Promoting the habit of mutual understanding

COMMONNESS - Bong R. Osorio (The Philippine Star) - January 17, 2016 - 9:00am

As a communicator, spokesperson, PR professional and teacher, it is always stimulating to step on a stage to meet my audience, whether it is a large gathering such as my recent interaction with St. Scholastica’s College students on the occasion of the Liberal Arts college week celebration, or much smaller brainstorming groups that I meet quite often in my workplace.

I was invited by Dr. Remy Ching to talk about “21st Century Communications,” the conference theme. In the audience at the event was a complement of 21st-century publics made up of GenXers, Millennials, and a sprinkling of Baby Boomers. In truth, the theme covered a wide array of subjects, and in my presentation I covered these significant areas:

We make our choices and our choices make us. Creativity, for example, is a catalytic choice that brings about creative chemistry. If done right, everything else will follow and we feel triumphant. If not, nothing follows and we feel down and out. So choose, look outside, be persistent, change rules, find support, drop excuses and be the best we can be.

Constant change is a requirement of 21st-century communication. Technology has changed, our workplace has changed, and our office attire has changed. Only one thing hasn’t changed: the basic purpose of communication, which is to establish commonness to increase the effectiveness of our personal and professional interactions that will redound to the benefit of the organization we serve, as well as ours.

Twenty-first-century communication has 10 principles. It shares a vision, it walks the talk, it listens then achieves constancy, it understands the audience, it knows the story by heart, it tells it like it is, it aims for simplicity, it practices for perfection, it communicates substantially, and it never stops learning. 

Seek first to understand, then to be understood.  Bestselling author Stephen Covey promotes this tenet of effective communication. As Covey observed, many of us are guilty of listening with intent to reply. He suggests we should listen with the intent to understand, a practice he labels as “commonness” or a “habit of mutual understanding.” 

Each of us brings to relationships past experiences that influence in a big way our capacity to communicate successfully.  Certain circumstances that we underwent may also either inhibit or support effective communication.  Messages may be lucid and crisp, but are not received properly because of many deviations along the way.  When one appreciates that communication is thought to be only 35 percent verbal and 65 percent nonverbal, the need for appropriate deciphering of messages on the part of both sender and receiver can be crucial. 

“Listen, or your tongue will make you deaf.” This is a Native American proverb that challenges our ability to listen. Do we take listening seriously?  Covey recommends the use of empathetic listening that involves the ears, eyes, and heart. Albert Mehrabian, author of Silent Messages, adds, “We communicate face to face about our likes and dislikes; our body language, tone of voice, and feelings communicate more loudly than the words we use.”  If we listen well, we communicate well. And a good listener is a good presenter. If we are an intent listener in social meetings, we can turn out to be the best conversationalist.  We should be a receptive listener, make time to interact with prospects, open our mind to suggestions and, more importantly, encourage input from all areas. All these will bolster our confidence with a positive “can do” attitude, and efficiently pitch our conviction that what we say is achievable and that we are capable of extraordinary feats.

Great communication is about great presentations. It is an opportunity, albeit limited in time and space, which can create a helpful disturbance in our current state of affairs. In today’s business, a pitch is its unqualified spirit, where ideas captured, embraced and nurtured by human skills are the most valuable commodity.  In presentations, both rational and emotional intelligences are necessary, but the latter, more often than not, dominates. We pitch every day of our lives. It’s nonstop. It happens in our workplace, our home, in school, or places we go as we commute from our home to office and back. We present to prospective clients, to targeted audiences, to identified buyers and to marked investors. We may not consciously realize it, but we are pitching something every day — the eyeball that leads to a passionate affair, the job interview that starts a successful career, and the time we ask for a raise or request a reassignment. Every new meeting, every new opportunity, involves strategic communications. We’re at it all the time.

Simplicity rocks.  It’s a basic, universal concept that we have to be reminded about. The more complicated, convoluted and elaborate our communication is, the lower the chances we will get into a meaningful conversation with our targets. It’s always prudent to be on the KISS track —“keep it short and simple.”

A good brand idea is just a commodity, but being first in great brand content innovation is king. Content is still sovereign. No amount of polished delivery will save bad content, like no amount of good advertising can save a bad product; you have to “think playwright, not actor.” Think how well you can write your pitch, not how well you can deliver it. In the online world, content is the currency of the social web. It’s what we search for. It is what makes our web click, and pushes people to share, comment, subscribe, donate, follow or buy from us.

Reputation is shakier than ever. True and false information spreads like wildfire in a vast and interconnected social media landscape and even the most venerable brand or company can be leveled in a flash. Today, communications have as much to do with safeguarding reputation as it does with building it. Reputation saboteurs are lurking around every corner, and organizations need to manage risk, anticipate attacks and bounce back faster after a hit. As Warren Buffet said, “It takes 20 years to build a reputation and five minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you’ll do things differently.”

A great communicator requires a great amount of charisma. And charisma is not inborn; it can be developed. It is something you can acquire by having the courage to be different and rise above the clutter. Try behaving as you wish — writing, mentally dictating and owning what you want and not what the norms or other people dictate. Follow your own road and discover your own form of charisma. Pretty soon, you will be a magnet for people who are interested in who you are and what you do.

Emotion rules over reason. It is another universal principle that continues to resonate. Great passion in most, if not all your involvements, will augur well in your connections. As has been proven in many instances, magic overpowers logic, and engaging people’s feelings vigorously with your words and actions will work in your favor.

Our own uniqueness brings better results. Mimicking is bad pitching. Turning into the person that you are not or simply aping somebody else’s persona or style can do you more harm than good. It is more advisable to project your own “you.” When you communicate, bring to others your authentic self. It will have a better impact.

Effective communication in the 21st century is the groundwork on which companies and careers are built and a critical component of lasting success. Its prevailing premise is to communicate, communicate, and communicate strategically. We should do that all our waking life. And as we do it, be sure to be heard, be sure to be exceptional, be sure to establish commonness and promote the habit of mutual understanding.

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Email bongosorio@yahoo.com or bong_osorio@abs-cbn.com for comments, questions or suggestions. Thank you for communicating.

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