Communication is About More Than The Message

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Communication is a proverbial, organizational, and leadership challenge. Even the best leaders and organizations know they can improve in how they communicate with others. For that reason, this is a topic we are often asked to help people improve.

The obvious reason people and organizations want to improve communications is that it is important – we need to understand what others are saying to us so that work can get done, decisions can be made, and more. And the reason it is a challenge is that is it hard. Even though we have been communicating since we were born, since we and those we are communicating with are all messy, it is, and always will be, a challenge.

Over the past few weeks, I have done an exercise with an organization helping them think about and improve their communication. We have done this exercise many times and it is quite simple. We ask people to think of a person they consider a great communicator (and they later think of a very poor one), and then write down the behaviors that make them so good (and poor).

With this organization, I completed the exercise six times. Here are some of the words attributed (by multiple groups) to the “best communicators” in two groupings. Each item was included on multiple lists – most were on at least four of the six.

Words about the Communication Itself

•Good listener



•Asks questions

Something Bigger than the Communication







•Cares about me


•Great eye contact


•Removes distractions


I could do similar lists for the poor communicator list, but that isn’t necessary for the point that I hope is already clear to you.

Notice how much of this list is about relationship and connection and not about the message itself. This leads to some profound truths:

   •Good communicators are thinking about more than the words they are sharing and themselves. They are thinking about the other person.

   •Communication isn’t just about getting our message received, it is about how we make the other person feel about themselves and the implication of the message.

   •If you want to communicate more effectively, focus on others.

   •As hard as communication is, some of the keys to doing it well were learned in kindergarten (or before).

   •Great communication skills build trust, confidence, and relationships.

   •The meta-message of communication is about people, not what you want them to know.

   •This may seem like common sense. Unfortunately, common sense isn’t always common practice.

You may already know these things. Please don’t click on to the next thing or move to the next item on your to-do list too quickly.

Think about these truths.

Reflect on their application for you.

Decide which on the second list you want to focus on today.

Your decisions and actions here can change your communication success, relationships, results, and your life.

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