Tech Soft Skills Part 7

November 22, 2004

IT’S MORE THAN WORDS
By: Matt Michel


Edited by John Zink

Improving communication starts with awareness. It starts with understanding what goes wrong. I don’t know the source, but I’ve seen it repeated often that only 7% of the communication with another person is the words we use, 35% is the tone or voice quality, and 58% is non-verbal.

Whoa! Only 7% is what’s actually said? Prove it!

Easy. Look at email. Email is devoid of tone and body language. Email is typically words alone. Anyone who’s sent or received much email has probably been party to a case of misunderstanding. Someone reads something into the email that wasn’t there and certainly wasn’t intended.

Take the phrase:
"I'm going to have a talk with that guy on the jobsite."

Now, add to it. Say the same phrase, but add the following body language…

  • Grin

  • Scowl

  • Fold you arms

  • Put your arms behind your back and pace

  • Hold your hands to the side and up

  • Hold your arms in front of you, palms facing out

  • Scratch your head

  • Wink

  • Raise your eyebrows
It makes the message different each time. Now combine the body language with the tone. Mix it all up and there’s nearly an infinite variety of meanings.

PUTTING IT TO ACTION

So how can you make use of this? How can you help your technicians to improve their communication skills? First, don’t expect miracles. Take small steps and take them slowly.

    1. Look people in the eye.
    Remember what your father said, “I don’t trust a man who won’t look me in the eye.” Dad’s not the only person with that view. It’s ironic too, because the first thing every con man learns is how to look you in the eye and lie sincerely.

    2. Stand up straight.
    Right or wrong, people associate good posture with intelligence.

    3. Smile.
    Smiles are disarming. People like people who smile.

    4. Pay attention.
    When the customer is speaking, stop anything else you might be doing. and look at them attentively. Even if you can hear them perfectly well while you’re filling out the invoice, it seems as though you are not paying attention.

    5. Nod.
    Every now and then, nod while the other person is speaking and say, “Um hum” or something else to give them feedback that you are hearing what they’re saying.

    6. Repeat their questions.
    When the customer makes a statement or asks a question, repeat it back in your own words and get confirmation that you understand correctly.

    7. Illustrate.
    When explaining something complex or difficult, it helps to illustrate what you’re saying. This could be pointing at a component while explaining its operation and importance. It could mean carrying a notepad so that you can make a quick sketch. Some people are auditory learners. Others are more visual.
It’s true that technicians aren’t communicators, but they still have to communicate. They may never become world class communicators, but they can strive to improve. So can all of us.


Source: Comanche Marketing. Reprinted by permission.
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Copyright © 2003 Matt Michel

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