by Norman Lanier, Ph.D, Corporate Psychologist & Executive Coach


How would you know?

Last year, I shared a true story about John Ray, a southern gentleman who helped me learn the secret of relationships—how someone feels about herself in your presence has a phenomenally direct impact on how she feels about you! (See Parrish Partners NewsLeader, issues 1-4).

If people feel comfortable, creative and understood when they are with you, guess what—they like you! If, though, they feel awkward, not very imaginative and slow in grasping the right words to express themselves, guess what—they probably don’t feel so good about you! They may not be able to put their finger on it, and may say something vague like, “I’m not sure what it is about Norm, I just have some reservations about him…”

A major set of skills in helping people feel good about themselves in your presence (and afterwards, when they think about you) is COMMUNICATIONS.

The subject of Communications is so multi-faceted that it is difficult to define or evaluate simply. We tend to know what we mean when we say a person needs to improve her or his communications skills, and it is frequently with regard to a specific facet or dimension we have identified.

Example A: “Norm’s presentation was pretty good in terms of content, but he needs to work on communicating in front of an audience. He seemed nervous, and kept reading from his notes.”

Or, Example B: “Norm was nice when I met with him one-on-one, but he didn’t seem to listen very well. I’m not sure he was interested or fully engaged in the conversation.”

In the first instance, specific SKILLS are identified as needing improvement. In the second instance, general BEHAVIORS are identified as needing attention.

Communications has come to be so broad and so encompassing that it has become something of a catch-all category. Whether describing an individual or an organization, Communications are often pointed to as an area that needs improving. The category becomes the “Miscellaneous” in the files and folders of human experience—it contains additional thoughts and observations that don’t fit clearly someplace else, and could always be a little bit better.

Based on the two examples above, we would suggest that any critiquing of Communications be clarified as either SKILLS or BEHAVIORS, or a combination of both. For example, the first instance related more to Skills, and we could predict that public speaking training would be helpful.

The second instance related more to Behaviors, which also might respond well to training—but coaching Norm in the second example would help him understand how he was seen or experienced by another person, and help him begin to think about ways he could go about making the other person feel more appreciated and involved.

Before sharing a simple format for EVALUATING THE EFFECTIVENESS OF COMMUNICATIONS, we would remind you that there is a sizeable chunk of information that goes missing. How often does someone tell you that they didn’t think you listened very well to them, or were not fully engaged? Similarly, after giving a speech, how many people stay afterwards and wait in line (hopefully a long line!) to tell you that your speech was not all that good or inspiring?

The conclusion we are making, and the suggestion we are offering is that in any discussions or analyses of communications, be prepared to ask questions and to listen. When you think about it, this gets at the heart of Communications—attempting to understand and to be understood. We need to look at SKILLS and BEHAVIORS.


Copyright 2017 Norm Lanier