Monday, October 10, 2011

The Many Subtle Forms of Communication

When we think of communications, what generally comes to mind is the printed or spoken word.  Although there is no doubt that visuals and vibes communicate a wealth of information, I’m not sure that people are always fully aware of just how important they are. 

I am.  I’m acutely aware that everything we see communicates an image or feeling to us, whether through paintings, signage, logos, cartoons, stylized print, architecture, the way a room is decorated, the way people look and act and so on.  I have always been fascinated by the judgments people make about others based on appearances:  the way they are dressed, their physique, the way they carry themselves, the expression on their face, the quality of their voice.   Sometimes all of these things are more important than what they say.  And final conclusions may be drawn about them without those individuals saying anything at all.  

I recall in the book and current hit movie, "Moneyball," that when Billy Beane was trying to get the biggest bang for the buck in player salaries, following the Oakland A's massive budget cut, he discovered that scouts were often choosing players based on how good looking they were - rather than on base percentage (how frequently the player gets on base), or performance. 

The vibes communicated by a person’s sense of confidence or charisma also can speak louder than words.  I once was in a presentation in which one of our star players, usually one of the most competent and charismatic guys you could ever meet, was disappointingly quiet — quiet enough that his point of view was not apparent.  Others dominated the discussion.  A week later, in a conversation with the prospect, the potential client told me that the business was ours if “that rather quiet guy” could, in fact, manage the business.

So what lessons can be drawn from this?  There is a cornucopia of communications subsets that influence people’s decisions, and it is not only content, logic or the most obvious visuals.  It is a holistic game we are playing.  Thus, when you are putting the “script” together, you need to think broadly and consider every element in the environment, including the unspoken messages.

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