Updated: Apr 9
I recently learned a method many successful individuals use to solve problems. It is to simply break things down into their simplest components. Some call it: “First Principles Thinking”, and I think it is genius. It makes perfect sense to simplify things down to their basic components in order to better understand them. I applied this to the concept of communication as a means to find ways to improve it. Below is a high level summary of what I found.
Language is the highest level and broadest category of communication. There are many types of languages: Sign, Computer, Industry, Foul, French, Chinese etc. Before any communication can begin, we must start by first using the same language. If I only speak German and need to communicate with someone who only speaks Spanish, I must find a way to use Spanish to communicate. I might hire an interpreter, learn Spanish, or use a computer to translate. No matter how I do it, the same language must be used to communicate.
Communication is complex and dynamic. In order to better understand, it makes it easier to break it down into its simplest forms. I have done so using 2 areas: The different parts of communication and the different barriers of communication. Please keep in mind that there is much overlap between these areas and within the subcategories of each.
Below is a simple diagram on how communication works. In essence, you have someone sending a message, the message itself, the method for delivering the message, the person receiving the message, how they interpret the message, and hopefully feedback to clarify the message was received properly. As you can see, there are many places along the way where things can go wrong. I explain them in more detail in the next section.
Parts of Communication
Some models have up to 8 components of communication. However, I like to keep it simple and see communication as having four main components that we can influence: Method (how communication occurs), Delivery (How the message is delivered), Receipt (how the messages is received), and Feedback (making sure the correct message was given and understood)
Video, Text, Sound, Pictures, Body Language, Conversation
There are so many ways to send a message. Choosing the right one is as important as the message itself. Think about the message, the audience, and how to best get your message across.
Clarity, Trust, & Interest
This involves the message itself. What words, images, and sounds are being used? What emotions do they invoke? How will they be received? Is the message concise, clear, and credible? All of these need to be considered when constructing the message.
Listening & Understanding
We don't always think about how we are receiving a message. Mostly, we just hear the message and react. Try to really understand what the message means. Be aware of your own emotions, biases, and frame of mind. Make sure to pay full attention. Being distracted is a sure recipe for disaster when communicating.
Giving & Receiving Feedback
Ensuring that what was sent was received and ensuring that what was received is what was sent. Feedback is a skill that can be learned and it greatly improves communication. It is the last defense in ensuring that the message was clearly understood. With all the things that can go wrong along the way, it is very important to incorporate feedback.
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