“It’s not what you say, but how you say it.”
Every business professional has heard these words of wisdom at some point in his or her career. We all remember that one professor or friend who seems to drone on and on about one topic or another, but no one can ever remember what that person actually said. To avoid being “that guy”, it's important to remember that impactful communication is about so much more than words.
Whether we notice it or not, the majority of our perception of a message comes from non-verbal communication of the speaker. According to studies on interpersonal communication, researchers have found that the overall understanding of a message is broken down as follows:
Verbal = 7%
Vocal = 38%
Visual = 55%
This means that over 90% of our communication is transmitted not by our words, but through our body language, tone of voice, pace of speech, appearance, eye contact, etc. Impactful communication requires clear and specific speaking, the use of visual aids, knowing the audience, and varying tone of voice to stress main points.
Also, one must remember that impactful communication is two-way: it involves both good speaking and good listening. Good listeners keep their focus solely on the person speaking, let the speaker speak without interruption, and ask questions about what is unclear. The best part of being a good listener is that it becomes incredibly easy to learn about the world around you.
From recently entering the working world, I have found that impactful communication is an essential tool for each and every aspiring professional. I constantly communicate with co-workers and supervisors on everything from my opinion on how one of our company's processes to an update on my progress on a project or task. With so much work to do and only a short workday (you’d be surprised how fast a day at work can go), it is actually good business to communicate well. In fact, it can be very costly to communicate poorly. In one case, miscommunication from legislative budget writers cost the state of New Jersey more than $200 million.
After all, wouldn’t the world be a better place if we could all just understand each other?