How do we get an important message through all the noise to the people we need to hear and act on it? How many people are you really getting through to? The answer is a lot fewer that you think and a lot fewer than you want.
As an impact entrepreneur there is always some family member, some customer, some team, some group or some industry I want to follow me. We all have some sparkling new idea for how to make something better and I just don't seem to be be getting through to all the people all the time. I am not always making the impact I want; this is the curse of the impact player. Most leaders have the same frustration and same complaint. People just don't seem to give the same shit we do.
In communication theory, there is a sender (presumably with some solution), a receiver (presumably with some problem) and a channel (presumably that they are on either ends of). The sender has a subtext–a need to serve, a history, experience, training and a language framework grounded in his or her world of solution-thinking. I have value and I want you to know about it so you can choose to let me help you. This is the text. Seems simple enough.
Most teams I work with cite communication as their leading issue. So why do most of us suck at communicating (even if we think we don't)? What is the mechanical explanation for breakdowns in communication?
One reason is that the channel itself is subject to enormous distortion and the receivers are connected to all sorts of other channels blasting images and data and crap at them constantly in real time. Receivers have a context, a history, experience, driving needs and a language grounded in problem-space likely quite different than the sender. We are each speaking different dialects of the same language that might as well be Greek and Chinese.
Elizabeth Newton earned her Ph.D. in psychology at Stanford in 1990 with a simple game called tapping. The "tappers" received a list of songs almost anyone would know, such as “Happy Birthday." Each tapper tapped out the rhythm to a "listener" (by only knocking on a table and not using any other body language) and the listener had to figure out the song. I tried this with my youngest kid on his birthday, using Happy Birthday and he had no idea what song I was tapping. When asked to estimate how many people guessed right, the listeners typically guessed about 50/50. The actual score is 2.5%.
It's almost impossible to remember what it feels like to not know the thing you now know implicitly. This is why its so difficult to communicate something you know to someone who does not know that thing. Maybe you remember times when you realized that you thought you had given direction but actually said nothing. Maybe you know you did and thought you were being very clear. But chances are that even if you did say something and the audience was actually tuned in, your subtext did not match their context. The text never made it across. Nothing was heard, nothing was understood and nothing was done (or worse the wrong things were done.) This is a sobering notion for entrepreneurs and leaders in business to bring other people along.
I wonder how many times I've lead coaching sessions and workshops, interacted with my team, given speeches and written blogs and I have only been just tapping. More often than I want. Maybe you have similar thoughts right now. Maybe you are tapping with your team, your friends or your family? If you are curious about how you might be tapping I invite you to order your copy of book three in the blindspotting series here. Hopefully that's clear enough. I've spent all morning typing this. Tap. Tap Tap...