we stop communicating? Just like any disease that ravages our body, poor communication can have drastic results. A study showed that 70% of women and 59% of men cite poor communication as the main cause for a failed marriage. Other relationships suffer equally with friends, family members, and children all as a result of poor or lack of communication.
When we lose touch with the basics of communicating with others, it prevents us from functioning as a human being. It is such an integral part of our being that without it, we are slowly killing ourselves by increasing stress, inviting disease (mental & physical), losing trust, and slowly deteriorating to nothing. Worst of all, the effects of poor communication can creep up on us without saying a word!
2. The Cost of Poor Communication
Seeing as most humans spend more than a quarter of their daily time allotment working, communication is critical in creating a functioning work environment. However, poor communication is cited as one of the top challenges in today’s workforce. Lets take a look at the numbers:
$37 billion – The annual cost of UK & US large businesses (100,000+ employees) because employee’s job responsibilities/expectations were poorly communicated and therefore misunderstood. (Cognisco 2008 Report)
$528,443 – Annual cost of small businesses (<100 employees) from spending on average 17 hours a week clarifying communication to workers (360 Solutions)
$26,041 – Calculated annual cost per worker due to loss productivity resulting from communication barriers (David Grossman from The Holmes Report)
$2,246 – Annual cost of a disengaged employee.
*94% of employees felt communication between employees and senior management was important to overall job satisfaction & engagement. (SHRM 2012 Report)
I would say the numbers add up!
3. The Major Offenders
So where does communication breakdown happen most often in the workplace? Lets take a look at 5 communication issues often discussed:
- Wrong Approach or Method – Each of us has a slightly different preference for communication. People in the workplace often try and communicate with everyone in one-way rather than asking others how they prefer to be communicated with.
- Listening Skills – Listen with intention not just with your ears. We often get too excited about what we have to say rather than taking the time to understand and listen to others.
- Misinterpretation of Information – How many times have you gotten an email and read it with a certain tone? How we process information is critical in understanding the daily communication breakdowns that can occur.
- Failure to Disperse Information – In order to interpret information it has to be present and communicated. Missing or incomplete information is common in today’s workforce.
- Lack of Follow Through – People may start communications, like sending out that first email or making the first phone call, but we all struggle with follow through!
4. Back to the Basics
So how do we combat all of these offenders mentioned above? We need to get back to the basics and understand how communication works!
Communication is simply defined as the act or process of using words, sounds, signs, or behaviors to express or exchange information or to express your ideas, thoughts, feelings, etc., to someone. Communication is an on-going process like our heart beat and not a static event.
Author Tracy Cabot discusses the use of three cognitive channels when it comes to relationships with others: auditory, visual, and kinesthetic. These three channels can be broken down into verbal and nonverbal communication patterns, how we receive information, and how we output communication as well. It is important to understand of how information is communicated so we build an awareness of others and ourselves. And that brings me back to our multiple intelligences!
5. Key Intelligences to Be Sufficient In
There are two intelligences in particular that need to be developed to improve communication between you and your coworkers/employees! The first is Linguistic intelligence. A large portion of our communication method as humans is through language. It is critical to be able to both interpret and present information through language on a daily basis.
The second intelligence is Interpersonal intelligence, or how you interact with other people. This is critical in addressing many of the major offenders when it comes to poor communication. It is important to note however that one does not need to master these two intelligences but rather be sufficient in them and work to continue developing them to strengthen their communication skills.
6. Read, Write, Talk, & Listen
Linguistic intelligence is related to how we use, interpret, and communicate language. It is considered the most universal intelligence of Gardner’s model. Individuals who are sufficient in this learning style are typically experts in one or more of the following areas of language:
- Phonology (sounds of language)
- Syntax (structure of language)
- Semantics (meaning of language)
- Pragmatics (use of language to achieve goals)
This intelligence supports the cognitive channels of both visual (written) and auditory communication methods and requires the ability to read, write, talk, & listen. Spend at least twenty minutes a day increasing your understanding of language to strengthen your communication skills.
7. Know Thy Neighbor, & Their Neighbor, & Their Neighbor…
Interpersonal intelligence is the ability to make distinctions between the intentions, motivations, moods, feelings, & thoughts of other people. These individuals often interact with the outside world by creating cognitive social maps they use to interact with others. These learners have the capacity to recognize strengths of team members and who can most effectively reach the mutual goal. In the workforce, these individuals typically have a high Emotional Intelligence (EQ) and can make great managers.
This intelligence supports the cognitive channels of both kinesthetic (body) and auditory communication methods. Spend at least twenty minutes a day developing your interpersonal intelligence. Sit on a park bench and observe others, involve yourself in at least three conversations daily and mainly just listen, or host a brainstorming session and simply facilitate the process rather than contribute your own ideas!
8. You Must Speak Their Language
When you are able to become an observer of other people’s preferred methods of communication you will find that each of us has our own unique “language”. In order to master communication techniques with others in the workplace it is important to try and speak to the language of your coworker’s/employee’s strongest intelligence. For example a kinesthetic learner is very in tune with their body. Pair that with a sufficient interpersonal intelligence and they are also very aware of the nonverbal social cues others can give them. Nonverbal communication can make up 93% of how we are impacted by communication with 55% read through body language and 38% interpreted by tonality. You can see just how critical speaking to another’s preferred language can be!
9. Incorporating Other Intelligences Into How We Communicate w/ Others
We can also use the other intelligences to support strong communication with others. Someone with high musical intelligence will be most supported through auditory processing and will greatly focus on the tone at which something is communicated. They will also be able to pick up on patterns of communication very quickly (if someone tells white lies often, doesn’t make eye contact when they are angry, etc.) Someone with high visual intelligence may need to have things drawn out. Words are often difficult for these individuals to process exclusively so referencing a diagram, image, or creating a narrative that invokes strong imagery may be better received.
10. Know Thyself & All Will Be Revealed.
Now, here is my little secret when it comes to improving your overall communication within the workforce. You must continue to develop your intrapersonal intelligence and know how to communicate with yourself. How we communicate with ourselves can greatly impact how we communicate with others and prefer to receive information! This simple exercise below will support you in identifying how you prefer to be communicated with!
Ways of Communicating
A strong foundation of communication strategies leads to productive relationships. These strategies begin with understanding one’s own communication style as well as the styles of managers and other coworkers – and then discussing preferred communication methods with each other. Improved understanding helps decrease the amount of time and work lost to miscommunication.
Choose one style.
|Ways of Communicating||Description||My Style|
|Speak It/ Hear It (Verbal)||Communicate out loud and hear the response. Phone preferred over email.||☐Y ☐N|
|Write It/Read It (Written)||Write notes about an assignment and read instructions. Email preferred over the phone.||☐Y ☐N|
|Feel It/Touch It (Non-Verbal)||Body language, tone of voice, and feeling connected are important. In- person meetings preferred to email or phone.||☐Y ☐N|
|See It/Picture It (Visual)||Represent information visually and use visual aids and technology for communication (e.g., texting). In person or email preferred to phone.||☐Y ☐N|
Complete this exercise with your team and start to see results immediately!
Interested in finding out more? Check out President, Bryan Banville, at en*theos Academy teaching this course live! Follow the link below: https://www.entheos.com/academy/classes/how-to-improve-communication-intelligence-in-the-workplace?c=6844
by Bryan Banville, President & Co-founder for Institute for Mastering Success
(c) 2014, Institute for Mastering Success