Do you remember what it felt like to be scolded by your parents? Or to receive a condescending sermon from a teacher or employer?
You probably didn’t enjoy these experiences and would be hard-pressed to even remember what the lesson or correction was, even though, deep down, you knew that what they had to say was important.
No one is denying that content is important, but if the delivery is flawed, it doesn’t get received properly. It doesn’t stick. This is why communication sensitivity is so vital. When you are presenting to your colleagues or negotiating with a client, you want your message to get through properly. If it’s a presentation, you want the message to stick. If it’s a negotiation, you want them to agree with you. The goal is clear but the steps to ensure that you reach that goal are easier said than done.
The steps, tips, and techniques out there are numerous enough to rival the stars. And like these stars, most of them are just shiny and sparkling beacons: pretty but not realistically attainable. So, where does that leave you?
Let us go back to the parent-and-teacher scenario earlier. The failure in communication occurred not because of what they had to say but because of how they made you feel. With this knowledge in mind, try to switch your role now and look at how this information helps you as the speaker. If you were the one who had to present an idea or persuade a group to agree with your point, how does knowing about the role of feelings help you achieve your goal?
The first step to achieving communication sensitivity is to do a self-check.
Figure out how you feel and what kind of disposition you are in. Are you in an emotional state where you can objectively respond to the person? Do you have any biases that might skew your point or negotiation tactics?
Read your audience.
How is the person you are talking to feeling? Do they seem passive or distracted? Is the area well ventilated and comfortable or is it hot and noisy? If you are familiar with this person’s history? Is there something about their past or recent events in their life that would make them less receptive to the point you are trying to make?
Once you have framed your mind and have gathered enough information about your audience, the next course of action is to communicate sensitively to these nuances. Choose your words and tone to meet their preference. Some people like soft tones and long, politically correct sentences. Others would prefer a more professional tone with a no-nonsense message delivered directly.
It seems like a long process and would take some practice. However, with frequent use, you’ll find that these three steps become second nature to you and would take less than a couple of minutes to get done. It’s all about sensitivity. It is a call to be vulnerable, to recognise that we are human and imperfect. We, the speakers , and our receivers are influenced by several things in our lives that determine how we deliver and receive messages around us.
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